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Kids love climbing things. Trees, bunk beds, on top of sofas or even on top of you! But for your sanity, you probably want them doing this physical activity outside rather than inside your home. One great way to keep them entertained and encourage imaginative play is by building a jungle gym in your backyard.
Building a jungle gym requires planning on your part, so you know where exactly it will go, choosing which material you will use, building the actual frame and laying the foundations to keep it all in place.
In this article let’s take a step-by-step look at how to do this in more detail.
What is a jungle gym?
A jungle gym is an outdoor structure your kids can use to climb on, hang, sit and even slide. It comes with several different attachments and it usually consists of different materials; wood, metal and rope. It essentially looks like some playground equipment you might find in your local park. In the UK, a jungle gym is known as a climbing frame.
How much does it cost to build a jungle gym?
It depends on your budget, but a lot depends on how big you want your jungle gym to be, what material you will use and what brand you decide to buy. For most jungle gyms, it can cost anywhere between $200 and $5000, but it’s possible to spend up to $10,000 if you use some expensive wood. If you can find a lot of the material yourself, you can keep the costs down a bit.
Lifetime A-Frame Adventure Playset
How to build a jungle gym: Step-by-step
Here’s a good process you can follow from start to finish when you’re building this structure. It all starts with planning.
Your first thought should be what do you want your jungle gym to look like? Do you want it to have a modern look, or more of a rustic feel, or even a blend of the two? What components do you want to include? Here are a few to consider:
- Monkey bars
- A normal swing (or a tire swing)
- A bridge
- A pole
- A tunnel
- A ladder
- A slide
- A climbing rope
Jungle Gym Kingdom Swing Set
You can include whatever you want, but a slide or a pole is probably a good idea as you want to make it easy for your kids to get off the thing! When building this project, it’s probably nice to involve your kids so you can ask them what features they would like to include. Make sure you think about the future though. You want it to be fun for your 3-year old child now and over the next few years. Imagine how frustrating it will be if your son or daughter get bored of the jungle gym in just a couple of months!
Finally, decide where you want the climbing frame to go. It should be a level surface, clear of any garden paths as this can be painful for children if they land on them.
If you’re buying a jungle gym package, you might find it comes in plastic, but if you’re going for the DIY approach yourself, you will probably use lumber. Gone are the days of metal jungle gyms which are more dangerous for kids if they slip or fall and bang their head, as the material is so hard.
What wood do I need to build a jungle gym?
You should use high-quality timber for building a jungle gym. Ideally, you want wood from conifers such as pine or spruce as these are a little softer (in case of any collisions) but still sturdy.
Do you need planning permission?
You might want to check with your local regulations, but in general you shouldn’t need planning permission. The only issue might be on the height of the structure, as some neighbours might object if your children can peer into their garden when they are on top of the jungle gym. There’s also the overall size to consider. In certain countries, like the UK, you can’t build on more than 50% of your land. You might not be allowed to install one in your front yard either.
It’s probably worth consulting with your neighbours when you’re building a jungle gym anyway, but just ensure it’s not too tall and doesn’t take up too much space in your yard.
Eezy Peezy Monkey Bars Climbing Tower
Once you know the type of jungle gym you want, as well as what material you will use, it’s time to start measuring. Do it a few times just to make sure you have plenty of space for everything. Also, make sure you factor in the extra space you’ll need if you’re installing a swing or slide. You don’t want your child’s feet colliding with your neighbour’s fence when they’re on the swing!
How much space do you need around a climbing frame?
You should aim to have at least 1.5m of space around your jungle gym, so your children can run around the frame easily. Keep it away from fences, tree branches and bushes.
With all the preparations in place, it’s time to start building the jungle gym. Make sure you have all the necessary tools as well as the core materials. You’ll likely need a power drill, some brackets, screws, a saw, a spirit level and possibly some deck boards.
Safety is paramount when you’re building a jungle gym, and that starts with the right foundations. Dig holes for the vertical posts and use sonotubes to put the posts in and fill in with concrete. This is essential if your jungle gym is tall and has more than one storey. It can take around 48 hours for the concrete mix to cure.
Build the frame
Once the vertical posts are in place and set in concrete, you can attach all the other pieces and attach the frame. This is the trickiest part and you’ll likely need help from someone. Make sure you leave space for the components such as the slide, doorways, roof etc. For the final step, you can attach the roof, swing, slide and any other parts.
hooroor Slackline Warrior Obstacle Course
Lay the ground
Once the frame is built, you want a nice soft surface for your children to land on. You can purchase some soft rubber mats, or use some bark. You might want to add a layer of weed membrane underneath to stop any grass or weed growing through.
Make sure you check everything before you allow your kids to use the jungle gym. Ensure the frame doesn’t wobble and the foundations are strong. Also, check for a protruding screw that could cause a nasty injury.
As a final touch you can always paint or apply some protector (if you’ve used a wooden frame). If you’re painting you might be able to get your kids involved and help you out, if it’s safe to do so.
How do you make a climbing frame safe?
The most important aspect of ensuring your children’s jungle gym is safe is if you have the right foundations underneath. This will give you peace of mind that the whole frame won’t topple over. After that, you can make things safer on the surface so your children won’t hurt themselves when they fall over or jump off the frame. Just having grass is ok, but you could also use some bark chipping, some rubber mulch or mats.
You can secure a wooden climbing frame by installing some ground stakes next to the wood and drilling through them into the frame. However, if the structure is fairly big and tall, you may need to use a sonotube, or something similar to put the post in and then fill in with concrete.
Yes this is fine. You just need to ensure the structure isn’t too tall or takes up too much space in your yard.
It depends on your local regulations, but normally you don’t need planning permission. In the UK a climbing frame can be up to 4 metres high with a ridged roof, or 3 metres high if it has a flat roof.
If you want your children to be safe on the jungle gym, you should really anchor it to the ground. Make sure the ground is level and setting the anchors into some concrete in the ground.
You can add a number of different components including monkey bars, a swing set, a ladder, a pole and a bridge, as well as many others.
If you have the space, you should definitely consider installing an indoor jungle gym. It’s a great way for the kids to release some energy, especially when it’s a rainy day and you’re all stuck at home.
Graham is a father of two who founded Dadometer to share his parenting journey with other moms and dads.