9 best climbing frames for kids in 2021
26 April 2021
Climbing frames and adventure playsets can be a great way to keep children entertained while also encouraging lots of exercise.
Children may enjoy climbing the sofa and the walls, but a climbing frame can help channel their energy as well as develop strength, balance and motor skills.
You might remember the old-school metal climbing frames from your childhood, but there’s now a huge variety of sizes and styles to choose from.
These include small fold-away wooden triangles or plastic cubes for toddlers, which can be used in- or outdoors. There are also huge wooden forts with swings, slides, dens and bridges – especially good if you have a decent amount of space in your garden.
Here are the best climbing frames to buy this year, as recommended by parents.
1. Best overall climbing frame: Dunster House Monkey Fort Wilderness
“We bought one from Dunster House as a joint birthday present for DS8 and DD3 in early March. It’s been used pretty much every day since we got it and definitely worth the price.”
“Got mine from Dunster. Four years on, it’s still going strong with no issues. Only negative was the challenge of putting it up.”
Dunster House’s Monkey Fort Wilderness contains everything your child needs from a climbing frame. As well as the climbing tower and monkey bars, there’s a fun wavy slide, a space-saving sandpit and a swing.
Although it contains lots of features, the design means that it won’t take up tonnes of space. It is, however, on the larger size.
Unlike other manufacturers, Dunster House also include all the anchors you’ll need to fix it safely to ground at no extra cost. Plus, if you want to ensure longevity, you can buy a baby swing attachment to make that section suitable for younger siblings.
The pressure-treated wood is low maintenance and will last for years. The only downside is that the frame can be tricky to assemble but, once it’s up, it’ll give your children hours of fun.
- Very solid
- Lots of features including a slide, sandpit and swing
- Can be tricky to assemble
- Suitable for: 3 to 14 years
- Size: 280 × 340 × 285cm
- Max user weight: 200kg total (50kg x four children)
- Material: Wood and plastic extras
2. Best budget climbing frame: TP Explorer Metal Climbing Frame and Swing
“TP toys are fab. Our climbing frame/slide is still going strong after years of use. They have all kinds of climbing frame/monkey bars/swing/slide combinations.”
TP’s metal climbing frame isn’t just affordable – it’s adaptable too. You can assemble it at a shorter height so it’s suitable from 18 months. And, once your child reaches age three, you can add more height to increase longevity to age 12.
It comes with a den, which includes a fun playmat and two door doors. It also includes a swing arm for even more fun.
What’s more, the metal is guaranteed for five years against rust that would cause the climbing frame to fail.
- Grows with your child
- Den and swing features too
- Not as attractive as some of the wooden frames
- Suitable for: 18 months to 12 years
- Size: 203cm x 205cm x 350cm
- Max user weight: 100kg total
- Material: Powder-coated galvanised steel
Price: £289.99Buy now from TP Toys
3. Best climbing frame for toddlers: Little Tikes Junior Activity Gym
“We had a Little Tikes slide cube thing from when DD was 18 months. Eight years later and it's still used to do forward rolls down into the paddling pool. So yes, it’s had a lot of use.”
Little Tikes don’t just make their very famous toy cars. This Junior Activity Gym helps teach your toddler to climb and slide.
It’s so easy to set up – the pieces just lock into place and can be dismantled just as quickly. It even has crawl holes and a mini platform.
It doesn’t have the longevity of the large wooden frames, but it does what it’s designed to do very well – and we think your toddler will love it.
- Can be used indoors and outdoors
- Great for toddlers
- Won’t last long
- Suitable for: 18 months to four years
- Size: 77cm x 130cm x 76cm
- Max user weight: 23kg
- Material: Plastic
4. Best climbing frame for large gardens: Wickey Smart Queen Climbing Frame
“We’ve had a good experience with Wickey. German-made, really good quality and much better value. Nice shade of natural wood too."
If you never want to visit the park again and have a lot of space, then Wickey’s Smart Queen Climbing Frame is fit for a princess and/or prince.
It’s a whopping 8m wide and is truly epic with a wobble bridge, two swings, sandpit, picnic table, telescope, racing wheel, climbing net, and not one but two towers.
