Children’s climbing frames usually always have one thing in common, rope-based games and activities. With technology advancing as it is, children are usually quite reluctant to actually go outside and play, iPhone’s, PlayStation's and other technologies have now become the norm.
Staying inside on the internet, connected with friends virtually through video-games and social media apps means children aren’t getting outside, staying active and enjoying the sun (When the UK has it). Rope based games and activities might be your solution to achieving this, as the pinnacle of outdoor play is the rope climbing frame.
While found in most parks, they can be crowded and even sometimes (unfortunately) vandalised, your own DIY rope climbing frame in your own backyard means your children have no excuses for not getting out and staying active. Plus, you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing you built it with your bare hands.
If you plan to build your own rope climbing frame then you’re going to need to make sure your garden is large enough. Of course if your garden is small, since you’re building your own and not buying a premade structure, you can always build upwards instead of outwards to accommodate.
There are many reason building your own DIY climbing frame is the best solution for your children:
- Safety: When building your own climbing frame, you can ensure everything is safe, secure and that your children can’t fall or injure themselves.
- Maintenance : Most rope and wood you purchase for the construction of your climbing frame has already been treated to last a long time.
- Space : Since you’re the one building the climbing frame, you can choose the size and space it takes up.
There is no one way to build your climbing frame, the design and construction is completely in your own hands. You can buy some pre-made parts and add your own design into them, or you can build from scratch and make everything yourself, let your imagination go crazy with design ideas. We’re going to take a look at the complete DIY option, designing, building and admiring your own work.
Before you get started sawing, drilling and nailing everything together, there are a few important things to consider:
- Draw : Before you start free-styling the build it's good to get something solid down on paper. Write down your ideas, draw how you picture the final product being when complete and note your measurements. You're going to need all of this while you're busy building.
- Annotate : Annotating your drawings and notes with measurements and sizes won't just help you while you're building, but will also help ensure you buy all your materials in the correct sizes and shapes.
- Budget : Think about your budget, don't aim to build a huge climbing frame if you don't have the budget, and also keep in mind that your children may eventually outgrow the structure.
- Purpose : Don't forget the purpose of building the climbing frame is to entertain your children, not yourself. Build the structure how you think they'd like it, perhaps even ask them what features they'd like to see.
Now you've considered everything in preparation for the build, it's time to think about the design you plan to follow, do you intend to have a swing set? Fort? Zipline? You probably guessed that most rope climbing frames incorporate a lot of rope into their design but what activities are you likely to see on most structures?
- Rope Swings: Rope swings are a must for any climbing frame and, if you have a tree or somewhere to tie one, most backyards. Everyone loves a rope swing so installing one is a great idea. Not only are they fun but they're simple to build.
- Biggo Swing: The name might throw you off but you'll definitely have seen these before, they're essentially tire swings, with a large base to seat more than one person, usually suspended via a metal or wooden arch frame to allow for circular swinging. These are likely to be significantly more difficult for you to make but if you're up to the task, your children will love it.
- Climbing Net: We all loved the climbing nets in the local park, they're a staple of any climbing frame. Climbing nets now come in so many designs, from the simple climbing net you remember to tall, spiderweb type climbing nets.
- Climbers: While similar to climbing nets, these are often stand alone structures not directly connected to the climbing frame. They're usually triangular or cone shaped with the rope twisting and overlapping to create a "spider web" effect for the children to climb, usually supported by a singular anchor point in the middle.
Obviously there is so much more you can include on your climbing frame, but we've decided to only look at those we can make at home using the rope and wood we bought earlier.
Accessories and Decoration
So you've decided on the activities and features you'd like your climbing frame to have, depending on your budget and design ideas, you can decorate the area surrounding your structure, making it more appealing and attractive.
- Bark: If you'd like the ground around the climbing frame to be soft in case of any accidental falls, then bark is usually the way to go. While sometimes a little messy, it serves its purpose.
- Rocks: Rocks add a little decoration to the area surrounding your climbing frame, you can go out and collect real rocks or purchase fake ones from a DIY store. Depending how imaginative you are, you could find a way to incorporate them into a game or part of the climbing frame itself. Just ensure that if you do decide to collect them yourself you make sure they're not sharp and aren't able to insure your child.
- Stumps: You can add small tree stumps in as stepping stones for your child or you can choose to add them in as nothing more than decorations. You can also use these stumps as anchor points for some of your rope creations.
- Forts and Housing: Building a climbing frame is sure to bring a smile to your child's face but add a fort in there for them to hide out in will surely make their dreams come true, now they have their own place to hang out, outside.
- Hammocks, Zip-lines and more: These are all additional extras that, given the space, you could choose to add to the climbing frame. Any and all of these are sure to bring an extra big smile to your child's face.
You've finished planning and you've bought all the materials needed. The shed has been emptied and you've found all your old tools that haven't seen the light of day in the past few years. So now off you go, stick to the plans and get building!
Below you can find instructions on how to build two items you may want to incorporate into your rope climbing frame.
