Many play structures and playhouses available in all-purpose retail outlets are designed to encourage developmental skills in children in the age group for which they are intended. These provide an excellent alternative to jungle gyms for those children too small to use them.
A play structure for 9-month to 2-year-olds will encourage exploration, motor skills, perceptual-cognitive and socio-linguistic abilities.
Balance beams and climbing sculptures in shapes of different animals help children 2 to 12 years with gaining balance, encourage role playing and inspire imagination.
The larger, multi-activity play structures with slides, climbing structures, forts and swings are designed for different age levels with a variety of features to encourage different cognitive and physical activities. The big brand-name, brightly colored plastic play structures will cost about $2500.
Wooden and galvanized steel play structures designed and sold by specialty playground equipment manufacturers will have multiple module options, allowing you to custom design your play structure according to your space, budget and children's desires and ages.
Jumping rooms have become a big hit in restaurants geared to special kids' parties and children's theme parks, and now there are bouncing play structures available in the toy sections of many retail outlets for about $150. These inflatable play structures can be set up inside or out very easily, depending on size and your available space. Kids love to bounce, and you'll save a fortune on those birthday parties!
Play structures should have safety surfaces and appropriate falling zones to ensure safe landing and room to exit. The safety surface might be a rubber mat or a combination of gravel, wood chips or sand. Be sure to read the manufacturers set-up and safety instructions carefully.
There are variations of these play structures which include see-saws & swings, as well as other small pieces of children's furniture that can be used indoors. For more information on finding play structures online, check out the shopping links at the top of this page.