How to Build Play Structures in Your Family Garden

Giving children their own space and territory is important tor their happiness as well as good family relations. If everyone is on top of each other irritations soon develop and arguments are inevitable. Private hideaways and secret dens are an excellent way of providing the sense of adventure and freedom children require within the safety of their garden.

Even before children learn to walk they are living to climb, pulling themselves upright by any means available. So what could be better than providing them with the means to indulge this basic instinct.

Climbing frames range from the simplest structure of two ends connected by a single crossbar, to veritable labyrinths of ladders, walkways, slides, swings, awnings and tunnels. Choose a frame that you can add to, so that it grows with your children, constantly offering new challenges to their developing abilities.

Give some thought to the material the frame is made of as, once up, it will be a feature in your garden for years to come. There are many brightly-coloured metal frames mi the market, but there are also more subdued wooden frames available, with dark green attachments rather than vivid red or orange.

If you are lucky enough to have a few sturdy trees then you can attach climbing ropes, rope ladders, commando-style netting and swings to their branches and you have the most natural frame there could be.

Even if you cannot find the space, for a climbing frame it is always possible to fit in a swing – there are even models which can be attached to the wall of a house, if you have a tiny courtyard garden. Of all play apparatus, swings are unique in that they are equally popular with boys and girls, toddlers and teenagers.

If you do not have a suitable tree, buy or make a frame instead. Self-assembly aluminium or wooden frames are not expensive and are easy to erect, the only tricky bit being anchoring the legs. These can be secured by pins, but the safest method is to sink them in concrete-filled holes several feet deep.

Make your swing grow with your child by altering the seat. Babies require a high-backed bucket seat with a safely harness and restraining bar at the front. The next stage up is the strap, or belt seat made of soil rubber which moulds itself to the shape of the child s bottom, preventing them from slipping off. For  seven year olds and upwards there is the flat rubber or planked seal.

Both children and grown-ups can get a very nasty injury if they are bit by a moving swing, so place the swing well away from paths, sandpits and playhouses and drill into your children the importance of keeping their distance – you can always mark out an exclusion zone.

Young children will love sit-on, bouncy, rubber balls and small trampolines, and for older children with masses of energy a full-size trampoline is tremendous.

Ensure one child or an adult keeps watch while another bounces and fit cushioned pads to cover the hard edges of the frame. If you follow a few safety guidelines – one at a time, no shoes or jewellery, no eating and drinking – your children will bounce happily for hours.