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A toddler play gym or jungle gym — whether for indoors or outdoors (or, maybe you want both) — is a wise investment if you have an energetic tot. (And for the record, we’re using the terms “play gym” and “jungle gym” interchangeably, because they basically serve the same purpose … right?) Since toddlers love to climb all over everything in sight, you might as well get them a cool indoor and/or outdoor activity set to explore instead of every drawer and cabinet in your carefully-organized home office.
As the parent of kiddos learning to walk, you’ll quickly discover that toddlers will make every effort to injure themselves while fumbling around your home —especially if they’re bored indoors due to inclement weather. When they aren’t in the baby bouncer, your job turns into serving as a 24/7 bodyguard, helping them avoid stairs, sharp coffee table corners, and every other hazard as they drunkenly stumble around the house. Eventually, toddlers start to gain mastery of walking and even climbing. Your next job is to help them hone their skills on safe kids play gyms and play sets, rather than on bookshelves.
Your kids may still find a way to hurt themselves, but at least with kids play gyms, there is a contained danger zone. It’s up to you if you can handle seeing a play yard or an in-home gym in your yard or living room every day. A slide may be a necessity, but are swings and a ball pit considered essential kid gear? Your call.
And sure as hell, your kids will find a way to do something adorable while playing on their fancy-schmancy new gym, reminding you why you even decided to have kids in the first place. (Within a few minutes, the toddler will be back to normal, screaming “NO” 45 times in a row, but at least you’ll have that adorable moment to remember.)
Best Outdoor Toddler Play Gyms
Need to entertain a toddler and a baby at the same time (or an older toddler and a younger toddler)? This outdoor/indoor play yard is the answer. It has a climbing area for the older kid and a swing for the baby or younger toddler. By the way, the world record for the two kids playing together on this structure before they start fighting is about 11 minutes. Good luck.
One Reviewer Says: “So easy to put together. Took maybe 30 min by myself. I suggest putting the ladder & bracket on the support bar BEFORE putting the support bar on the frame. If the bar is on first, you can’t reach the screws because the steps are in the way. I had to take the steps off and turn it upside down to reach the bracket. I love the way it’s held together. The swing seat [is] great for my 1-year-old and I’ve gotten so many compliments.”
Suitable for wild animals — er — kids ages 3-8, this climbing tower is ideal if you’re looking for a play piece that will grow with your tot. It’s made with durable plastic tubes that interlock, and since they are lightweight and can be easily assembled, you can even take this structure indoors (if you dare). With a weight capacity of 150 pounds, two small kiddos can climb on this to their heart’s content, saving your couch — and your sanity.
One Reviewer Says: “AWESOME climber for a toddler!! My 2.5-year-old son is absolutely obsessed - he climbs for at least an hour a day. It's the perfect size for a toddler (for reference my son is about 38"), and I love that it's made of plastic... he's taken a spill or two on it, and the flexible material meant no injuries - he was ready and able to get right back on.”
Can’t bring your kiddo to the playground? So bring the playground to them! The Step2 Clubhouse Climber is pricey, but isn’t it worth it for some peace and quiet? We kid, we kid, but seriously, this thing has the potential to keep your toddler entertained for hours, and it’s an especially good investment if you have more than one child to entertain. This complex play set includes a slide, tunnels, windows, a steering wheel, and more to encourage tons of active and imaginary play. In other words, you’ll definitely get your money’s worth.
One Reviewer Says: “I own a small Nursery School and I care for children ages 3,4, and 5. The children love this climber, especially the ‘bridge’ and all of the little cubbies to crawl through and hide in on the bottom!”
Have you ever wanted to crawl inside of a gigantic caterpillar before? This Climb-N-Crawl tunnel will help your child’s imagination soar. The seven-foot-long structure is great for multiple kids and would make a colorful addition to your backyard — or your playroom, if you have the space. Great for crawling and climbing, this is a good device to help kids work on their motor skills. Recommended for ages three to eight, this bug will be a welcomed new member of your family.
One Reviewer Says: “This was a great purchase. My son loves it. Small kids who love to climb and crawl would love it too I’m sure. It doesn’t take up much room, we use it as a part of his indoor entertainment and the room is not huge. It’s worth noting that there is no built-in floor. So if you plan to use this outside, I suggest getting a mat for underneath it.”
Best Indoor Jungle Gyms For Toddlers
Ball pits at fast food restaurants are some of the most disgusting places on the planet. Ask a teenager who’s had to clean one of them, and you’ll never get within 25 feet of another one without a gallon jug of Lysol at the ready. So keep your kids safe with their own ball pit and tunnel system that you can use indoors at home for climbing and playing. This one is easy for parents to assemble (phew) and is recommended for kiddos aged three and up.
