It’s lovely the first time a wobbly tot tries to get up onto the couch. However, skip ahead several months and a few short years, and the happy feeling might fade as you watch your little kid trying to scale every vertical structure and piece of furniture in their path.
Kids, by nature, love climbing. Although it can be frantic behavior for parents to manage, it is an essential stage in the improvement of gross motor skills. Kids learn by moving through their environment; from trees to bunk beds, on top of sofas, and even on top of you.
For your sanity, however, you probably want such physical activities to be acted outside rather than inside your home. One great way to keep the current generation of youngsters entertained and encourage imaginative play is by building a jungle gym in your backyard.
So, as you try to steer the balance between YouTube and gaming, we’ll talk you through how to build your own jungle gym and let the kids have fun in a more traditional, physical way.
So let’s get started!
What is a Jungle Gym?
Before we even jump into learning how to build your own jungle gym, it is important that you understand what we are talking about precisely.
Simply put, a jungle gym refers to an outdoor structure consisting of horizontal bars and vertical beams where lots of kids can climb on, hand, slide, and even sit.
These climbing structures are normally made up of different attachments and materials such as wood, metal, and rope that allow children to perform various types of play. Several kids can use the same jungle gym at the same time. In the UK, jungle gyms are known as climbing frames.
A well-built jungle gym also provides children with shelter and a fairly easy way to adapt and manipulate their environment. They can use it to play castle, restaurant, pirates, playhouse, and many other exciting games.
Making a jungle gym requires planning beforehand to determine where exactly it will be set, knowing which material will serve the best, constructing the actual frame, and laying the foundations so the whole thing remains in place.
The good news is that you don’t have to dish out thousands of dollars to come up with a good jungle gym. We’ll help you learn how to make one fast and easy and with minimum cost. But first, there’re some considerations you need to make before you jump into the main act.
The Prefered Type of Jungle Gym
Of course, the first thing to think about is the type of jungle gym you wish to make. Are you looking for a rusting or modern jungle gym? What do you think would be best for your kids and the backyard?
Some parents chose a blend of rusting and modern designs for more compact climbing structures that incorporate both metallic and wooden components.
Modern jungle gyms are mostly built from wood, featuring a great range of colorful accents, subtle locomotive theme, and designs that are friendly to children. And they are also sturdy.
While rustic jungle gyms are primarily metal, parents need to keep an eye on detail to avoid any compromise on the component’s safety. In fact, the rustic type was commonly used in the past when safety wasn’t such an issue.
They, however, offer great imaginative and physical challenges for kids, which makes them effective even to date.
Nowadays, most kid’s playgrounds and playsets have a labyrinthine construction, but the bars are generally built from softer elements such as padded plastic to mitigate the risk of fatal accidents and prevent kids from getting hurt or bonking their heads into the bars.
Irrespective of what you choose, the most imperative aspect should be the safety of the kids. You don’t want to build a fancy jungle gym that isn’t actually safe for the youngsters.
Components to be Incorporate In Your Jungle Gym
Usually, you can have many different components to your jungle gym, based on how you want it to look. For example, do you picture it as an elaborate structure with numerous sections or are you just looking up to something with a couple or three sections?
The fact that there’re many ways of building a jungle gym means that you can go with two slides, a playhouse, a monkey bar, etc. On a basic level, a good jungle gym should have components like a ladder, a platform, a slide, a tunnel, a bridge, monkey bars, and play stations.
Tip: Before you start building, it’s important to talk to your kids about what they like and put their suggestions in mind. After all, what’s the point of having a swing on your jungle gym if your child doesn’t like swinging?
The Need for Planning Permission
Sometimes it’s good to consult with your local regulations, but in most cases, planning permission shouldn’t be an issue.
Perhaps the only concern should be on the height of the structure, as some neighbors might find it uneasy your children peering into their garden when they’re on top of the structure.
You will also need to consider the overall size. Some countries like the UK don’t allow building on more than 50 percent of your land. So keep that in mind as well.
It is generally a good idea to consult with your neighbors when installing a jungle gym. Just make sure the structure isn’t too tall and doesn’t occupy too much space on your land.
Making Your Own Jungle Gym: Step-by-Step
Once you have decided the best type of jungle type to install, how many components are needed, and the need for planning thereof, you can now venture into the actual building process. In this section, we have outlined the steps on how to build your own jungle gym.
Measuring Your Space
As earlier mentioned, it all starts with planning! Get the actual measurements of the backyard or where you are doing the jungle gym construction. As you think about the size of the jungle gym, keep in mind the working space as well as the playground you need to leave intact.
