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outdoor play

  • Five Of The Best Climbing Frames For Make Believe Play

    Your new climbing frame should be more than a piece of play equipment to climb up and slide down.

    The right playset will inspire your children to play in a world of fantasy, becoming an integral part of their make believe play.

    1. Little Pirates

    This is the perfect prop for pretending to sail high seas. With a raised deck, a gang plank, and a captain's deck with steering wheel, there's plenty to spark the imagination.

    2. Little Princesses

    With slit windows and an arched doorway, the All Out Play Gatehouse, is a versatile, medieval-looking playset. Perfect for little princesses, and a great hideout for knights of the realm. You can attach a slide as shown in the picture, or connect it to other All Out Play sets with a bridge.

    3. Jungle Explorers

    This versatile Plum Climbing Pyramid is great for playing armies, or hide and seek, but for maximum impact, let the surrounding grass grow long and use it as a jungle hide-out.

    4. Deep Thinkers

    Get up close to the clouds, for some peaceful meditation, with the Plum Lookout Tower. The platform is 4ft from the ground, giving a great view of the garden (and probably the neighbour's gardens too). When the contemplation is over, and it's time to play, the children can fly down the 8ft slide.

    5. Homemakers

    I love this Forest Lodge from TP, because of the value it offers: a slide and playhouse all rolled into one. The house, and raised platform between the house and the slide, are 2ft 9inches from the ground. This height offers a gentle climbing challenge for little children, and makes the playhouse feel like an adventurous treehouse. The windows and door open and shut just like a real house. To make it more homely you could install a play kitchen, some curtains, and a pair of small chairs.

    All these play frames are made from treated wood, which means you don't need to do anything besides assemble them, and they're ready to go. But because they are wood, if you wanted to, you could stain or decorate the frames as you wish. As your children grow you can adapt the frames to meet their changing needs. The Pirate Galleon can be converted to a navy warship, and the Gatehouse can be converted from a princess palace to a cowboy's hideout. Making small changes to a playset can reignite your children's interest in the equipment, and stretch the value that you get out of it.

    Although it may be tempting to go for a bright pink playhouse on stilts, or a slide and den in full army camouflage, because they will have the biggest 'wow factor'. However, be aware that play equipment that appeals to just a narrow age range, or just one gender, may not offer the best value for your money, and children's tastes and interests quickly change. Look for a climbing frame that suits your children's developmental stage and ability now, but will also grow with them.

  • What To Put Under A Children's Climbing Frame

    The surface you put under your climbing frame needs to be safe, clean and easy to maintain.

    You will be far more relaxed watching your children, as well as family and friends, playing on the frame, when you know that they are adequately protected from a fall.

    Let's take a look at some of your options:


    It's tempting to take advantage of the flooring nature already provides in your garden. In the Spring and Autumn the ground will feel springy, and offer some fall protection. But since your climbing frame will be used all year round, you need a playing surface that's effective for 12 months of the year. In the Summer, when the ground dries out, the mud will be so hard that any impact could cause injury. In the Winter, wet weather will make the ground near the frame vulnerable to damage, especially at the bottom of the slide. You could quickly end up with a mud pit, and you won't be very popular with parents of friends who come round to play.

    Bark Chippings

    These offer an inexpensive solution and are often used to cover large areas. There are two things you need to be wary of with bark chippings. Firstly that their lightweight nature means they often stray from the area you intended, requiring frequent top-ups. The other is that they can attract local cats looking for a place to use as their litter tray.

    Rubber Chippings

    These are often made from recycled car tyres, so you can feel good about protecting your children, and helping the environment at the same time. These chippings are heavier than bark, so they tend to stay in place, and don't get blown around the garden.

