What Is A Jungle Gym, And Why Do They Call It Like That?

The Jungle gym is a structure used for kids and adults to climb, swing, run, jump, and play in a very safe way. The playground equipment for children is a great place for kids to exercise, be active outdoors and most importantly be entertained in a fun and entertaining way.

As a parent, one of your primary responsibilities is to take care of your children and make sure they stay healthy. You also need to ensure they have as much fun as possible and unforgettable childhood memories.

So, what can you do to ensure your kid’s entertainment, enjoyment, and happiness are taken care of? Installing a jungle gym in your backyard may be the solution. A jungle gym is designed to provide your little ones with endless playtime and incredible opportunities to enhance their skills, independence, and socialization.

But what exactly is a jungle gym, and why is it called like that? We are here to help you understand everything you need to know about this play structure. So, let us get started.

What Is a Jungle Gym?

The term jungle gym is used to refer to a piece of playground equipment made of many parts of different materials on which children can climb, hang, sit, climb, and in some cases, slide.

In some parts of the world, the name has both a generic and specific use. 

Generically, it is used to refer to any playground structure where children can climb, sit, slide, or perform other imaginative play. It is also used to refer to any play structure that can be transformed into a castle, fort, or any other structure that serves a given purpose.

The specific meaning refers to a piece of play equipment created with strongly connected bars designed in 1920 by an attorney named Sebastian Hinton. The jungle gym provides your kids with a relatively safe platform for enjoying imaginative play.

A boy hanging on the monkey bar.
These play structures have become quite common, and many parents have installed them in their backyards.

During the invention process, Hinton envisioned a simple play structure that supported movement such as swinging, climbing, and crouching. He also focused on creating something that would still serve other purposes, such as interspersing, climbing, tag playing, and even swimming.

During the old days, jungle gyms were quite rare since only a few individuals could afford them. However, these play structures have become quite common, and many parents have installed them in their backyards.

Today, most jungle gyms are open-ended to accommodate different accessories and different sizes of kids who could use it.

A Brief History of the Jungle Gym

The first jungle gym was designed and patented by Sebastian Hinton in 1920 in Chicago. It was later sold under the trademark name “jungle gym.” However, the first jungle gym was a simple play structure that didn’t have many features.

It was not until the late 1930s that the first monkey bars were added to the jungle gym, even though Hinton’s initial patent appealed to the “monkey instinct” by outlining the numerous benefits of climbing as exercise and play for kids.

The attorney improved the patent towards the end of 1931 to add monkey bars to the initial design and trademarked other related terms such as “monkey runway” and “Monkey tag.”

Sebastian Hinton’s father, Charles Hinton, had designed a relatively similar structure from bamboo when Sebastian was still a kid.

The primary goal of Charles Hinton was to enable kids of all ages to achieve an intuitive understanding of the three-dimensional space through an exciting game in which numbers for the x, y, and z axes were called out loudly.

Technically, it means that Cartesian coordinates’ abstraction could easily be grasped as a name of a tangible point in space.  Since then, the jungle gym has undergone several modifications to become what it is today. Sebastian Hinton’s second prototype jungle gym is still standing at the Crow Island School in Winnetka, Illinois.

Unique Design

Hinton designed the jungle gym to allow maximum movement in all directions through a series of uniquely designed cubes.  When a child is sat in the cubes, he/she can go straight up, sideways, zigzag, or any other direction of their choice.

There are always plenty of support options that allow the kid to steady himself/herself. Before he patented the first design of the jungle gym, he also thought about the possibility of a fall and concluded that crossed ropes must be secured across the bottom level of all of the lower cubes to provide additional safety.

Although Hinton envisioned the jungle gym being used primarily on playgrounds, they have become quite common in backyards and school playgrounds.

Some of the contemporary designs still use ropes to enhance children’s safety. However, other designs feature a ropeless bottom.

The ropeless jungle gyms are usually placed on a specially prepared playground surface such as mulch, wood chips, or any other specialized material to reduce the risk of injuries.

