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Climbing Frames

  • Best Outdoor Toys For Five And Six Year Olds: What School Aged Child Wants In Their Garden

    This is the third post in January’s series about which outdoors toys are best suited for each age and stage.

    In this post we’re looking at the play equipment 5 and 6 year olds will enjoy playing on.

    A Mention For Milestones

    Around this age children are able to climb and use a slide comfortably, keen to play together and some may be able to use a swing without an adult’s help.

    Choosing the right toys for this age is a careful balancing act. The play equipment needs to be enjoyable to play with, yet at the same time offer scope for learning and an appropriate level of challenge.

    Invest In A Climbing Frame

    This is a great age to invest in a climbing frame. Choose a high quality wooden climbing frame and you will get many years of use from it, and hundreds of hours of play.

    Look for a frame that offers opportunities to swap accessories in and out. These small, inexpensive changes will help keep your child interested in the climbing frame, and enable you to update the features to match your child's developmental ability.

    For example, for a five year old you might start out with a frame that as a simple step ladder. as your child gets older this will become easier and easier for them to use. By about the age of seven, you could swap the ladder for metal rungs or a rock wall. Then a year or two later update it again with a climbing net. If you have a climbing frame in mind and want to discuss the accessory option, please contact us and we can talk you through what’s available.

    Funtime

    Some climbing frames with swing arms also allow you to swap the swings out for other hanging toys like a trapeze or rings. This is great for updating the climbing frame as your child gets older, but also enables you to adapt the frame if you have children of wide variety of ages.

    Being Sociable

    As previously mentioned, at this age children become more interested in playing together and enjoying each other's company.

    Some climbing frames can have gliders or boats attached to them so that two children can swing together. The benefit of these types of swing is that parents have the opportunity to listen in on conversation the children are having while they gently push the glider, which will no doubt include some priceless gems.

    As their hand-to-eye coordination develops they may also enjoy a swingball set. Gently batting a ball back and forth provides the opportunity to play with a friend or a parent and enjoy a conversation at the same time, something that five and six years olds are very keen on.

    Although they may need to duck to get through the door, at this age many children still enjoy playing in a playhouse. You can update the look as your child gets older to keep them interested. For example, the playhouse may start out as a cosy miniature home but with the addition of some camouflage netting, green paint and Nerf guns it can become an army barracks for older children.

    All

    For more outdoor toy ideas check out the rest of January's series on matching play equipment to your child's age.

  • How To Grab Rock Solid Play Equipment At Rock Bottom Prices

    No sooner is the turkey eaten, the packaging disposed of, and the tree de-tinselled (untinselled, dis-tinselled, de-tinselfied, you know what I mean) than it’s time to start hunting out those clearance bargains.

    The week between Christmas and New Year is a time when many retailers slash prices in an attempt to shift their leftover Christmas stock.

    If you’re looking for a bargainous piece of outdoor play equipment. Not only are our products great value all year round, we also offer occasional clearance prices too.

    Here I’ll talk you through the why, when and how much when it comes to play equipment at knocked-down prices.

    Why The Clearance Prices? Are you naturally suspicious of clearance prices. You should be. When rummaging through the clothing rales, or surveying the shelves at the toy store it becomes quickly apparent why some items are sold on at massively reduced prices. They are rubbish. That’s not the case here at Wicken Toys because we only every stock toys we trust from suppliers we have long term relationships with.

    We slash prices for a different reason. End of line clearances.

    Every couple of years the equipment manufacturers like to update their models. Sometimes they discontinue models completely, other times they make small tweaks and adjustments based on retailer and customer feedback (sign of an awesome manufacturer, their willingness to respond to their customers). These changes may leave us with a few end of line unopened, still boxed-up, perfectly good items. We need to move these on quickly to make way for the newer models so we reduce the prices. Often there is very little difference between the new design and the older version, so you can buy an extremely similar product at a greatly reduced price. Take the Plum Pyramid Climbing Frame for example. Plum changed the slatted wooden ladder for metal rungs, so earlier this year we sold off a number of the wooden slat models at a much lower price than the recommended retail price.

    These still-in-the-box, new but no longer current climbing frames, slides and other toys can be found in our clearance section.