One Reviewer Says: “I was so worried this would be a little cheaply made, but it's absolutely not! I bought this for my adventurous one-year-old, and I think it will hold up for years. Each tube can tie and buckle to whichever pop-up you'd like. It's pretty big, but that's the fun of it! I'm 5'2" and can fit into it too!”
Sometimes, simple is better when it comes to toddler play areas. (After all, something should be simple when it comes to parenting a toddler.) These foam pieces allow you to construct a basic climbing play area. And the soft materials are perfect for that young toddler who’s just learning how to walk and fall and walk and fall and walk and fall. This setup includes a toddler traversing tunnel, and ramps that your little will love.
One Reviewer Says: “I looked for a long time for a set for my little sensory seekers. This is the perfect climber. Really great for kids with low tone and motor planning difficulties. Sturdy enough for my 5-year-old and the favorite toy for my 2-year-olds. Honestly best investment we have made in a long time and the most played with toy in the house. The tunnel could be a little bigger so if you’re buying for that it is tight for my 2-year-olds even but they kind of like that! Really great buy, highly recommend.”
For even more move-around-able options to make baby obstacle courses, ECR4Kids’ Climb and Crawl set ensures your tot will never get bored. This one doesn’t include a hideout fort like the brand’s other climbing set above, but it’s especially suited for stunt babies who are always looking for the next mountain to conquer. This set includes five foam pieces that are soft and lightweight so you can arrange and re-arrange by the day (or by the hour). Plus, it’s got an impressive 4.8 out of five stars on Amazon. Let the games begin!
One Reviewer Says: “My husband and I finally decided to splurge on our 20-month-old and get these climbing blocks. We have had them for 24 hours and they have already been worth every penny! He is obsessed.”
As a parent who hates seeing your little one bonk their head multiple times a day, you probably wish you could roll them up in bubble wrap. But since protecting them like a fragile heirloom isn’t an option, here’s the next best thing: Put ’em in an inflatable play gym where they can bounce off the walls and floor with no (or fewer) resulting owies. The Little Tikes Jump ‘n Slide Bouncer is a fan favorite with nearly 5,000 reviews and an average 4.7-star rating. Equipped with a slide and safety net, it’s like bringing a summer carnival indoors, if you have the space — or are willing to sacrifice your living room for your sanity.
One Reviewer Says: “This bounce house is the perfect size. It’s not too big and not too small. It has an open roof which I like, so it doesn’t feel closed in. Super easy and fast to inflate and deflate and move, which I find super nice when dealing with the attention span of a 2-year-old. It’s not very loud compared to other bounce houses. Great quality for the price! Highly recommend.”
This climbing set from Simplay3 has everything — a slide, tunnels to explore, and safety side rails to give parents a little peace of mind. While this setup can be great inside a playroom, it’s also great for outdoor use, being both weather and UV-resistant. It can support up to 180 pounds, so multiple kids can enjoy it at the same time.
One Reviewer Says: “This was a Christmas present for our 2.5-year-old. He loves to climb and this is perfect for him. It is currently in his bedroom for indoor play. He loves to hide in the underneath area and he can climb up on all sides of the adventure climber, even the tall sides. At first, I was hesitant about the open sides on the top, but we just showed him how to climb up/down on the sides using the handholds and the one green step for his foot. It's only been a week and he is solid on it. It is also skinny enough to fit through a doorway if we decide to move it somewhere else. Can't recommend this enough!”
Best Outdoor Play Sets For Toddlers
Little Tikes is a trusted brand with many parents, so this activity and play center already has something good going for it. With windows and other interactive features — including a piano — this will keep your kids entertained for hours. Best recommended for children between the ages of six months and three, this is a more affordable option that can help your kids develop their fine motor skills — and have fun while doing it.
One Reviewer Says: “Our 7-month-old baby girl absolutely LOVES exploring in her activity garden. 7 months was also the PERFECT age for it. She’s interested in exploring everything and this allows her to play independently. She LOVES to pull herself up with it to stand and explore. She’s always excited by what she finds. Putting it together was also a fun family activity.”
Who doesn’t want to pretend to be the captain of their very own pirate play boat? Unfortunately, parents, this model from ECR4Kids is made for children between the ages of two and six. But, at least you can help with its assembly. This fits well both indoors and out and has a weatherproof design to help keep it looking sharp, regardless of the rain.
One Reviewer Says: “Greatest toy ever! I bought [it] as a Christmas gift for my 2-year-old son, and he is obsessed - in fact, so is my 6-year-old son! It’s a unique toy that’s small enough to keep in the living room, but big enough to really have a “wow” factor for the kiddos. It’s colorful, has lots of design details, and is very sturdy - my oldest weighs 75 pounds, and he can stand/sit on the top level with no issues (even when his brother joins him). The best part? It literally took 10 minutes to put together - no screws/tools needed.”
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