Climbing is a natural instinct on the part of toddlers as they develop their motor skills, but when they’re scaling the furniture instead of safe, age-appropriate toys, serious injuries can happen.
Toddler climbing toys, gyms, and other structures intended to encourage active play provide a space where young children can stretch those developing muscles and adventurous urges without serious risk of harm.
It gets better:
Our carefully-chosen list of the best climbing toys for toddlers features both indoor and outdoor equipment, so no matter the size of your space, there’s something suitable here.
Let’s dig in!
In this article:
Our picks of the best toddler climbing toys
Indoor and outdoor climbing fun for multiple kids is possible with the Climb-N-Crawl Caterpillar Tunnel (check price on Amazon), which encourages the development of gross motor skills through several physical play options.
Cheerful, colorful GUS is over seven feet long, doubling as both a toy to be climbed on and crawled through. Children can enter and exit at the front or rear of the tunnel for safety, and large “window” holes with safe, rounded edges offer both ventilation inside the tube and secure foot placement while climbing atop the toy.
Assembly is quick and simple, and because this toy weighs less than 50 lbs., it’s not too hard for most parents to move around the yard or from outdoors to in. It also cleans up easily with soap and water.
Bonus: if you’re up for creating a truly epic tunnel, two or more of these sets can be connected to expand the length of the toy.
What we love
- It's both a climbing toy and a tunnel
- Its lightweight plastic body is easy to move and clean
- Two or more sets can be connected if desired
- Best climbing toy for 2-year-old
- There's no "floor", so it needs to be placed on a safe surface when used outdoors
The beautiful birch Woodandhearts Montessori Climber (check price on Amazon) offers toddlers three ways to play — the classic Pikler triangle climber, arch, or connecting “rock” climbing ramp. This not only engages their developing muscles and encourages the development of balance, it also encourages the development of logic based on their experiences playing on the toy’s diverse surfaces.
Changing the angle of the rock ramp or removing it all together is easy thanks to the design of the connectors, which rest on the rounded bars of the ladder and arch. Thus, the triangle climber and arch can be separated and used independently if desired.
Another thing we love about this toy — it weighs less than 25 lbs., so it’s very easy to move, especially since it breaks down into three pieces. While it’s considered safe for outdoor use in dry weather, we recommend finding a surface other than grass or dirt to avoid damaging the toy’s finish.
What we love
- It offers three ways to play -- a Pikler triangle, an arch, and a rock (or smooth) ramp
- The pieces can easily be separated and used independently
- It's lightweight and easy to move
- Some users find assembly to be difficult
- It can only be used outdoors in dry weather
Best for budget
The ideal indoor/outdoor entertainment center for younger toddlers, the Step2 Sports-Tastic Activity Center Playset (check price on Bed Bath and Beyond) has plenty of developmentally-focused entertainment on offer.
The main event is the mini-slide, fun for climbing and coasting as they refine their motor skills and balance abilities. Tots can also refine hand-eye coordination and practice fine motor skills like grasping as they play with the tethered ball and bat, or sink nothing-but-net shots in the attached basketball hoop.
Assembling the toy is simple, and it weighs less than 10 lbs., so toting it in and out of the house is a breeze. The only downside here is that this pick really is for younger children, as some larger three-year-olds may find it too small to play on comfortably.
What we love
- There's multiple ways for kids to stay entertained and develop coordination
- It's easy to assemble
- It's lightweight and can be used inside or outside
- Best climbing toy for 1-year-old
- It's fairly small, so it's best for younger kids
Best foam climbing blocks
If preventing bumps and bruises is at the top of your to-do list with this buy, the SoftScape Playtime Corner (check price on Amazon) may be what you’re after. The versatile foam climbing set comes with four blocks, a ramp, cube, stair, and wedge, which can be repositioned again and again as desired.
Not only does this make things more entertaining for toddlers, it also challenges them logically and stimulates their imagination as they slide, climb, and crawl — a win across the board. The climbing set, which fits into just about any corner, has a non-slip base to prevent it from sliding around, while the individual pieces connect to one another with simple Velcro fasteners.
