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 and other death traps.
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.
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.
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.
Climb, slide, hide … it’s all here in this colorful jungle gym. To switch things up, you can flip the slide over to reveal a set of stairs — no tools required. (In fact, the whole thing is easy to assemble, meaning your rambunctious crew can start climbing soon after it arrives … Yesss!) This activity set is suitable for tots 3-5 years old and up to 66 pounds.
Seeing a giant purple caterpillar in the middle of the play room will either delight or scare the sh*t out of your toddler (and you). Hell, with the way a toddler’s mood shifts 180 degrees in a nanosecond, the caterpillar may do both. It’s definitely fun and safe, though, so hopefully you can look past, over, and around that.
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.
Keep your toddler entertained while they’re burning off energy with this ball pit and climber combo. Young kids can switch between climbing and playing in the ball pit. The manufacturers say kids can even throw the balls from the pit at a target mounted to the structure, but we’re not sure that encouraging a toddler to throw balls in the house is a good idea. (I know exactly what my mother would’ve said to that idea … and it’s not repeatable here.)
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.
For even more move-around-able options to make baby obstacles 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). Let the games begin!
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.
Best Outdoor Play Sets For Toddlers
Let your toddlers loose in this Little Tikes Activity Garden Playset and it’ll keep them occupied for hours. Stimulating colors, shapes, and textures will help to develop fine motor skills at an early age. In addition to a bead tumbler, there’s a spinner with mirror, clicking bugs, and even music. Who’s to say you couldn’t bring it inside for continued play during the more depressing winter months? Depending on the size of your space, it can be transformed into an open two-sided play center.
For the toddler who loves to show off his or her imagination while climbing and running around, this toddler play gym that resembles a pirate boat is fun for indoor or outdoor play. Come to think of it, the toddler’s one word sentences, obsession with everything being “MINE,” and constant guzzling of grog … juice (for the record, I meant to type juice), basically makes the toddler a pirate-in-training, so this toy is perfect.