The best toddler climbing frame for little explorers

A toddler climbing a climbing frame

by Rosie Floyd |
Updated on

It's no secret that toddlers love to climb. Once they reach the toddling stage in their development, there's no stopping your little one from wanting to climb up everything in sight. From soft sofas to more challenging chairs and stairs: nothing is off-limits once they start moving. If you've got a little climber on your hands, it might be time to start thinking about buying a toddler climbing frame to keep them safely off the furniture.

Related: The best kids summer house for encouraging role play and imagination

What are the benefits of climbing for toddlers?

As well as giving your little one a chance to burn off some energy and all the obvious physical benefits of climbing, did you know that using climbing frames aid with their mental development too? Little Tikes have found that when children are climbing a frame, they engage their brains to determine how they'll get to the top and what actions they need to complete to do so. They practise their decision-making skills, visualise solutions to a challenge, and solve low-risk problems.

They also improve their sensory awareness by performing kinetic tasks when climbing. It includes pushing against rungs or footholds to climb, stretching to reach the next handhold, swinging from one handhold to the next, and pulling onto a handhold to climb.

And let's not forget the social benefits too. Climbing on a frame gives them confidence in their ability to overcome challenges and learn to cope with fear and stress when working through the difficulty of their climb. They will develop their self-reliance as they work out how to scale their frame on their own.

Best plastic climbing frame for toddlers
Little Tikes Junior Activity Gym

Rrp: $162.72

Price: $125.99

Perfect for use indoors and outdoor, your little one will get hours of fun out of this climbing frame by Little Tikes. They'll love climbing up the frame to glide down the slide once they reach the top. There are also toddler-size portholes in the side where they can play peek-a-boo and crawl through.

Pros: Good for sliding and crawling as well as climbing
Cons: Reviews have stated that it is hard to put together

Review: "Granddaughter is 16 months old and has great fun climbing up to platform and then sliding safely to bottom of slide, you should see the smile on her teddies when they have a shot too. A good size for use indoors in the playroom but even better outside in the sunshine. Will probably last until she's 3. She hasn't used the holes in the bottom section yet, preferring to climb up the outside. A very safe item and child can use it unaided."

Toddler climbing frame fit for royalty

Give your little prince or princess their very own castle to climb. They can keep watch of their kingdom once they've reached the top of their royal tower using the telescope.

Pros: Includes a basketball hoop
Cons: For indoor use only

Best for little scamblers

With a mini-rock climbing wall and a cargo net, this frame presents two different kinds of climbing challenges for your toddler. If that wasn't enough, there's also a four-foot slide to zip down and a semi-covered den underneath where they can camp out with their little friends.

Pros: Wood is treated so it can be used outside straightaway
Cons: Will require some DIY knowledge to put together

Review: "Love this climbing frame. The natural wood looks lovely in the garden, it’s hard-wearing and good quality. The kids love it, the right amount of challenge for my 3-year-old, and still fun for my 6-year-old!
They especially love the den underneath."

Best climbing frame for sporty toddlers

If your bundle of joy has lots of energy to burn off, you need this climbing frame! As well as steps to climb and a slide to go down - mini-athletes will love shooting some hoops and scoring goals through the holes. They'll be no losing count of the score either, thanks to the scorekeeper clicker knobs to help you tally up the points.

Pros: Multi-purpose ball is included
Cons: Some reviews have mentioned it is smaller than expected

Review: "This slide in activity centre was very simple to put together and while it's light, it's quite sturdy. My daughter loves climbing up the ladder, coming down the slide, and racing around to do it all over again. It's fun for older kids, but it's easy enough to climb for younger toddlers. I was pleasantly surprised when she repeatedly put the ball through the hoop, squealing with laughter each time and going back for more. The built-in scorekeeper is great as she loves to count along as she turns the dials."

Best for building strength

Transform any room into an adventure playground with TP Toys' wooden climbing frame. It encourages toddlers to stand and climb at their own pace in the comfort of their own home and under your watchful eye. It also comes with a foldaway swing for double the fun.

Pros: Comes with anti-slip feet for stability
Cons: Must be fixed to a wall

Best for outdoor adventures
Plum Toddlers Tower Wooden Climbing Frame
Price: £329.99

With curved edges, low platforms and hand grips to help stability and balance, the Plum Toddlers Tower has been specifically designed with tiny fingers and little feet in mind. The slide and swing will give your child a great introduction to outdoor fun. There's also an element of imaginative play to explore with a steering wheel and bell attached.

Pros: Packed with activities, the slide and swing is just the right height
Cons: Be prepared for a long build

Review: "Really good quality product, our children love it! Takes a while to build as there are a lot of pieces but it's definitely worth it."

Best contemporary toddler climbing frame

As a more stylish and sleek-looking climbing frame compared to others on our list, the TP explorer will be suited to modern gardens. It's ideal for playing with on sunny days as it has a shaded tipi-style area at the top and a pit underneath that can be filled with sand or balls. With additional accessories available, this climbing frame can be adapted to include more fun ways to play as your child grows up.

Pros: Comes with a five-year guarantee against rust causing failure
Cons: Sand and balls not included

Review: "Fantastic climbing frame. Kids love various ways of climbing up and the den at the top. The instructions could be a bit clearer as it takes a while to build but well worth the time."

Best for older toddlers

The recommended age for this climber is over three years, so it's not too small that your little one will get bored of it quickly, and it's not too big to overwhelm them. It's also low enough to the ground you won't need to worry about if the frame is too high. Kids will love climbing up, sliding down, and hanging off this climbing dome.

Pros: Durable, designed for up three children to use at once, six-foot slide
Cons: Some customers have had difficulty with installation

Review: "Really good climber and slide set. Bigger than it looks in the photos too! Takes a bit of time to assemble but the video really helps. I also called the helpline as thought I had bits missing but they told me where to find in the box and were really helpful. If the kids get bored playing with it, I'll be sure to have a go as I'm sure it would take my weight!"

Where is the best place to put a climbing frame?

Whether your chosen toddler climbing frame is for indoor or outdoor use, you'll need to think about the area surrounding it. You'll want to make sure you have plenty of room around the frame - so if your child does accidentally slip and fall off, they're not going to catch themselves on bits of furniture indoors or bushes and trees outdoors.

Additionally, if your climbing frame is for outdoor use, they are best placed on flat, solid ground for stability. You may also want to think about installing it in a shaded spot - so your little one doesn't get too hot while they're playing.

What should you put underneath a climbing frame?

We know little ones can be a bit accident-prone, so there may be a chance that they could slip and fall. Children should always be supervised when playing on a climbing frame. To give you peace of mind, you should consider adding something around it to cushion the landing.

For an indoor use climber, we would recommend having a play mat nearby, but check that your climb frame is stable if you do this. Playing outdoors? Consider laying a rubber mat or adding rubber chippings to your play area - they'll provide some level of cushioning if your toddler takes a tumble.

Some parents like to add play bark around their child's play area too. While this won't provide the softest of landings if your child falls, this will help to protect your play area. It will aid with keeping structures stable and increasing longevity by soaking up rainwater, helping to slow the rate of weathering and water damage, like rust.

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