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8 best climbing frames for kids to inspire their sense of adventure

Whether it’s an indoor frame or a large garden set – playtime just got pretty awesome

Sarah Dawson
Monday 21 March 2022 15:14
<p>Our gang of testers looked for fun while we tested for safety and easy assembly</p>

Our gang of testers looked for fun while we tested for safety and easy assembly

If you’re looking for ways to tempt the kids outside and to burn off some of that never-ending energy, you can’t go wrong with a quality climbing frame.

Just the thing for encouraging children to explore and boost gross motor skills, balance, strength and coordination, climbing frames are also perfect for helping kids to develop problem solving skills and navigate risk. Even the simplest of set-ups can provide the base for hours of imaginative and creative play.

They’re typically a one-off buy though, so you want to buy well and choose a model that will last through the childhood years and can withstand whatever a pack of little climbers can throw at it. As a result, you can expect to spend anything from £200 to £1,000 for a decent playset.

One of the most important considerations when choosing a climbing frame is how much space you have. There’s a vast choice of sizes, from compact designs to “we’re going to need a bigger garden” models, and we’ve tried to cover a decent range to suit most families.

Another thing to keep in mind is assembly. Pretty much all climbing frames require a certain level of DIY, but while some in our round-up could be easily put together in an afternoon, others were a labour of love that stretched over a few days. If in doubt, you can always call in the professionals to help.

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How we tested

We roped in the help of a gang of testers ranging from two-and-a-half to nine-years-old, to help us put together our round-up of the best climbing frames. We looked at everything from assembly to safety, while our young testers were more concerned with how much fun and how easy to use the climbing frames were, over a month of play.

The best climbing frames for 2022 are:

  • Best overall – Plum climbing pyramid: £599.99, Plumplay.co.uk
  • Best indoor climbing frame – PomPom colourful climbing triangle: £240, Shoppompom.com
  • Best for imaginative play – Jungle Gym jungle viking: £638, Junglegym.co.uk
  • Best for smaller gardens – TP explorer metal climbing frame: £219.99, Tptoys.com
  • Best for big families – KidKraft Brookridge climbing frame: £699.99, Kidkraft.com
  • Best for versatility – Quadro climbing pyramid: £175, Quadroplay.co.uk
  • Best for older children – Rebo wooden garden swing set with monkey bars: £322.96, Outdoortoys.co.uk
  • Best for younger kids – Smoby house on stilts: £360, Amazon.co.uk

Plum climbing pyramid

Best: Overall

Rating: 10/10

  • Dimensions: H 210cm x W 390cm x L 150cm

We absolutely love the design of this climbing frame, which manages to squeeze loads of fantastic features into a nifty wooden pyramid construction. Made from FSC certified pine (pre-treated to protect against rot and infestation), it’s a strong and sturdy build that looks and feels as though it can handle years of play and unpredictable weather.

We were pleasantly surprised at how straightforward assembly was, taking two of us just over three hours to put it all together. Suitable for children from three to twelve, there’s plenty to keep them occupied and it’s big enough for multiple kids to play on (or in) at once. It offers three climbing options, we found our younger testers managed the cargo net and metal bars no problem, while our older, more intrepid explorers, enjoyed scaling the climbing wall. There’s also camouflage fabric side attachments, which create a huge den underneath the pyramid, which we’ve found near impossible to tempt the children out of. Apparently, from now on all lunches must be served inside the den!

As well as all of this, there’s an 8ft wave slide, which our testers loved whizzing down, and it comes with a hose pipe attachment to transform it into a water slide on sunny days. If you have the space, there’s the option of a double swing add-on, for an extra £100.

From construction to play, we’re hard pushed to find fault with this Plum climbing pyramid. It’s a most welcome addition to our garden and is sure to be loved and played with whatever the weather.

PomPom colourful climbing triangle

Best: Indoor climbing frame

Rating: 9.5/10

  • Dimensions: From H 57cm x W 80cm to H 71cm x W 80cm, depending on setting

The ultimate rainy-day saviour, this fold-up Pikler-style climbing triangle is a dream come true for parents of older babies and toddlers. Hand made by a carpenter in the UK, using sustainable wood and eco-friendly, baby safe wax, this indoor climbing frame comes ready to use – you simply click it open.

