Outdoor play is crucial to a child’s development. It allows them to practice and master a range of physical skills while helping them to stay fit and healthy.
Aside from the great physical benefits, outdoor play allows children to develop socially, emotionally and cognitively as well. They can find new ways to express themselves and at the same time learn more about their world in their own way while experiencing the beautiful sights, textures and sounds that the outdoors has to offer.
A climbing frame is the perfect way to encourage children to embrace the outdoors and will provide them with opportunities to discover more about themselves and their surroundings while helping them to develop intellectually. It’s important to choose a frame to suit your child’s age which provides them with appropriate activities and plenty of room to grow into without being too challenging and therefore unsafe.
At this very young age, outdoor play will be a lot about soaking up the scents, textures and sensations of the outdoors. Many climbing frames are designed for children 3+ and aren’t suitable while your little one is unsteady on their feet. They can present a risk of choking because of small parts, or of falling from the platforms. However, to cater for younger children you can buy a baby swing seat which is suitable from around 12 months and can be fitted to a more advanced climbing frame. This allows you to choose a frame that your little one can grow into, or that your older children can enjoy.
A frame designed for an older child that has some gentler play elements integrated can also be a great option to satisfy your younger child’s needs at this age. The Plum Play and Picnic Centre for example has a tray for sand and water play. Children typically will enjoy sand play from around 12 months onwards and with supervision, your younger child will be able to play happily alongside their older brothers, sisters or friends, who can enjoy the up and over climbing wall, play deck and slide. Many climbing frames also have space for a den underneath and little tots will love huddling in with their brothers and sisters, even though they may not fully get the gist of the game!
Age 3-5 years
By the time your child reaches the age of three, they will be ready for new challenges. At this age, your child will have turned into a little explorer and it’s a good idea to provide them with plenty of opportunities to let off steam while enjoying the world of outdoors. On play equipment, look for comfort features to ensure they can do this in relative safety such as rounded hand grips on ladders that allow little hands to grip onto them easily. It’s also important to ensure that your choice of frame has no protruding fixings.
The Plum Bonobo 2 Play Centre (age 3+) is a fantastic choice for 3-5s, and great value as it can support children up to the age of 12. It features a sturdy wooden ladder to climb which takes them up to a lookout tower, where they can use the telescope to look down into the garden and keep watch for pirates. There’s also a fun wave slide to take them back down again. Under the tower, there’s a sheltered sand pit that caters perfectly for both younger and older children. There’s also a double swing arm attached to the tower which comes with two heavy duty height adjustable swings that have soft feel ropes. Again, if you have a very young child, consider replacing one of the swings with a baby swing so that they can join in with the outdoor play.
Age 6 – 7
At 6 – 7 years, you’ll find your child has developed a wild imagination and suddenly the climbing frame is no longer a climbing frame but instead, serves as a dragon’s cave or pirate’s den. Frames with places to hide help foster this imagination and give them the opportunity to create their own hideout.
They’ll be developing a lot more strength and coordination too, so activities that are physically challenging such as monkey and trapeze bars, rope and rung ladders, scramble nets and climbing walls are perfect for providing them with what they need. Look for easy to grip climbing rocks which providing a challenging but safe activity and make sure any climbing holds are made from tough plastic as the ceramic type holds can cause abrasions.
At this age, children will also be building on their social skills and a larger frame is therefore a great choice as it provides the opportunity for their friends to come over and play. The ultimate pick for children at this age is the Plum Climbing Pyramid Wooden Climbing Frame. There really is so much to discover on this play centre that the children will be happily exploring and playing for hours, day after day. This frame has two swings, a large double play deck that can accessed via a cargo net or metal rung ladder, a good sized rock wall featuring coloured hand and foot grips and a fantastic 8ft wave slide. The hideout underneath makes the perfect bat cave or dragon’s lair and with your supervision, little tots can also join in the fun.
Take a look at our full range of climbing frames for kids.