These days, most kids do not spend a lot of time outdoors. Who can blame them? Watching TV and playing video games inside are fun! However, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends at least 60 minutes of daily physical activity to keep kids happy and healthy.
One way to get your kids moving is by installing a backyard climbing wall. Kids love to climb, and it builds both strength and self-esteem. If it sounds tough, don’t worry. We have simplified the process into this complete guide to buying or building your own outdoor rock wall.
Backyard Rock Wall 101
Before you get too far ahead, there are a few things to think about. Here are the 3 most important:
#1: Plan the Dimensions
Whether you buy or build, you need to know how tall and wide you want your climbing wall. This partly depends on your child’s height, as well as the available space. Once you decide, this information will help you figure out where you want to construct the wall.
#2: Plan the Location
Before you decide how to get this playground equipment in your backyard, you must decide the location. Once you know the dimensions, you can find a spot that fits. Don’t forget to think about aesthetics as well as size. The climbing wall should enhance your landscape, not detract from it!
#3: Plan the Difficulty
The difficulty level of the course will determine how many handholds you need, as well as the size and shape of the holds. Not to mention the whole design of the climbing wall! Toddlers will need very easy holds, but it varies with older ages. The easiest way to determine your child’s skill is by taking them to an indoor wall and observing them on marked courses.
Store-Bought Backyard Climbing Walls
The primary concern with store-bought backyard climbing walls is safety. Of course, it is also important to buy a product appropriate to your child’s level of skill. We recommend the following safe, high-quality rock walls:
Beginner: Cedar Mountain Climber
The tiny climber in your home will love to conquer this backyard rock wall over and over again. The Cedar Mountain Climber is a mix of the easiest, highest-quality, and most affordable beginner wall. Not to mention this A-frame results in splinter-free playtime!
Intermediate: Climbing Wall System
This backyard climbing system is great for kids ready to climb higher and traverse longer! What’s more, the playground wall is double-sided, which allows children to master the art of downclimbing. Even parents love this easy to clean, safe, and waterproof rock wall.
Advanced: Ultraverse Traverse Climbing Wall
For older or more advanced kids, we love Ultraverse climbing walls. These amazing panels can be attached to any stable outdoor wall. Think garage. The panels ship in both 8 and 10 feet high, and 20 and 40 feet wide. You can also buy individual panels to build taller or wider.
DIY Backyard Climbing Walls
When creating your own backyard climbing wall for kids, it is important to buy the best materials available. Safety is of utmost importance. And don’t forget to look for materials that are ouch-proof. Splinters and squished fingers are avoidable!
There are quite a few do-it-yourselfers that build rock walls for their kids, but the sheer amount of choices can overwhelm. To help, we have gathered our favorite DIY guides from around the web and divided them by builder skill set.
Beginner Builder: Plywood and Garage Backyard Rock Wall
This easy instruction consists of only 6 steps, and the materials don’t cost an arm and a leg. You will need a garage or other strong, upright structure for the backdrop.
Intermediate Builder: Climbing Wall and Cargo Net
This rock wall is 7 feet tall, 3.75 feet wide, and freestanding. The back of the wall in this tutorial is a cargo net, but you can easily build another climbing course instead. Do this by doubling the materials and following the same directions for both sides.
Hint: you can buy the same wall already built on Etsy!
Advanced Builder: Terrain Backyard Climbing Wall
This is the most challenging to create, and it is best for older, taller, more skilled kids. Even adults will want to play on this equipment!
Professional Backyard Climbing Walls
If pre-made and DIY do not appeal to you, there are professional companies that will build your rock wall for you. Here are 6 things you need to ask any builder before you agree to anything:
- What is the cost per square foot?
- Does the company have pre-designed plans or can co-design your own?
- What materials can you choose from?
- Will you need to obtain a permit?
- How often is maintenance needed?
- How long does the average project take to complete?
Must-Have Accessories for Backyard Climbing Walls
If your playground equipment is high, we suggest purchasing a climbing helmet for your child. We recommend good quality headgear, especially if your child is adventurous!
Traditional holds are textured for grip, and this means bare or socked feet will hurt after a few minutes of climbing. The size of the footholds lets you know what type of shoes to buy. If they are larger, tennis shoes will fit. Smaller holds require technical climbing shoes.
Protective Surfaces to Safeguard Your Kid’s Noggin
Many playgrounds and parents choose sand to break falls. If you decide to go this route, make sure you purchase play sand. You will also have to abide by a few safety rules around sand depth, maintenance, and moisture distribution.
These are the rubber squares you typically see at preschool playgrounds. Made of recycled rubber, these squares are only as good as they are thick. Unfortunately, many available to the public are not thick enough to offer protection. Additionally, it is important to compare the types of rubber recycled into the final product.
We’ve been saving the best for last! Rubber mulch is the top way to break a fall because it is shock resistant. Adding just 3 inches of this safeguard can keep children from getting hurt on a 7-foot fall. Did we mention the weatherproofing and minimal maintenance?
We did the research ourselves and found Jelly Bean makes the best rubber mulch for a backyard playground. Why, you ask? For safety, it’s made from sterile, non-toxic, latex-free, non-wire, and non-tire rubber. Moreover, Jelly Bean Rubber Mulch has the best head impact attenuation data in the industry. This led them to win approval by the ADA, and the title of safest playground rubber mulch on the market! Finally, the vulcanization process ensures your investment lasts for decades to come.