Climbing Frames

The small frames which can be quickly dismantled are usually made of wood. These can be used inside or outside but will not withstand being left out in bad weather. They are ideal for three-to four-year-old children, especially if they include a slide. Children younger than this would be better off with a stair unit which provides a solid foot-rest rather than a bar. Large frames may be of wood or metal and are intended for outdoor use so they should withstand rain and frost. Because of their size and because a number of children usually play on them at once they may need permanently setting into the ground. Concrete makes a firm base but is unpleasant for a falling child to land on. Grass is softer to fall on but gets badly worn and slippery in damp weather. Some authorities have tried placing frames in a sandpit but jumping children can cause sand to fly up which presents yet another hazard. No good all-round solution seems to have been found yet. Other countries such as Australia and New Zealand suggest a tan-bark carpet beneath the equipment but this material does not seem to be available here. Hardening ground with ashes becomes impossible in these days of central heating. However this problem is met, it is necessary to take care with the siting of a climbing frame or indeed any other item of this nature. Enough space should be allowed to give easy access and avoid the accidents caused by being too close to another activity. Trestles and planks, though not strictly speaking counted as climbing equipment, allow for both climbing, scrambling and balancing. Where everything has to be put away they could perhaps be more practical than a frame or might be a useful addition to it.

For home use the hexagonal metal frame with a central swinging pole is useful provided the quality of materials and construction is safe. With reasonable care and maintenance they should last a small family of children until perhaps school or the local park Can offer something bigger and better. The price is about the same as that of a good bicycle. A slide can easily be made at home to hook on to one of the rungs. Hardwood or thick plywood lasts best. Side pieces should be smooth and splinter-free so again hardwood is safest. A laminate surface glued on to the slide surface makes it more efficient and durable. If the bottom end of the slide is not raised from the ground a piece of carpet or a cushion will stop grazes and bumps as children reach the bottom. Ladder hooks or some other foolproof, fail-safe fastening should be used to attach the slide to the rung of the climbing frame.

Ladders can be bought or they can be made from good quality wood. Six-foot side pieces with eighteen-inch rungs set nine inches apart is a good basic size. For a home-made ladder it is easier to use batten throughout rather than dowel rungs and rounded sides. Each flat rung should be firmly glued and screw-ed using two screws set diagonally at each end of each rung. These are useful as additional climbing material rather than an alternative to a climbing frame. They give rise to a good deal of imaginative play.