By now you should have a solid idea about how big the entire play structure is going to be. Calculate the amount of space you need and factor in at least 3 feet of empty space all around the structure.
For example, you shouldn’t install a jungle gym near some thorny bush or tree branches. Kids love climbing and moving around. Therefore, having obstacles and snags anywhere in the jungle gym can be unsafe. So, be sure to keep it away from tree branches, fences, and bushes.
Luckily, there are many ways of utilizing a relatively small ground. For instance, instead of building across, you can choose to build up or have a sandpit at the base of the jungle gym.
If your style is “built up” make sure you have two or three storeys with solid platforms that support different types of games. By now, you should have a clear idea of how your DIY play structure will look like, its overall size, and most importantly, where you’ll install it.
Pick Your Components
The next thing is to get the right jungle gym equipment for the job. Remember to consider the weatherproof qualities of what you choose to work with. For example, you may consider PVC or Sunbrella fabric for the canopy shelter.
In the case of wooden parts, experts suggest employing pressure-treated lumber as it delivers a beautiful formation and keeps mosquitoes at bay. Any extra component may be added as well, such as hoops, swings, nets, and monkey bars.
A decent DIY jungle gym should have a gym design for both physical and mental exercises. There are a lot of components that provide physical exercises including climbing.
While swinging helps the kids exercise their whole body, components such as monkey bars are meant to build upper body muscles.
The key to achieving an adaptable jungle gym that will offer your youngsters different games and everything they need is to by being creative. Be smart and feel free to try different ideas provided they’re not compromising the safety and integrity of the individual structures.
You might want to borrow inspiration from people who have already installed their own jungle gym. You can get some really good ideas on the most suitable materials and where to get them. Otherwise, home stores’ shopping can be another challenge altogether.
Have a note on everything needed. Shop for them and store them until you are satisfied and ready to start making your own jungle gym. Gathering everything you need may require you to check out more than a few different shops.
If you are considering a jungle gym package, you will find that they mostly come in plastic. However, if you’re considering the DIY approach, lumber is your most likely option. After all, metal structures can be risky for kids should they fall or slip and bang their heads; metal is a hard material. Here are some of the materials and tools that you’ll need for the construction:
- A power drill
- Pressure-treated lumber
- Metal wood brackets
- Playground sand or alternative surfacing material
- Deck boards
- Wood screws
For decks that are higher than 12 inches off the ground, the posts should be anchored using concrete. Put the tubes carefully into the ground and secure them using concrete. Check that the tubes have adequate height to accommodate platforms, divisions, and, roof without issues.
You can contact a professional contractor for assistance should the work feel to much for you.
Once you’ve got everything in place, it’s time to begin the building process. Ensure that you have all the right materials and necessary tools. Safety is very important when constructing a jungle gym. So, make sure you start with the right foundations.
Make holes for the vertical beams and get sonotubes set the posts in. Then fill in with concrete. This is paramount if the jungle gym is tall and incorporates more storeys. The concrete mix can take about 48 hours to cure.
Building the Frame
To build the frame, you will probably need some deck boards, a power drill, screws, some brackets, a spirit level, and a saw. After setting the vertical posts in place, and using concrete to secure them, you can add every other piece and attach the frame.
This part can be tricky and you need a jack from someone. Remember to leave enough space for components such as doorways, slides, roofs, etc, which should be attached in the final step.
Laying the Ground
After building the frame, the next thing is to make a nice soft surface on where kids can land on. You can use some bark chipping or invest in some soft rubber mulch or mats. You can also add a layer of membrane underneath to prevent weeds or grass from growing through.
Checking the Frame
Be sure to double-check and confirm everything before leaving the play structure to your kids. The foundations should be strong and the frame shouldn’t wobble. Check and resolve any protruding screw that could cause injury.
Recheck the climbing frame and make sure it is secure and strong enough. Any sharp ends and overlapping play areas should be resolved. Do not make any assumptions, no matter how small the matter is.
Other final touches such as painting or applying some protector may be necessary, especially in the case of a wooden frame.
Jungle gyms are more like the opposite of modern-day technology. They bring youngsters an incredible opportunity to play outside, entertain themselves, and tap into their capabilities.
They can also be an excellent approach to navigating kids’ screen time and letting them interact with the outdoors. Although installing a prebuilt jungle gym may be relatively expensive, you can cut down the costs by learning how to make your own at home.
You just need to know the scope of the project. Then, get the right materials, gather the required tools and carry out the construction. Once you are satisfied with the end results, give yourself a gesture of celebration and invite your youngsters over to start having fun.
After all, it is your responsibility as a parent to keep them happy and entertained.