    Rubber Mats

    Gridded rubber mats, like these Plum Protektamats, are the easiest option to install. The mats lock together, creating one continuous play surface. There's no digging or ground preparation required, simply lay the mats on your lawn. Over time the grass will grow through the grids, so you won't be able to see the mats. Things to consider when choosing your ground cover:

    • Initial cost, plus ongoing maintenance top-up costs.
    • What is the critical fall height the surface protects to? Is this adequate for the height of your climbing frame?
    • How will the surface look in the context of your garden? If you are keen gardener, you won't want your outside space looking like the local recreation ground.
    • Is the surface abrasive? How will it feel when a child skims the surface as they come off the end of the slide?
    • Check for non-toxicity, for both children and your garden. This surface will be exposed to lots of rain, which could wash any toxins into your soil.
    • If you choose a loose ground cover, such as bark or rubber chippings, putting a weed control membrane will help suppress weeds and grass from breaking through, but will also effect drainage of the area.

    Choosing the right kind of play surface is a careful balance between cost, and protection, both for your children, and your garden,. It's a worthwhile investment so your family can safely enjoy their new outdoor play equipment all year round.

  • The wonderful outdoors!

    In modern times, entertainment has become an industry. Television enchants young children with bright colours and playful characters. Video games offer a window of interactivity into a vibrant world. The Internet provides a gateway to a wealth of knowledge and new experiences. It’s not hard to see why, even when the sun’s out, many children still choose to stay indoors.

    Here at Wicken Toys, though, we still firmly believe that kids need to experience the great outdoors, as it provides a stable base for development – not just physical, but emotional, social and cognitive development too. It seems we’re not the only ones...

    All learning is based on sensory information, meaning what a child can see, hear, feel, smell and taste. The outdoor environment can provide stimulation for all these senses – think of an outdoor picnic in a verdant forest, the scent of dew fresh on the grass, with a blackbird singing nearby.

    Continue reading
  • Outdoor play - keeping kids fit and active in the winter

    Winter is often a time when kids don't feel inclined to play outdoors. It is far more appealing to them to stay in their rooms and play video games or watch TV than to venture out into the cold yet magical world awaiting them outside. Playing outdoors is not as bad for your little ones as they'd have you believe. Providing they are wrapped up warm in winter coats, hats and scarves, and remain active while they are outside, then outdoor play can help your children stay fit and actually keep them warm.



    So in today's blog we thought we'd look at some great toys and activities to keep your little playing ones outdoors in the magical winter weather.


    Sledging may be an obvious one but if we continue to have the kind of weather we've been having of late then a sledge or toboggan will provide hours upon hours of outdoor fun for your children. Remember you can never be too soon when it comes to buying a sledge. It's always better to be pre-emptive than for your child to miss out when the snow finally arrives.

    Climbing frames

    A climbing frame is always a popular outdoor plaything. In the wintertime, clambering on one of these play structures will not only keep your little ones fit and active but also give them a great vantage point from which to view their wintery surroundings. A climbing frame can not only help your child's sense of balance and coordination but also help expand their imaginations as they imagine it is a spaceship or moon base.


    A trampoline is perhaps the most energetic way to keep warm and active whilst outdoors. The simple act of bouncing up and down outdoors is perhaps as magical and transformative as snow itself. Indeed, it's probably as close as your children will come to the magical act of flying that is so prevalent in children's storybooks and indeed their own imaginations.

    Garden swings

    This feeling of flying is mirrored in the classic garden swing. Children can occupy themselves for hours pushing each other back and forth. A swing is a classic for a reason. Swinging is quite simply, one of the most fun outdoor activities ever! Children love to play on the swings because of magical feeling of flying through the air. Likewise, unlike many children's play activities its one that adults can really feel a part of. As a parent you will be more than appreciated for taking up that all important role of "the pusher".

    So when it comes to wintertime, outdoor play is often a good thing for your children. Helping them to keep fit and active as well as developing their imaginations. Indeed, here at Wicken Toys, we are great advocates of outdoor play for this reason. It gets children away from the TV or games console and enables them to use their imaginations in creative role playing games. Outdoor plays are not only versatile but can also feed your little ones' imaginations; encouraging them to become cowboys, wizards and spacemen and to utilise their surroundings in a way that is good for both body and mind.

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