There’s so much to love about the PomPom climbing triangle. First of all, it looks beautiful – handcrafted and finished in the prettiest, sophisticated colour palette, it is something you’d be proud to have out on display – although it couldn’t be easier to fold up and store away behind the sofa or in a cupboard under the stairs. With three adjustable height settings, it’s the kind of piece that can grow with your child. Designed for use from six-months to five-years-old, it will see you through from when your baby is starting to pull themselves up, right through to pre-schoolers practising their balancing skills.

While the climbing triangle alone is great fun, we opted for the addition of the wooden slide (which doubles as a ramp with ridges on the reverse) for an extra £109, which really boosted its appeal with our two-and-a-half-year-old. Whether they were climbing up one side and sliding down the other, carefully stepping up the ramp or chucking dolls down the slide at speed, as soon as this was set up in the living room our little tester was enthralled. So much so there was zero request for snacks or Hey Duggee on TV; unheard of!

Doubling up as an excellent, no-faff den – just chuck a sheet over the climbing triangle and you’ve bought yourself more than enough time to enjoy a cup of tea in peace – it’s honestly become a lifesaver. We also love that for every climbing triangle sold, PomPom donates to the Marine Conservation Society, too. An heirloom piece that can be passed through the generations.

Jungle Gym jungle viking

Best: For imaginative play

Rating: 9.5/10

  • Dimensions: H 264cm x W 265cm x L 261cm

What’s better than a climbing frame? A pirate-themed climbing frame, obviously. Complete with a wooden stem, boat helm and telescope, the opportunity for some serious nautical-inspired imaginative play is huge with this epic offering from Jungle Gym.

With a choice to personalise your climbing frame with different slide colour options, or various configurations including swings and cargo nets, there’s the chance to really make this your own – which, when you’re spending this much, is a welcome touch. We love the standard set-up, which was jam-packed with play opportunities without completely taking over the garden. As you can imagine, with so many features, construction was time consuming and while the instructions were clear, it did take two of us a bit longer than the six hours suggested by the manufacturer.

Designed for children from ages three to 10, we found our youngest testers were more than happy to while away the hours playing in the built-in sandpit, while our older testers like scrambling up the rope ladder to the telescope to spot sharks and rival pirates. It’s fair to say this was an enormous hit – our testers love it and we wish we were small enough to play on it too.

TP Explorer metal climbing frame

Best: For smaller gardens

Rating: 9/10

  • Dimensions: H 201cm x W 182cm x L 208cm

We think this fun offering from TP Toys is great value for money. Relatively simple to build, we managed it singlehandedly, although an extra pair of hands is recommended and would have definitely brought the build time in at under two hours. The end result? A very cool, steel frame design complete with an excellent den, in which we promptly lost our testers for the rest of the afternoon.

The den can be accessed from three sides, either up one of the metal bar steps or the cargo net. Once inside, it’s big enough for three, and our testers loved rolling down the door panels and spying through the peephole windows. In fact, they happily stayed in the den even when it was raining.

It’s a modular design, which you can add to with swings, a slide or even a basketball hoop, but we loved the simplicity and size of this set up. Thoughtful touches, like the road map design on the floor of the den – perfect for some toy car play – were a hit with our younger testers. Underneath the den is a shaded play area, which can be used as a ball pool or sand pit. Alternatively, do as we did and chuck in some outdoor cushions and take the opportunity to relax while the kids have fun. Yes, it may be noisy but it’s pretty comfy in there…

KidKraft Brookridge climbing frame

Best: For big families

Rating: 8.5/10

  • Dimensions: H 274cm x W 388cm x L 416cm

If you’ve got lots of children, sometimes only a large climbing frame will do. If your outdoor space – and budget – allows, you cannot go wrong with this amazing set up from KidKraft.

First things first, this is a big job, assembly-wise. There are so many different pieces of wood and screws, so you need to get organised before you start. Thankfully, the illustrated instructions are easy to follow, but it took two of us well over a weekend to complete the set-up. If you’re a nervous DIYer, it may be worth calling in the professional to install this for you – after all, it’s something that’s going to be used for years to come.