While you need room to house this contraption, you can configure the frame in lots of different ways, giving you some flexibility when it comes to fitting it in your (presumably very large) garden.
The downside of that flexibility is that you have to measure and drill the holes for assembly so it’s not easy to put together. You also need to budget extra for anchors – almost £300 – as these aren’t included.
The pressure-treated solid wood means it won’t need painting and is guaranteed for up to 10 years (T&Cs permitting).
If you don’t want to or can’t blow the budget, then Wickey also does a range of smaller climbing frames, including one in the shape of a pirate ship for under £830.
- Very solid
- Tonnes of extras including sandpit, swings and towers
- Needs a lot of space
- Anchors not included
- Suitable for: 3 to 12 years
- Size: 425cm x 787cm x 325cm
- Max user weight: 50kg per child
- Material: Wood and plastic accessories
5. Best climbing frame for small gardens: TP Castlewood Wooden Climbing Frame
“It has lots of features for the price.”
TP’s Castlewood Climbing Frame has a small footprint so is suitable for smaller gardens. The hexagonal shape means lots of children can play at the same time. There’s a ladder and an integral climbing wall plus a firefighter’s pole for quick and fun exits.
Like other wooden climbing frames, the Castlewood takes a bit of time to put together – around four hours for two people – but once assembled, it’s durable and long-lasting.
- Small footprint so good for smaller gardens
- Comes with a slide and den
- Accessories are extra
- Slide needed but not included
- Suitable for: 3 to 12 years
- Size: 127 × 152 × 295cm
- Max user weight: 150kg
- Material: Pressure-treated wood
Price: £459.99Buy now from TP Toys
6. Best climbing frame for big age gaps: Lifetime Dome Climber
“Dome frames are good for role play and parallel play – so your 16-month-old can play inside it while your older daughter climbs.”
Dome climbing frames may look deceptively simple, but they provide hours of play for a variety of ages – great if you have siblings with a big age gap.
There are no fancy extras (no slides or sandpits) – just a very sturdy steel frame. It can be great for imaginative play and will also double as a den.
While some users say climbers can be time-consuming to put together, this one comes clearly labelled, which makes it much easier. Plus it’s UV-resistant so the colour shouldn’t fade in the sun.
- Very sturdy
- Suitable for multiple ages
- Great for imaginative play
- Just a climbing frame so no extras
- Suitable for: 3 to 10 years
- Size: 274cm x 274cm x 137cm
- Max user weight: 45kg
- Material: Powder-coated steel
7. Best climbing frame for balconies/indoors: Foldable Pikler Triangle, Sliding Board and Pikler Arch
“I bought a Pikler Triangle with a slide for my DD as a sort of panic buy during the first lockdown. The only regret I have is that I didn't buy one sooner! It's the single most used toy in our house and it's done wonders for her physical confidence. She has the Triclimb, which folds away very small. She's 3.5 now and on it every day.”
Pikler Triangles have been popular on Mumsnet for years, and are especially great for very young children as they start to learn to climb and balance.
This set doesn’t just include the triangle – there’s also a sliding board and an arch as their skills get more advanced. You can use one, two or all three as they work independently, although the sliding beam is most fun when it’s connected to the triangle as a mini slide.
Although the manufacturers state that this wooden climbing frame it’s suitable for children up to the age of eight, in reality it’s likely to lose its appeal by the time your little one is around three or four.
- Folds away between use (except the arch)
- Can be used indoors or outdoors
- Not ideal for older children
- Suitable for: 8 months to 8 years
- Size: Small Pikler Triangle: 86cm x 65cm x 70cm; Pikler Arch: 72cm x 62cm x 36cm; Sliding Board: 100cm x 45cm x 6cm
- Max user weight: 50kg
- Material: Baltic Birch plywood and Aspen wood
8. Best climbing frame for tweens and teens: Aeinne Climbing Net
“A friend has a scramble net and says it’s worth every penny.”
A climbing net can take up much less room than a traditional climbing frame but is just as fun, particularly for older children and teens.
This cargo net by Aeinne comes in a variety of sizes and configurations – suitable for all age groups and garden sizes.