Is a Jungle Gym a Safe Playground Equipment?

The simple answer is “yes.” Some jungle gyms are designed with cross ropes at the bottom section to reduce the risk of injury from potential falls. The cross ropes are meant to hold the child and stop him/her from hitting the ground when they fall.

Playground experts also recommend using other impact-absorbing materials to cover the ground right below the jungle gym.  Playground surfacing material reduces the risk of injury in case of a fall.

Girls hanging having fun.
A properly designed and installed jungle gym with adequate surfacing material is totally safe for the kids.

The United States National Safety Council recommends that playgrounds have at least 12 inches of playground surfacing material to ensure maximum protection. 

Here are some other jungle gym safety tips;

  • Encourage your children to avoid jumping from tall heights. You should also advise them to check and ensure no other kids are on their way up before they jump off the equipment.
  • Encourage your kids to avoid pushing each other or engaging in other dangerous activities while on a jungle gym.
  • Avoid having broken plastics, poles, or bars that may stick out from the jungle gym and pose a significant safety risk to playing kids.

What Are Some of the Benefits of Jungle Gyms?

Now that you understand what a jungle gym is and where it originated from, it is time to highlight some of the unique benefits of having a jungle gym in your backyard.

1. A Jungle Gym Teaches Your Kids Sharing Skills

Whether your kid is playing alone or with his/her friends, the nature of a jungle gym encourages the idea of sharing seats, being patient, and taking turns to play.

In most cases, you will come across a jungle gym with swing set options featuring a single rock wall, slide, monkey bar set, and so on. Therefore, your kid must learn how to share.

Kids having fun.
Jungle gyms teach the kids how to share various equipment pieces and be patient while playing with peers.

Even though you may always be around to remind them about sharing if needed, don’t be surprised to see your little ones navigating turn-taking and other activities independently.

It only takes a few sessions for the kid to learn the importance of sharing and being patient while playing on a jungle gym.

If you want to teach your children life-long sharing skills and make them realize how important it is to be patient in life, you should consider installing a backyard jungle gym.

2. Encourages Muscle Tone, Coordination and Confidence

Kids who play on jungle gyms regularly are always developing and learning how to effectively use their muscles. They are learning and testing their muscle capacity and how to maneuver their bodies in the most proactive ways. 

It also teaches them how to coordinate movements quite smoothly and how to balance effectively.

A boy on red shirt smiling.
Jungle gyms promote your children’s physical strength and make them more confident in their daily activities.

It has also been proved that physically strong kids are usually more comfortable with their bodies and more confident in their day-to-day lives. Kids who spend a significant amount of their playtime on a jungle gym are generally more confident and rarely miss out on great play activities due to fear.  `

In fact, if the fear isn’t addressed adequately and promptly, it can become a significant issue in the child’s life in the future.        

3. Good for Family Bonding

As a parent, you should always be looking forward to helping your kids create unforgettable childhood memories. While these memories can be created on monkey bars, swing sets, trampolines, slides, etc., nothing compares with the time you share with your loved ones on a jungle gym.

Kid and mother having fun.
A jungle gym can strengthen the connection between parents and kids by enabling them to enjoy various activities together.

You can always join your children on a jungle gym for a quick zip down the slide or some swinging.  Some grandparents even love spending time giving their grandchildren a little push which makes them feel happy.

The best quality jungle gyms are always strong enough to withstand slightly heavy loads, which allow even adults to spend time playing alongside their kids.  Overall, jungle gyms are ideal for all age groups to bond and spread happiness.

Final Thoughts

That is it about jungle gyms, and we hope you are now ready to install one in your backyard. Just keep in mind that there are many jungle gym variations in terms of size and shape.

Some of the modern jungle gyms feature multiple parts for swinging, climbing, balancing, crawling, and sliding. However, others have been geared to perform only a few functions.

Some manufacturers even invite customers to contribute to the overall design of the jungle gym that they purchase. The only downside of custom design is the cost since it may be slightly more expensive than buying a readymade one. 

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