    Sometimes these model changes mean that the climbing frame we have on display in our jumbo outdoor showroom is no longer representative of the product available, so we need to move it on to a new home. These items are available in our ex-display section. Each item will contain details on how long it has been assembled for and what its current condition is like. When Is The Best Time To Buy? We don’t really have set schedule for slashing prices. We move in response to our suppliers and manufacturers. Right at the end of Winter, just before Spring, is a common time for models to be updated, in anticipation of Easter holiday sales. But we usually have clearance items available all year round.

    How Much? How much we knock off the price depends on the condition of the item, the number of similar items we have available and how quickly we need to make room. For new items you can save around 40%, while ex-display items are often priced at around 60% off.

    Come take a look around our online clearance section, or feel free to pay us a visit in Milton Keynes and try out the toys yourself.

  • How To Give A Climbing Frame As A Gift This Christmas....

    …...because you know you can’t just wrap it up right?

    The Ideal Christmas Gift for Grown Ups

    A climbing frame makes a wonderful Christmas present.

    For starters you don’t actually have to bring it inside your house ever. This means that when all your friends are bravely attempting to exile old, damaged toys to make room for the new consignment of plastic arriving on Christmas Day, you can kick back, relax, sip some mulled wine, safe in the knowledge that the biggest Christmas gift received this year, will not be obscuring your carpet or invading your living room.

    Secondly, your school holidays have just become a whole lot easier. No more frantically planning play dates, trips to the park, or expensive excursions. Just open the back door and fling the children outside. This climbing frame will keep them occupied for hours. And they’ll be active, and using their imagination, so you can feel a little bit smug that they are spending their time doing something wholesome.

    So now you’re fully convinced to buy one, head over to see our range of metal and wooden climbing frames, buy one, then come right back to find out how you go about giving this jumbo gift.

    Flat Packed Or Fully Assembled The first decision you need to make is whether you are giving this gift in its raw, flat packed form, or unveiling it in the garden in its fully assembled state.

    Take it from someone who has spent Christmas Eve assembling a climbing frame, leaving it in the box is the easiest option. It is also far easier to invent a plausible story about how Santa managed to transport it to your house (more on that later).

    But the chances are a cardboard box with a photo of a climbing frame on it does not deliver quite the same ‘wow factor’ as a garden full of play equipment ready to be enjoyed.

    The Art Of Disguise While it’s in the box, the climbing frame can be stowed away in your garage. But if you decide to assemble it, it’s going to be much harder to hide. Waiting until the children have gone to bed on Christmas Eve is a no-no. Erecting a climbing frame in the dark is no fun at all. Ideally you should ask a friend or family member to take your children out for the afternoon, put the frame together in their absence, then when the kids return, whisk them straight upstairs to bed. Direct any Santa searches and scattering of reindeer food outside the front of the house. Repeat over and over that Santa lands out the front - that way it’s easier for him to reach the neighbours. This should discourage any peeking into the back garden.

    A Plausible Story Finally, you need to agree a plausible story about how the climbing frame made it to your garden, then attach ribbons, wrapping or transport hooks as appropriate.

    Your backstory will depend on the location of your property, difficulty gaining access, and whether you’ve put the climbing frame together or not.

    Options include: Santa has a harness that swings under the sleigh - he attached the climbing frame, then gently lowered it into the garden. A separate North Pole elf-staffed delivery service handle the transportation of large goods. Santa oversees their installation while he is delivering the smaller parcels. Santa delivered the box, then a small army of elves arrived and worked all night to put the climbing frame together.

    Whichever story you go with, make sure all significant adults are in on the plan, and deliver it with absolute authority.

    For more Christmas related posts, follow the Wicken Toys blog.

  • Wicken Guide To Buying A Slide

    What’s not to love about a slide?

    Not only do they provide a great prompt for imaginative play, they encourage physical activity and give young minds a full sensory workout at the same time.

    Here we take a look at the benefits of incorporating a slide into your back garden playscape and how to go about choosing the best slide for your children.