The net itself is made from a durable nylon mesh that’s designed to live outdoors. It will darken with the weather, but that won’t affect its strength. The manufacturers are so confident, it even comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Watch out though. If you want the largest possible size, it will set you back over £600.
- Suitable particularly for older children
- The larger configurations are pricey
- Suitable for: 5 years to adult
- Size: From 2m (Mesh is 10cm x 14mm)
- Max user weight: From 40kg to 1,000kg
- Material: Nylon
9. Best wooden climbing frame: Fat Moose Fit Frame XXL
“We have a climbing frame from Fatmoose. It’s been a huge help during the last and this lockdown as they get out for fresh air and entertain themselves for ages. So yes, get one!”
Fat Moose’s Fit Frame contains a lot of features considering its footprint. The platform is an impressive 150cm tall and the wave slide includes a water slide option. There's a climbing wall, climbing net, monkey bars and a wobble plank for balance practice.
Users do say to watch out as anchors and the basketball net (despite being in the image) aren’t included. If you want them, they are available to buy separately.
It isn’t the easiest to assemble, but once it’s up your children will have lots to entertain themselves with.
- Lots of extras including a climbing wall, monkey bars and slide
- Smaller footprint than other climbing frames
- Anchors and basketball net not included
- Suitable for: 3 years to 12 years
- Size: 425cm x 245cm x 222cm
- Max user weight: 70kg
- Material: Pressure-treated wood
How to buy the best climbing frame
There are lots of different types of climbing frames on the market. When considering which will work best for you consider:
- Age of the child/children: Climbing frames for very young children often won’t be suitable for more than two or three years. You can adapt larger climbing frames for younger children with extras like baby swings and smaller steps. Some climbing frames will last until your children are teens or beyond.
- Size: The size of the climbing frame is one of the most important factors. Many climbing frames can be assembled in different formations – the swings at the side or back for example – so you can make the most of the space you have, whether indoors or outdoors.
- Material: Metal can be cheaper than wood. Pressure-treated wood will weather well and won’t need repainting. Some people also prefer how it looks in the garden. Lots of climbing frames for younger children are made from plastic. Look out for UV-resistant plastics or they will fade.
- Safety: All climbing frames will be built to conform to regulations so make sure you take note of minimum and maximum age and weight guides. Some manufacturers suggest concreting posts into the ground or installing bark or plastic chippings in case children fall. Some also recommend anchors to fix climbing frames to the ground – not all of them include these fixings in the price.
- Extras: Climbing is fun, but children sometimes appreciate extra features. Some climbing frames come with single or double swings, sandpits, slides, dens and climbing walls. Companies like Wickey, Fat Moose and Dunster House also sell additional items like telescopes, periscopes, baby swings, pull-up bars and more.
- Cost: The price is often one of the biggest factors to consider. Climbing frames don’t come cheap. Even a small plastic frame can cost £100 and the most expensive on our list works out at just under £1,800 by the time anchors are included. If your child plays on the climbing frame most days over 10 or more years, then on a cost per use basis they can work out to be good value.
- Assembly: Lots of the larger frames suggest you need two people to assemble. Frames that are able to be configured in different ways often don’t come pre-drilled so you will need basic DIY skills like measuring and drilling. The larger frames can take several hours to assemble.
What's the best climbing frame?
Dunster House’s Monkey Fort is very popular with parents and the best climbing frame to buy right now. As well as a climbing frame and wall, it also comes with a swing, slide and sandpit. You can upgrade to include double swings and you can also reconfigure the shape to suit your garden.
For toddlers, the Little Tikes Jungle Gym is affordable, easy to assemble and a great way to teach them to climb.
How we chose our recommendations
All of our recommendations for climbing frames came from Mumsnet users themselves. We searched the Mumsnet forums for posts about which frames they recommended for their toddlers, children and teens. We also looked at other reviews to see which climbing frames got good reviews.
Why you should trust us
We work hard to provide unbiased, independent advice you can trust. We do sometimes earn revenue through affiliate (click-to-buy) links in our articles. This helps us fund more helpful articles like this one.
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Main image credit: Lifetime