Rare is the child that doesn’t love to climb, which helps explain why there’s now such a vast array of climbing frames available for kids of all ages and to suit all budgets.
There are additional benefits to the sheer fun – climbing skills help develop balance, strength, and motor skills, which is why you’ll often find them in nursery and school playgrounds.
The safe environment of a well-designed climbing frame also helps youngsters learn how to assess and navigate risk.
When buying a climbing frame, always check your product conforms to the latest quality and safety tests and create a “safety zone” of space around the structure.
We’ve tested a wide range of climbing frames to bring you the best of them, with our criteria including ease of assembly, sturdiness and robustness, play value, longevity, and value for money.
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TP Toys explorer
You can adapt this galvanised steel frame to suit your needs and budget – anything from a basic climbing frame with a platform and den right up to an all singing, all dancing version with extra climbing arm and crazy wave slide (we tested the one with climbing arm, but no slide). Other good news is that the original design, which had been going for over 20 years, has been updated for this year – gone is the old-fashioned silver metal and green look, replaced by a cheerful, vibrant blue. You can build it at a low height for children from 18 months old, or full height for kids aged three to 12 years, but either way the den with adventure playmat and porthole window at the top is the shining star.
Little Tikes jungle climber
This is a dream-come-true for young scramblers. Compete with climbing ropes, slide, crawl-through tunnels and hideaways, it comes in bright colours that will appeal to younger folk and has a jungle theme that got our testers pretending to be little monkeys for hours on end. Aimed at children aged three and up, the rounded plastic means there are no sharp corners for children to hurt themselves on and it’s all nice and low, which also helps keep accidents to a minimum. It’s easy to put together too, but don’t be fooled into thinking you can do it alone on account of its smaller size - we found you still need two people.
Fatmoose fitframe fresh XXL
Great for sporty kids, this climbing frame includes a slide, rope, basketball hoop, climbing wall, and a balancing board to practise surfing. It’s a really good all-rounder that doesn’t take up too much space, and offers tons of features to keep interest over time. It comes with a 10-year guarantee (on wooden parts), and is tested for safety and quality.
Maxifort frontier climbing frame
For the very adventurous, this playset includes wave slide, two swings, monkey bars and a mini climbing wall. You can upgrade or switch out a number of optional extras to change with as the family grows. Maxifort says the Frontier frame has been independently tested for safety, and it comes with a 10-year guarantee. Simpler versions are available from around £200.
Quadro climbing pyramid
If you started school or nursery in the 1980s, Quadro will probably look familiar. The large-scale German construction kit can be used to make climbing frames, but also playhouses, paddling pools, furniture and cars. The beauty of the system is that you can keep adding to it. The system is made of thermoplastic tubes that are strong, colourful and weather-resistant.
StarFlyer is at the pricier end of Wickey’s Flyer series (which has a range of options to suit budget, size and desired features). It packs in a good amount of play features: a swing, rope ladder, climbing net, climbing wall, sandpit, slide, and even a telescope. The tower has an all-weather tarpaulin roof that comes in customisable colours.
Plum lookout tower wooden climbing frame with swings
The pine is extra-thick and strong on this one – noticeably so, we thought, compared to other similar designs from other manufacturers – and includes a ladder, rock wall with coloured grips, slide, and sandpit, while accessories include a steering wheel and funny face mirror to keep children aged three to 12 busy. There’s a simpler, slightly cheaper version which is well suited for smaller gardens (although remember you’ll need a 2m perimeter all round), but we like this one with the additional wing arm for even more play value.
Aieinne child climbing net 1”1m
If net climbing is your bag, then this strong, durable red and blue frame with handwoven, professionally weaved materials will do you proud. It’s guaranteed not to be damaged by the sun and the brand will provide new rope if it tears under reasonable use – and that goes for a whole lifetime. If this size doesn’t suit you, it has others to choose from or it will even make one to your exact requirements.
TP Toys castlewood wooden climbing frame
This is a good option for smaller gardens, thanks to its taller, thinner design with a footprint of 127cm x 297cm, although if you have more room you can upgrade to the slightly longer crazy wave slide. The play value is still impressive, thanks to step ladder, climbing wall, play platform, shaded play area and – drum roll, please – a fireman’s pole. For an extra cost now or at a later date, you can add a swing arm, with a choice of different seats (we tested the one with swing set and slide). The wood doesn’t need treating and has a decent five-year guarantee.
Costway wooden climbing triangle ladder
The best thing about this 92cm x 46cm climbing triangle is that you can use it indoors, as well as out. Made from varnished pine, we found it a cinch to assemble and it was very sturdy, even on slightly uneven ground. Although it is aimed at kids aged three and over, our confident toddler testers managed on it fine – all helped by the three different levels of difficulty. Not a great investment for years and years ahead as it’s on the small side at 92cm x 46cm (and 80cm high), but for the younger years, it’s a great bit of climbing kit.
Plum wildebeest playground
For something really comprehensive and long lasting, with oodles of extras besides the climbing, we think this is the mother of all play centres. It doesn’t come cheap (although is a £1000 cheaper than it was, and set to stay that way), but the triple tower wooden climbing frame with swing area includes climbing wall, different level decks, play dens, ramps, slides, swings (including glide nest), sandpit and bridge. You’ll need to put aside a few weekends to put it together, though – it takes two people about 20 hours to assemble.
SportBaby children’s gym climbing frame
This packs in a lot of climbing fun for such a small footprint and will see you through many years too, particularly as it’s suitable for two-year-olds up to adults. Our testers couldn’t get enough of the rung and net walls, with the middle section providing a climbing rope, gymnastic rings, and swing. We found it suitable robust, thanks to the good quality wood and fittings, and it’s good for more serious training too.
The verdict: Climbing frames
The TP Toys explorer is an exceptionally versatile bit of kit that you can buy part or all of (or add to over the years) to suit your wallet, needs, and garden size. No wonder it’s been a bestseller at TP Toys for over 20 years, although we’re glad the brand has updated the aesthetics for this year. We’re also giving a special shout out to the Plum wildebeest playground. While much less kind on the purse strings, it still offers value for money and is a hugely comprehensive, long lasting climbing frame for those that have space.
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