    The Humble Slide: More Than Just A Fun Ride

    Sure a slide is fun, but it offers much more than that. In their eagerness to experience the thrill of the slide ride, your children will expend plenty of energy running around to the ladder and climbing back to the top. This raises their heart rate, which is good for overall health and well-being and works the big muscle groups in their arms and legs. Young children especially need to push and pull with these muscles everyday before their bodies are ready experience the stillness needed to achieve focus and concentration.

    The ride down itself also contributes to childhood development. In the few seconds it takes to ride to the bottom, your child is bombarded with sensory experiences - the feel of air rushing past, the sensation of their body moving over the surface of the slide, the sights of their surroundings zipping past them. Their brain works hard to process all these experiences and make sense of them. The more practice their brain gets in this type of processing, then more able it is to apply this processing skill to unfamiliar situations.

    So by now you should be well convinced that a slide will make a fun and useful addition to your garden. Now it’s time to decide which slide.

    One

    Space Considerations

    Not only do you need space for the slide, but you also need adequate room for children to access the ladder, and an exclusion zone around the slide, free from obstacles, that can be covered with safety matting to provide protection in the event of a fall.

    When planning the position of the slide you should also be wary of the temptation to reach for things from the top of the ladder. Make sure your slide is far enough away from playhouses and other play equipment, so your children won’t be tempted to hop from one item to the other.

    Finally, consider the route your children will take from the bottom of the slide back around to the ladder. Make sure they won’t be running directly in the path of the swings, or need to navigate around any obstacles likely to trip them up.

    Stand Alone vs Climbing Frame

    At Wicken Toys we sell stand alone slides and climbing frames with slides attached. For smaller gardens a climbing frame may be the best way to fit a variety of play features into the space available.

    Slides attached to climbing frames tend to feel more sturdy, although stand alone slides can be staked to the ground.

    Finally, if your child wants an unusual slide such as a tube or a wave, there are a greater number of options to choose from if you opt for a slide attached to a climbing frame.

    Whatever size your garden, Wicken Toys will have play equipment suitable. Browse through our selection of slides and climbing frames online, visit our huge outdoor demonstration area, or call us to discuss your requirements.

  • Turn Your Climbing Frame Into A Pirate Ship

    Ah hoy there me matey's a welcome to this pirate-inspired post for land-lovers everywhere.

    Today we are looking at how we can combine your child's love of pirates with outdoor fun and exercise.

    Pirate Inspired Climbing Frames

    If you don't yet have a climbing frame and you would like play equipment with a pirate theme, take a look at these options.

    TP Forest Pirate Galleon

    Suitable for children from three years and up, this play frame provides the ideal location for imaginative games. It features a captain's cabin, deck with ships wheel and ladder, a deck area to sit in, pirate sails and a gang plank.

    Plum Endeavour Playcentre

    This play centre offers the best features of a climbing frame, combines with a pirate ship. This play equipment features a boat''s bow, climbing wall and net, swings and slide. The boat can be whatever maritime vessel your child's imagination can conjure - a cruise liner, a lifeboat or of course, a pirate's ship.

    All Out Play Galleon

    This large playhouse features plenty of space to hold captives and store treasure. There's also the option of adding a slide and a fireman's pole.

    Pirating Your Climbing Frame

    If you don't want a pirate ship permanently in your back garden, you could buy a regular climbing frame and use some creative techniques to give it a piratical makeover.

    Add A Stern To add a stern to one side of your climbing frame all you need is a large, high-sided cardboard box. Two sides coming together at an angle of between 40 and 30 degrees will look very similar to the front of a boat, and create a temporary ground level play area.

    Accessorize Telescopes, periscopes and ship's wheels are easy and inexpensive add-ons for climbing frames that help add a new dimension to the way children play with the equipment.

    If we don't have an accessory for your brand of frame, get in touch to discuss your options as some of our stock may fit your equipment.

    Raise The Flag You could make just about anything look like a pirate ship by simply adding a jolly roger flag. Have fun making one together with an old bed sheet. The easiest way to paint the skull and cross bones is to cut out a paper template, attach to the fabric, then paint black around it.

    Add Hazards Another way to stimulate pirate-related games is to decorate the surrounding areas. Make the space underneath the swings shark-infested, either with soft toys or by cutting out sharks from cardboard. You can also use cardboard (magic things cardboard boxes) to create a gangplank to attach to the top of the climbing frame or slide, and gently push soft it.

