Since weâ€™ve been spending a fair amount of time preventing our children from scaling bookcases and leaping off of armchairs, we finally took the plunge and built something that is actually designed for little monkeys to climb on.
Jon and I had been talking about purchasing a backyard jungle gym for some time. He has very fond childhood memories of playing on a simple climbing structure on his lawn.
Photo: Here’s a family photo, circa September 1971, showing Jon’s childhood jungle gym.
But we had a few restrictions: we wanted something made of wood, something with a small footprint (for our tiny bungalow backyard), something that would be safe enough for our two- and four-year-olds to play on now, and something that would be exciting enough for a pair of ten- and twelve-year-old sisters to enjoy down the road.
After some research, we happened upon Cedarworks, a company that allows you to design your own playset according to your needs. Jon and I spent several late evenings considering different designs (using their cool custom-design web interface), reading reviews of the company, and smacking our foreheads about the price. (â€œItâ€™s an investment!â€ we kept telling ourselves.) Finally, we had what we thought was our optimal design, held our breath, and placed the order.
The jungle gym pieces arrived right after Labor Day, and Jon spent many hours the following weekend building this small-footprint Taj Mahal. And we are incredibly pleased. Lucy and Rosie play on it literally every day, and they are just having a blast.
Photo: Under construction.
Coincidentally, Jon built the structure on the same weekend that we took the girls to see their first circus. When Lucy came right home and started hanging upside down on the trapeze, we knew she was hooked.
Photo: Combine one new jungle gym, one adventurous little girl, and a visit to the circus — and you get some amazing trapeze tricks.
Jon and I had considered including swings or a slide, but we just don’t have the space for it. And it’s turning out to be just perfect for us. This jungle gym is pretty simple — really just a climbing structure, plus a firefighter’s pole, a climbing rope, a trapeze, and a “crow’s nest” — so I like how it supports a lot of imaginative play. The girls create their own little worlds out there.
Lately, their favorite game is playing â€œanimal rescuerâ€ (hooray for Diego!), swinging from the rope to rescue and tend to wounded animals (or rather, any sibling, babysitter, parent, or grandparent willing to pretend to be wounded animals). Here’s a one-minute video of them at play, including some “animal rescuer” references:
Iâ€™ve been impressed by how quickly they have mastered their climbing skills, and I’m pleased that they are even exhibiting some care for safety. And as for swings and slides — well, we’ve got three Chicago Park District playgrounds within walking distance when we need more equipment!
I have great hopes that our little jungle gym will become many things over the next several years: maybe a lemonade factory, a busy post office, a school house, a secret fort, a sailing ship, or a magic library. In fact, it’s already become a favorite place to take a couple books for quiet reading (see photo). But for now, we’re pleased to see how much fun everyone is having with our own backyard animal hospital.
Photo: As a boy, Jon loved a second playset his dad built later in their backyard, too. But nothing beats that first childhood gym.