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8 best climbing frames for kids: as recommended by real parents

Climbing frames and adventure playsets can be a great way to keep children entertained while also encouraging lots of exercise. We've researched the best climbing frames to make your garden fun this summer and for years to come. 

By Anna Cook | Last updated May 25, 2023

Kids on a climbing frame

Children may enjoy climbing the sofa and the walls, but the best climbing frames will 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.

With everyone looking to spend a little less on activites in 2023, we've scoured expert review sites as well as drawing on the wisdom of the Mumsnet Talk forums to help you make the most of your garden this summer. Whether you're looking for the best trikes or RC cars to keep your kids busy in the summer holidays, or the best hot tub or garden hoses to make your garden a real sanctuary, we've got you covered. 

From small fold-away wooden triangles to plastic cubes for toddlers, as well as huge wooden forts with swings, slides, dens and bridges – we've hand-picked the very best climbing frames for kids, with options for both small and large gardens. 

Here are the best climbing frames to buy this year, as recommended by parents.

1. Best overall climbing frame: Dunster House Monkey Fort Wilderness

dunster house monkey fort wilderness

Price on writing: £389 | Buy now from Amazon

Key Specs

Suitable for: 3 to 14 years | Size: 280 × 340 × 285cm | Max user weight: 200kg total (50kg x four children) | Material: Wood and plastic extras

What we love

  • Very solid
  • Lots of features including a slide, sandpit and swing

What to know

  • Pricey
  • Can be tricky to assemble

What Mumsnet users say

"We have this one and it's brilliant to grow with my little one as can add new attachments to the swing area." (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user MamaOfWobbles)

"We've Dunster house too and can also recommend!" (Loved by Mumsnetter Gottoloveabagel)

 Our verdict

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.

2. Best budget climbing frame: TP Explorer Metal Climbing Frame and Swing

Tp explorer climbing frame

Price on writing: £249 | Buy now from TP Toys

Key Specs

Suitable for: 18 months to 12 years | Size: 203cm x 205cm x 350cm | Max user weight: 100kg total | Material: Powder-coated galvanised steel

What we love

  • Grows with your child
  • Den and swing features too

What to know

  • Not as attractive as some of the wooden frames

What Mumsnet users say

"Wooden ones are posher and look like you've spent more money on your children The metal ones can be changed around every year. Platforms and hideouts go in and out, add a slide/monkey bars/ scramble net, change the arrangement of crossbars around. This isn't necessarily a quick operation but it's not difficult either. However they tend to be a bit smaller and ours got outgrown around age 10." (Sage advice from Mumsnetter QuietlyQuaffing

Our verdict

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.

Related: The best scooters for kids, tried and tested by Mumsnetters

3. Best climbing frame for toddlers: Little Tikes Junior Activity Gym

Price on writing: £132.99 | Buy now from John Lewis

Key Specs

Suitable for: 18 months to four years | Size: 77cm x 130cm x 76cm | Max user weight: 23kg | Material: Plastic

What we love

  • Can be used indoors and outdoors
  • Great for little ones

What to know

  • Will be grown out of quickly (however Mumsnetters say kids find a way of playing with it well beyond the toddler years)

What Mumsnet users say

"We had a little tikes slide cube thing from when DD was 18mths. 8 yrs later and it's still used to do forward rolls down into the paddling pool. So yes, it has had a lot of use." (Recommended by Mumsnetter peanutbutterismydownfall)

 "We had a little tikes 'cube' which was great, tough and sturdy and very well used. We also had the larger version with a small slide which our two loved. We joined them together to make a big climbing frame area which worked." (Loved by Mumsnet user gerbo)

Our verdict

Little Tikes don’t just make their very famous toy cars. This Toddler 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.