    Dress-Up Finally, you can really set the mood with a stripey t-shirt, eye patch and a cutlass. If you have a stuffed parrot, even better.

    All it takes is a little imagination, some planning and plenty of cardboard and you can transform your back garden into a pirate-themed play space.

  • Revive Your Climbing Frame With Simple Add-Ons

    Climbing frames offer hours of entertainment and exercise, but just like any plaything, they can get taken for granted.

    After a summer or two you can inject some much needed va va voom with the addition of purpose-made climbing frame accessories.

    Here we run you through the options and how to choose the perfect add-ons for your family.

    Adapting Climbing Frames For Little Ones

    TP

    Most of our climbing frames are suitable for ages 3 years and up. However, with the addition of a more supportive seat, the swings can be made useable for babies and toddlers. Always pay attention to the age range suggested for the swing seat, and only use them for a child who can already support themselves in a sitting position unaided. You'll find a wide selection of baby-friendly swing seats in our swing accessories section.

    Another way in which you can make your climbing frame more appealing to younger children is to improve the accessibility. If there is a challenging rock wall to negotiate, add a rope, or swap it our (temporarily) for a simple step ladder.

    TP

    TP sell a ramp for toddlers to negotiate their metal climbing frame (pictured), and Creative Playthings sell a range hand rails to help children climb up onto the equipment.

    Add A New Dimension Of Play

    Many of our climbing frames can be enhanced with the addition of swing arms, dens, sandpits or all three.

    TP

    You can also make smaller adjustments to the climbing frame by adding accessories such as a periscope, telescope, steering wheel, telephone and more. Just a few simple and inexpensive additions can provide the imaginative spark needed to revive their enthusiasm in the climbing frame and invent new games to play on it.

    Make Your Climbing Frame More Challenging

    As your children get older, the play equipment they use must grow with them, offering a level of challenge suitable for their stage in development. Happily with a few changes you can adapt your current climbing frame to meet the needs of your now bigger children.

    Creative Playthings Chin Up Bar

    Creative

    Here are a few ways you can turn your child-friendly climbing frame into a challenging piece of play / exercise equipment: - Swap a swing for something the requires a little more effort, like a trapeze, tyre, ball, or spinning wheel. - Replace ladders for climbing ropes and rock walls. - Add a fireman's pole or chin up bar.

    With a little bit of imagination, and our help yo can revive your much loved climbing frame, create new ways to play, and generate many more hours of fun from your investment.

    Not all the accessories are compatible across ranges. Feel free to give us a call and discuss your ideas. We can advise on which items will work with your climbing frame, and we may be able to access accessories from the manufacturers not yet listed on this site.

  • How To Choose Your New Climbing Frame

    A new climbing frame can represent a substantial investment, so it's worth taking the time to consider your purchase carefully. As experts in outdoor play, we are well practiced in helping parents decide which model is best suited to the needs of their family and garden. If you need any assistance, please feel free to contact us.

    We have a large selection of metal and wooden climbing frames available to buy online, for delivery to your home. To help you narrow down the field and create a shortlist, here are some key questions and features to consider.

    How old are your children? As a general rule, the full sized climbing frames are suitable for use from 3 years.

    If you have younger children you might like to consider buying a smaller, temporary climbing frame, before upgrading to a full-sized model later. Installing a climbing frame that is not age appropriate will lead to frustration for your child, and stress for you as you constantly need to keep an eye on them.

    TP

    The TP Explorer frame is ideal if you have young children. It can be set with a toddler friendly platform height of just 64cm, then reconstructed at a later date with the platform reset to 114cm high.

    Buy it all now or add on later? You don't need to buy the complete set in one go. Many of the climbing frames we stock can be enhanced with swings, or den areas. Adding these at a later date will help give your climbing frame a new lease of life, and recapture your children's interest in it.

    Metal or wood? Generally metal frames tend to be cheaper, and can be more easily taken down and reassembled elsewhere, which is useful if you may be moving home. Wood lasts longer, looks nicer, and since the material is more versatile, there is a larger selection of wood frames than metal. More information can be found on our Metal vs Wooden Climbing Frame Guide.