DIY Rope Swing
What You'll Need...
|Handsaw or miter saw||2' x 10' x 8ft board|
|Drill with 1' bit||46ft of 3/4' Twisted Polypropylene Rope|
|Utility Knife||2 Snap Links|
|Sander and 120-grit Sandpaper||2-1/2' Deck Screws|
|Matches or Lighter|
Building the Wooden Seat
Step-by-Step Instructions to Build Your Wooden Seat
- Step 1 - Trim the edges from a 2' x 10' board. Cut the board into two 3' long and one 22' long piece.
- Step 2 - Sand the faces and edges of all three pieces. Drill pilot holes into each 3' piece. Glue and screw the 3' pieces with both edges and one end flush with the end of the seat (22' piece).
- Step 3 - Mark the location of the four 1' holes. Place a piece of scrap wood beneath the swing seat and drill the holes all the way. Sand around the top and bottom of the holes. Then sand all sharp edges until smooth and rounded.
- Step 4 - Apply a coat of primer to the seat and let it dry. Apply paint until coated - not forgetting the insides of the rope holes.
Hanging the Swing
- Step 1 - To keep the rope from unraveling, cut two pieces of rope approximately 5ft long and heat the ends until they begin to melt. Thread one end through a hole in the seat from the top and make an overhand knot underneath. Repeat on the remaining hole on the same end so the rope forms a loop. Repeat this step for the other side of the seat.
- Step 2 - Place a snap link on each seat rope. Measure from the tree limb or supporting frame you plan to attach your swing down to the ground. Then cut two pieces of rope approximately 3ft more than the distance you just measured. Tie a double-bowline knot on each end of each rope (see below). Throw the knotted end over the tree limb or support where you'll hang the swing. Now pull the knot snug with the supporting branch or frame. Now attach the snap link to the hanging double-bowline knot and attach this to the swing rope so the seat hangs above the ground. Repeat all this for the other side.
How to Tie the Rope
Obviously we understand that throwing a name at you, like "Double-Bowline" knot and expecting you to know how to tie one might be a long shot. So perhaps you might want to check out this infographic to see how to tie some of the more common knots or follow the illustrations below for the knots needed here.
Overhand Knot - Used to tie the rope underneath the seat.
Double-Bowline Knot - Used to hand the swing from the supporting frame/limb
DIY Rope Climbing Net
What You'll Need...
|Approximately 216ft of Nylon Rope (Length will vary depending on net size)||Measuring Tape|
|Lighter or matches|
Creating the Climbing Net
This set of instructions will help you create an eight foot square of netting with 1ft gaps, requiring 9 vertical and 9 horizontal lengths of rope.
- Step 1 - Measure and cut lengths of rope as desired, for this set of instructions we'll need 18 lengths of rope. Nine of these should be cut to approximately 9ft in length. The other nine should be cut to 9ft in length plus an additional nine inches for each knot to be tied with it (In this case, nine knots, meaning an additional 81 inches), we'd need these nine lengths to measure between 14-15ft.
- Step 2 - Lay the 9ft horizontal ropes on the floor or flat surface in straight lines, making sure they're roughly 1ft apart.
- Step 3 - Now lay the first vertical 14-15ft rope down along the outside of the horizontal ropes. Tie a clove-hitch knot into each intersection. Making sure to pull the knot tight. Repeat this for all nine intersections of the ropes for each of the nine vertical lengths of rope, making sure to tie each with a clove-hitch knot. Leave extra rope at one end of every vertical length of rope, this allows you to hang the net where desired.
- Step 4 - Cut any excess rope that isn't needed and then melt the ends of the rope with the lighter or matches to prevent fraying.
How to Tie the Rope
Clove Hitch - Used to tie climbing rope.
Other Ideas and Games
So you've built your masterpiece and it looks great! Now it's time to get involved with the kids and enjoy your hard work. While thinking of some cool games to play, why not make use of any spare rope or wood you've got left over?
It's a great idea to come up with some new games to add to your DIY climbing frame. These new games will keep yourself and the children interested and occupied for months, if not longer. There are a wide variety of games out there that incorporate rope! So make some or even come up with your own!
Rope Ring on a String
I'm not sure if it's just me, but I even enjoy saying the name of this one! This is a simple game, where the aim is to get a ring (Commonly made from your spare rope) onto a hook from a certain distance away. This game can be attached to your climbing frame and is simple to make and simple to play. You'll need a screw hook, ring (rope, metal or rubber) and some spare rope/string. Screw your hook into a tree or your climbing frame, then secure the ring (attached to your rope) above it. When the ring is dropped down it should be fully centred on the hook. This might seem so simple, yet you'd be surprised how addictive and entertaining it can be.
(Rope) Ring Toss
This is pretty much the same game as the you might have played as a child. You can spice it up and edit the game as you wish. You could maybe have your targets (The poles your aiming to hoop your rings on) screwed to your climbing frame, meaning the game would become that bit harder. You could use old stings of rope from your climbing frame to create your rings. While you can use old wood cut off's to create your targets.
Less of a game you have to make and more one that is already made. Find a reasonable length of rope, mark your areas and find out who or which team is stronger. For a fun twist, you could purchase a tarpaulin, add some water and maybe a little soap and your tug-of-war just became a fun summer game!
Now you can sit back and watch as your children have plenty of fun with their new climbing frame and you can hold your head high knowing you created the source of their happiness!