The Brookridge really does have it all, and our testers were blown away – there are so many fun features they honestly didn’t know where to start. There’s a wave slide, climbing wall, ladder, monkey bars, glider and two swings to get stuck into, not to mention a sand pit. Our younger testers were very taken with the built-in stools and canopy, which they set up as an ice cream shop, as well as the chalk-wall tarp in the clubhouse, where they sat and doodled away for hours.

It’s suitable for ages three to 10 and can fit up to nine children playing at a time, so there should be plenty of space for squabble-free fun.

Quadro climbing pyramid

Best: For versatility

Rating: 8.5/10

  • Dimensions: Varies depending on set-up

Quadro is unlike any other kids’ climbing apparatus we’ve come across. It feels a bit like a giant Meccano set, with various tubes and connectors you can fix together to create all kinds of different designs. Included in the box is a set of coloured plastic screws, along with the tool you need to tighten them into place, to make sure your construction is safe and secure. We found it incredibly easy to assemble various frames single-handedly, and it was even quicker to take them apart – perfect if you have impatient children lining up to have a climb.

Suitable for ages one year and up, our toddler’s eyes lit up as soon as they spotted it – the bright colours were an instant hit, as was the fun climbing pyramid design which they launched themselves towards at speed. The pyramid uses a grid measuring 40cm x 40cm, which is the perfect size for younger children to tackle, and we were so impressed with how our littlest tester’s confidence and climbing skills grew when playing on it.

There’s plenty of scope for play here, with the option of buying various extension kits to transform your climbing frame with slides, panels and even a mini swimming pool.

Despite feeling lightweight, the high-density plastic tubes can withstand a hefty 100kg, so older kids can easily get involved – in fact, our five-year-old loved it as much as our two-and-a-half-year-old tester. The grown-ups were also big fans and we enjoyed letting our inner Meccano-geek out when trying out the various model designs.

Rebo wooden garden swing set with monkey bars

Best: For older children

Rating: 9/10

  • Dimensions: H 214cm x W 200cm x L 268cm

What is it about kids and monkey bars? Our older testers were delighted with this climbing frame and were queuing up after one another to swing along the bars, over and over again.

Made from pressure treated, weather resistant timber, with the addition of power coated steel brackets, we found this a simple enough build that felt reassuringly robust when finished. With a colourful climbing wall on one side of the monkey bars and a wooden ladder on the other, there was enough variation to keep the kids entertained, while the swing was the cherry on top. Because of the height of the monkey bars and swing, our pre-schooler couldn’t really get involved with the play, but for primary school kids we think this is a fantastic set.

We really like how you can pick and choose your own add-on adventure packs, featuring everything from cargo nets and climbing ropes to basketball nets and nest swings. And, if you do opt for a trickier build, you can choose the home installation service to save you the job of assembling it all yourself. Excellent!

Smoby house on stilts

Best: For younger kids

Rating: 8.5/10

  • Dimensions: H 197cm x W 260cm x L 160cm

There were actual squeals of delight from our toddler testers when we finished putting together this colourful play house, slide and ladder. In fact, it could not be more perfect for little kids. There’s an easy-to-climb ladder, just right for developing their coordination, the slide height is not too terrifying for them to tackle on their own, plus doors and windows that they can open and shut independently.

Although the instructions suggested it could be finished in one and a half hours, it took two of us just over two hours to complete – although this was with constant interruptions from the toddlers to see if they could go down the slide yet, and in the rain, so not a bad effort, really.

We found the whole playset a great size for younger children to play independently – we’d suggest from two years to around six or seven – and the house was perfect for encouraging imaginative play. Yes, it’s colourful, but not at all in-your-face, and we liked that it’s all anti-UV treated, so won’t fade in the sun. The fact it’s on stilts means we can still easily mow the lawn underneath it and, come summer the hose pipe attachment on the slide is going to be a brilliant sunny day addition.

The verdict: Climbing frames

We can’t fault the Plum climbing pyramid. It offers so much play potential with the multiple climbing options, slide and den, and it’s incredible quality. It’s absolutely worth the money and is the kind of climbing frame that has something to offer children of all ages. We also think the PomPom climbing triangle is an exceptionally well-crafted and beautiful indoor choice for budding climbers, so comes highly recommended too.

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For the latest discounts on garden toys and outdoor furniture, try the links below:

Kids will also love hanging out on our best swing sets – find the right set for your garden in our roundup

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