    Space Considerations When planning out where the climbing frame will be positioned in your garden, don't forget to make allowance for room in front and behind swings, and behind any climbing areas.

    If you have an awkwardly shaped garden that doesn't lend itself to one large climbing frame, consider buying individual pieces of play equipment, like swings and slides, separately, to allow for more layout options.

    Adequate Challenge Make sure the climbing frame offers an appropriate level of physical challenge for your child, now and as they get older. Look for interesting climbing features like cargo nets, and rock walls, and for equipment that offers a chance to progress as they get older, like monkey bars.

    Making your Budget Stretch Further You can make your budget stretch further by taking a look at our selection of ex-display and clearance items. When a manufacturer releases new models and discontinues the older version, we move the remaining stock into the clearance section, creating bargains for customers who are happy to take an older model.

    Versatile

  • Winter Climbing Frame Inspection

    As the weather gets colder, you're climbing frame is going to be exposed to low temperatures, wet weather and high winds.

    If there are any maintenance issues with the frame, winter weather can magnify them, causing significant damage.

    Find the problems now, and fix them while they are small, and when the Spring arrives the climbing frame will be in top condition and ready to use.

    Here's how to carry out a thorough play equipment inspection. 1. Ensure you carry out the inspection in good weather and bright sunlight. If it's pouring with rain, or getting dark, poor visibility may cause you to overlook something. Similarly if you are rushing because you are uncomfortably cold or wet, you will not give the frame the level of attention it needs.

    2. Check every nut and bolt for looseness. Changes in the weather can cause the wood to expand and contract, loosening fixings. Your climbing frame might not get played with often over Christmas, but when it does, you want it to be safe.

    3. If you can, remove plastic swing seats and accessories. Only do this if the process of removing them, then reattaching at a later date will not damage the parts. Plastic can become brittle in very cold weather, so storing pieces indoors, or in a sheltered storage area can preserve their useful life.

    4. Inspect the wood for cracking or lifting. In dry weather, the wood may lift causing splinters. You can simply sand the surface down to make it safe again.

    5. Inspect the area surrounding the play frame. Over time rocks may work their way up through the ground, or sharp objects could be discarded. Check to make sure the area is safe to play in, and there's no risk of falling onto something dangerous.

    6. Check any safety mats are still fit for purpose. Have they perished in the poor weather? Do they need replacing? Also check that they haven't shifted from their original locations.

    7. Oil any metallic moving parts to keep them moving freely.

    8. Check the climbing frame's stability. It may have been a flat, level patch of ground when you first erected the climbing frame, but over time rain water, and wear and tear may have caused the ground to shift, creating an uneven surface, and potentially destabilizing the climbing frame.

    9. Check ground anchors haven't worked their way lose. A protruding ground anchor poses a trip and fall risk, and will not be adequately securing the climbing frame to the ground.

    10. Now is a good time to consider whether your climbing frame is fulfilling its potential. Does it offer your children enough of a challenge, and does it inspire their play ideas. Look at the options for the model frame you have. Could you swap a ladder for a climbing net, or change the swing arm for some monkey bars. If you aren't sure of the options available to you, please feel free to give us a call and discuss what accessories and attachments are available for the climbing frame you own.

    With careful maintenance, and the occasional update, you climbing frame can provide many hours of outdoor fun for your children.

  • More Than Monkeying Around | Developmental Benefits Of Monkey Bars

    If you're choosing a new climbing frame for your back garden, you're probably wondering which features you want your play equipment to have. Monkey bars are a relatively inexpensive option available on most climbing frame systems, that can add hours of entertainment and educational value to your new frame.

    Physical Benefits

    Exercising on the monkey bars provides a number of benefits for your child's body: * Gripping the bars develops hand strength which is useful for fine motor activities such as using a pen and manipulating LEGO pieces. * Exercising the muscles in the arms builds strength and tone. * Raising the heart rate improves overall fitness levels. * Gentle exercise helps relieve stress and tension. * Tucking legs up, and swinging the body to build momentum helps strengthen core abdominal muscles, essential for good posture, and protecting the spine.