4. Best climbing frame for large gardens: Wickey Smart Queen Climbing Frame

Price on writing: £1,299 | Buy now from Amazon

Key Specs

Suitable for: 3 to 12 years | Size: 425cm x 787cm x 325cm | Max user weight: 50kg per child | Material: Wood and plastic accessories

What we love

  • Very solid
  • Tonnes of extras including sandpit, swings and towers
  • Lots of longevity

What to know

  • Pricey
  • Lengthy construction
  • Anchors not included

What Mumsnet users say

"We've had ours 4 years now. It's moved house with us and still gets played on every day. I admit I left the construction to DH and FIL and there may have been some swearing, but for the price it's been totally worth it." (Recommended by Mumsnet user Frlrlrubert)

"We have one. Great stuff, rock solid after eight years, and on the offer i used it was cheaper than I could buy the timber. It did take some work to construct it, admittedly." (Tried and tested by Mumsnetter CasperGutman

Our verdict

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). Mumsnetters say if you can afford it, it's worth getting a professional to build the climbing frame. 

5. Best climbing frame for small gardens: TP Castlewood Wooden Climbing Frame

Price on writing: £559 | Buy now from John Lewis

Key Specs

Suitable for: 3 to 12 years | Size: 127 × 152 × 295cm | Max user weight: 150kg | Material: Pressure-treated wood

What we love

  • Small footprint, perfect for smaller gardens
  • Comes with a slide and den

What to know

  • Takes a while to build

Our verdict

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.

6. Best climbing frame for big age gaps: Lifetime Dome Climber

Price on writing: £227 | Buy now from Amazon

Key Specs

Suitable for: 3 to 10 years | Size: 274cm x 274cm x 137cm | Max user weight: 45kg | Material: Powder-coated steel

What we love

  • Very sturdy
  • Suitable for multiple ages
  • Great for imaginative play

What to know

  • Just a climbing frame so no extras

What Mumsnet users say

"We’ve got a 60 inch climbing dome by a company called Lifetime. We got the version which has a canopy so it can be used as a den as well, but it’s cheaper if you get it without." (Recommended by Mumsnetter Fivemoreminutes1)

Our verdict

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.

7. Best indoor climbing frame for toddlers: BusyKids Pikler Triangle, Double-Sided Board & Wooden Swing

busykids pikler triangle set

Price on writing: £299 | Buy now from Amazon

Key Specs

Suitable for: 12 months to 6 years | Size: 227 x 66 x 85 cm | Max user weight: Not stated | Material: Engineered wood

What we love

  • Folds away between use (except the arch)
  • Can be used indoors or outdoors

What to know

  • Not so popular with older children (although it makes a great ramp for toy cars)

What Mumsnet users say

"My Dd2 got one for her first birthday, still used every day and she's 2.5. Her 5yo stepbrother plays on it too. They sometimes make it a den as well but mostly climb all over it, go down the slide or push cars down the slide." (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user ShinyGreenElephant

"We got one for our kid's 3rd birthday at the end of 2019 and we used it absolutely loads, especially in lockdown as were shielding. He doesn't use it much now as more into little figures but it was totally worth it for that time. Still get good use when it's chucking it down." (Recommended by Mumsnetter toycat

Our verdict

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. Pikler isn't a brand, the triangles are named after their inventor, Hungarian paediatrician Dr Emmi Pikler.

This set from BusyKids 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 six, in reality it’s likely to lose its appeal by the time your little one is around three or four.

8. Best wooden climbing frame: Fat Moose FruityForest Fun XXL

fatmoose fruityfun xxl

Price on writing: £619 | Buy now from Amazon

Key Specs

Suitable for: 3 years to 12 years | Size: 4.36 x 3.24 x 2.45m | Max user weight: 70kg | Material: Pressure-treated wood

What we love

  • Lots of extras including a climbing wall, sand pit and slide
  • Smaller footprint than other climbing frames

What to know

  • Anchors and basketball net not included
  • Mumsnetters warn the delivery isn't great

What Mumsnet users say

"We have a Fat Moose one. Delivery was awful but customer service fantastic and it seems solid and is well used." (Tried and tested by Mumsnet user RafflesMaidenSister

Our verdict

Fat Moose’s FruityForest Fun XXL contains a lot of features considering its footprint. The platforms are an impressive 90 and 120cm tall and the wave slide includes a water slide option. There's a climbing wall, climbing net, steering wheel and sand pit underneath, which is great for rainy days.

It isn’t the easiest to assemble, but once it’s up your children will have lots to entertain themselves with.

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 Activity 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.