Backyard jungle gyms

I’m working on a piece about how people use their yards, and my collaborator and I were talking about play areas for kids. You see these big elaborate jungle gym sets out in yards – but bit neither of us has ever seen kids playing on them.

Does anyone have such a set? Do your kids play on it? How often? How old are the kids? Are you glad you got it, or does it seem like a waste, in retrospect? Plus any other anecdotes you want to throw in.


Hi Twick!

I’m a single semi grown-up lady (26 this week), and I have a swing in my backyard. Just one, and not like a little DIY set, a tall, proper sized swing, with a comfortable adult-sized seat. I love it, and I swing almost every day. I had nothing to do with installing it, it was there when I moved in to my (rented) house. Just a happy accident!

The two grandmothers got one for my daughter when she was three. It is a fairly elaborate set that is closest to this one. Use is seasonal here but she definitely uses it and her friends do to when they come over. It is a pretty big hit. It better be because it literally took about 60 man hours for me and a relative to put together. We didn’t really know what we were doing but other people probably wouldn’t either.

We got a second-hand giant wooden jungle gym for our kids when they were 4 and 1, respectively. They loved the thing and played on it almost every day until we moved out of the house. It had a climbing tower with a covered platform, a big metal slide, two heavy-duty swings, and that weird little hanging-bar-with-rings they all seem to have. It was an immense pain to move (we got it from acquaintances who were trying to sell their house and wanted it out of their yard), it took forever to dig post-holes that were deep enough to be safe and, because we poured concrete around the posts, once it was there it was there permanently. The wood eventually became weathered and the kids would get splinters frequently, and the slide got incredibly hot by 10 in the morning, so we had to put up a shade in order to keep the kids from getting burned. Nevertheless, they loved that thing. We moved to our new house when they were 11 and 8, and they both still get wistful about leaving the play structure behind, even though they’re in middle and high school and we live three houses away from a park with a great playground.

When our oldest was a baby, we got an old metal swingset our neighbor was throwing away. I sawed the top bar down so it was only about 6’ long - nice little frame to hang a baby swing from.

By the time our second came along, we got a metal set from Toys R Us. 2 swings, glider, and slide. Fit the bill we needed at the time - cheap.

Had our 3d kid, and within a couple of years our financial situation was doing well enough that we didn’t need to take cheap way out. After 5 years or so in the house our gardens were looking better, and we thought a metal swingset that was beginning to rust was not exactly the focal point we desired. So we sprung for a wooden set. Rounded cedar logs, a climbing cargo net on one side leading up to monkey bars, spaces to hang 3 swings/bars, and then a slide with a platform at the top. Not as elaborate as some you see today (this was 15 years ago), but a substantial piece of equipment nonetheless.

Our kids used it quite regularly for the remaining 5 years we lived in that house. I remember them using the slide to slide into piles of leaves, and sliding down it in the winter to clear snow off it. And they would take towels and stuf to drape across the slide platform to create a clubhouse. When my kids were aged 4-8 we moved to a new house, and took the swingset with us. I’d say the use of the set gradually declined over the following years. We probably got rid of it when our youngest was getting close to middle school. When we took it down, my son played Taps on his bugle.

One thing I remember is that my 3 kids used it in different ways and amounts. So it is possible some folks might buy a set and then find out that as their kid ages the kid does not care to use it much. We tend to be “homebodies” and enjoy spending time in our home and yard. In our opinion, having a fun and attractive playset helped instill similar love/comfort for their home in our kids.

Very cool answers, all! Thanks!

And keep 'em coming!

One memory that brings a smile to my face is of when my wife and I just happened to look out the window in time to see our 7 year old jump off the railing near the top of the slide with a couple of brown paper grocery bags in his hands. Apparently he thought they would serve as parachutes.
To paraphrase Monty Python, he didn’t so much fly as plummet!

We played on our set every day when I was growing up. But I did break my leg, at age two, which made me a burden all summer.

When my kids were younger, I built one of those monsters from plans and a truckload of wood (I guess I just wanted to prove I could… it took a week). In the next 10 years they played on it less total time than I spent building it. I finally disassembled it and trucked it over to some folks who could use it (short on $$ with 3 kids). Their kids seemed to use it more, but I’d still call it a big waste.
(But I got to buy a bunch of cool power tools to build it with :slight_smile: )

There was one that came with the house – it looks more or less like this but with a rope ladder as well and there’s a sandbox under the tower.

My son turns eight in March and probably plays with it an average of twice a week in nice weather. It really depends on whether or not he has a friend over; it’s not as much fun to sit in the tower alone, I guess.

In any case, it came with the house and helped fulfil my dream of moving out of the apartment and into a suburban home with a big backyard for the kid. So I got something out of it as well! :wink:

Ok, I have NO idea how that link got in there. Bet it confused you though!

This is the real link. Honest.

You know, I was thinking about this recently.

When I was young, we lived in Oakland, California. There were at least four playgrounds within walking distance. I recall going to them with the sibs; I recall nothing about our own yard other than that it had a lemon tree (and that because of a popular song at the time which alleged they were “impossible to eat”. And I knew that was not true as I did it all the time. This was in my mind yet more evidence that adults regularly persisted in saying that things were true which obviously were not).

When I got older, we moved to the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia and we had a jungle gym. I kept wondering where the other kids were because in my mind a playgroud=where other kids are. My father explained that this jungle gym was ours, in our yard, and other kids would only come if we invited them. This was also sort of cool, like having a circus of your own or something.

Now I am aged and have my own kids. When we lived in Atlanta, Georgia we had a jungle gym, a wooden set we got from a neighbor who was removing it as her kids were grown up. It was quite a nice one. My kids who were then 4 and 2 played on it a lot.

Then we moved to Holland and there is no room for a jungle gym. We live within walking distance of four playgrounds so we just go to those. The kids are now 7 and 5.

We go to the States every summer and last summer we stayed with my sister who has a jungle gym, a really elaborate one with a climbing wall and two slides and god knows what all. And Eldest played on it often but then asked me where all the other kids were.

I thought of a jungle gym as a public space; my children now think of it the same way. It seems to be a function of living in a city where it is likely to be a public space. My niece, she of the elaborate-jungle-gym, clearly thinks of it as a private space, it is her own domain. They like the aspect of the chance of running into other kids; she likes the aspect of its being hers, a place she can invite her friends and have a good time or just play by herself. (Well, not really by herself, my sister won’t let her use it without supervision. So she can really only use it when we are there or when my sister has the time to come outside and watch her. Now there’s a waste in my opinion. But that’s a whole 'nother thread.)

I think the adult cognate is exercise equipment: a lot of people get very elaborate stuff and install it in their homes. Some of them use it a lot but in many cases it ends up collecting dust. It seemed like a good idea at the time. Put the same equipment in a public space – a gym or similar – and a whole different set of people use it a lot, because for them exercise is a public event, not a private one. And some people sign up for a membership and never use it at all.

Interesting take on it, Marienee – I think you’ve really hit on something. I think without realizing it I’ve always had the “public space” paradigm on this type of equipment.

My parents never got one for us because of the liability factor. If another person’s kid gets hurt, you’re fucked. Or so says my dad the insurance executive.

Just another angle to look at.

We have a big wooden (Sun & Sand? Redwood) climbing structure/sandbox/swings/slide set in our back yard, and the little one (2 years old) uses it every opportunity he has. He loves nothing better than to play outside.

Our ridiculous little doglet likes to sit on the sandbox lid.