    Encouraging A Positive Mental Attitude

    The monkey bars offer a different type of challenge to your child. Sure they needed to climb a ladder for the first time, or be brave enough to whizz down the slide. But these accomplishments were pretty much inevitable from the day you erected a play frame in your back garden. The monkey bars are not like learning to walk, a milestone of childhood development that every child passes through. Mastering the monkey bars is more like learning to ride a bike, or climb a rock wall: lots of children do achieve it, it's great fun, but not everyone can do it. The monkey bars offer a high degree of challenge for children of all ages, and if you've ever seen adults swinging off a climbing frame in the park, you'll know its a challenge they never grow out of. While learning to swing from rung to rung is difficult and can be a source of frustration, it also provides the opportunity to develop perseverance and feel a great sense of accomplishment once your child has made it from one side to the other.

    When you're child is learning to swing across the monkey bars, here's a few tips to help keep them motivated: * Make it clear that completing a monkey bars ladder is not something that everyone can do. Feel free to demonstrate this by struggling across as far as you can. * Break the overall goal down into smaller, more manageable targets, so your child doesn't get disheartened. Aim to make it across two rungs, then three, and so on. * Show your child how alternating between pieces of play equipment gives their arm muscles an opportunity to rest, and try again later.

    Science Lesson Opportunities

    There are also a number of science lessons offered by the humble monkey bars.

    Encourage your child to look at the tension in their muscles while they are gripping onto the bars. Later you could use the Internet or a biology book to look at the muscles present in the arm and talk about how they work to grip and swing.

    You can also talk about momentum, and how swinging their body makes it easier to move from one rung to the other than if they were hanging in a static position.

    You child may also notice heat developing in the palm of their hands. This is generated by the friction between their skin and the metal on the bars, and provides a good opportunity to learn about energy transfer.

    Browse our collection of metal and wooden climbing frames, available to buy online for delivery to your home.

  • Metal vs Wooden Climbing Frames Buyer's Guide

    When buying a climbing frame, the very first factor you need to decide upon is which material would you prefer your new play equipment to be constructed from: metal or wood.

    Here at Wicken we aim to stock quality outdoor play equipment to cater for differing needs of individual families. We have a range of both metal and wood climbing frames listed online, and have developed this buyer's guide to help you choose which type is most suitable for your children.

    Plum

    Appearance If your new climbing frame is going to be right in the middle of the back garden in full view of the house, or when you are sitting on the patio, you are naturally going to be concerned about the appearance. It's pretty much impossible to make a large piece of equipment blend in, but at least wood is a more sympathetic look, that weathers and tones down over time. Typically wooden climbing frames use natural coloured plastics on accessories which helps the overall appearance remain in keeping with the garden.

    While metal climbing frames may start off as a neutral grey, or gentle green, their appearance does not improve over time like wood does.

    Strength And Durability Climbing frames constructed from wood tend to be stronger and more durable than their metal counterparts. Wood does not lose any of its structural integrity as it weathers, whereas metal can corrode. The durability of the frames is reflected in the warranties that come with each product. Typically a metal frame will come with just a five year warranty, whereas wooden frames tend to come with ten years.

    Environment Since wood can be sustainably harvested, wooden climbing frames are the more environmentally-friendly choice. Look for manufacturers who are registered with the Forest Stewardship Council, such as Plum, as FSC membership indicates and ethical approach in creating their products.

    Price This is where metal wins out, as metal climbing frames tend to be cheaper.

    TP

    Which Is Better Wood or Metal? After reading all the reasons why wood is a better material for climbing frame construction than metal, you may be wondering why we bother to stock metal climbing frames at all. Metal climbing frames are bet suited when they won't be needed for a long time. You can expect to get at least five years use from a metal play frame. In that time your child may have outgrown their play equipment, or you will have moved house. Actually metal frames tend to fair better when taken down and reconstructed during a house move, so that's another point you might like to consider.

    Metal frames work really well for climbing frames for little children. They make a great starting point for back garden play equipment, and if in a couple of years your child is ready for a more substantial climbing challenge, you can upgrade to a larger wooden frame.

    If you are looking to make a one off purchase of a climbing frame to last throughout childhood, then wood is a good option. Metal is the best option for a smaller frame for a young child, if you have a limited budget, or you are planning a house move in the near to medium term.

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