Cleaning the indoor climbing toy is simple, as only a mild soap and water solution are required to wipe down the soft faux-leather coating. Parents should note that in order to keep the SoftScape looking its best, kids should remove shoes before play.
What we love
- The pieces can be reconfigured as desired
- The soft foam construction prevents bumps and bruises
- They can slide, crawl, and climb with this toy
- Some users felt extra Velcro was needed to secure the blocks together
Best climber with slide
The Lazy Buddy Kids Slide (check price on Amazon) is an adorable play center that’s actually quite active, featuring an indoor/outdoor sliding board that’s longer than most and a basketball hoop and ball. Suitable for use inside and out, the plastic panda-themed slide weighs less than 25 lbs., so switching between the two is easy.
The attached hoop is a great way for them to practice hand-eye coordination when they’re not sliding, and makes for a fun game to play with friends or siblings. Plus, the slide itself extends over 4′, so they’ll get a legitimate thrill out of climbing and sliding for longer than they would with a smaller toy.
Putting this climbing toy together only takes a few minutes, and because it’s plastic, it wipes clean easily after social playtime or time spent outdoors.
What we love
- The 4' fun slide is longer than most climbers have
- There's a built-in basketball hoop for social play and hand-eye coordination
- It's easy to assemble and keep clean
- The decorative decals are not very high quality and can be peeled/ripped easily
Best climbing cube
A Montessori toy that combines climbing and crawling, the CASSARO Climbing Cube (check price on Amazon) has a large, stable design that allows two children to play comfortably at the same time.
The cube has two sides with large circle cutouts to crawl through, two “ladder” sides with secured, rounded wooden bars, a flat paneled “roof”, and a bare “floor”. As they crawl, climb, and explore during open-ended physical play, they’ll be thinking creatively, refining gross motor skills, and developing agility and balance.
Assembly isn’t challenging, which may leave you feeling inspired to connect this toy with one of several compatible models to create a home Montessori gym for your tot as the manufacturer suggests.
What we love
- It's compatible with other Montessori climbing toys
- Assembly is simple
- It can't be used outside
Best toddler climbing gym
Setting a new scene for climbing and sliding is easy with the six-piece ECR4Kids SoftZone Foam Climber (check price on Amazon), which uses simple hook-and-loop attachments to connect large, soft foam pieces for play.
Two ramps, a cube, a stair, and two corner floor panels are included in the vegan leather-coated indoor climbing set, which requires no assembly and wipes clean with soap and water after use. Each piece has a non-slip base, and the set is designed to be placed against a wall to offer extra stability as they climb.
Like the SoftScape, it’s an ideal pick for encouraging both motor skill and logic development, as rearranging the pieces keeps things both fun and stimulating for kids. Because it’s a bit larger than the SoftScape, it’s easier for siblings and friends to share the play space.
What we love
- No assembly is required and connecting the blocks is easy
- There's plenty of room for multiple children to play
- It can't be used outdoors
Best toddler rock climber
In search of an indoor play gym that will outlast the toddler years? The Avenlur Indoor Toddler Climber Gym (check price on Amazon) is designed for use up to age 6, and features a rock climbing wall, rope net, monkey bars, a climbing ladder, a slide, and even a real, working swing.
They’ll hardly miss the playground on a rainy day with this diverse climbing tower, which is made of high quality varnished wood to prevent splinters and discomfort. Toddlers will thrill as they develop gross motor skills and master new milestones with this towering gym — at nearly 5′, it will take some experience for them to master some of the more complicated parts of the toy, encouraging perseverance and creative thought.
While there’s a lot to love about the finished product, parents should note that assembly can be a bit of a bear due to the absence of pre-drilled holes, and that the 90 lb. construction isn’t easy to move post-completion. Additionally, the manufacturer (wisely) suggests placing this indoor climbing gym on a cushioned floor mat for safety.
What we love
- It's massive, with plenty of activities for them to grow into
- They'll be able to use it until age six
- Best for older toddlers
- Assembly can be difficult
- It should be placed on a cushioned floor mat, which isn't included
Best climbing dome
If they’re going to monkey around anyway, a dedicated spot like Eezy Peezy Monkey Bars Climbing Tower (check price on Amazon) can help keep climbing play safe.
Usable indoors or out, this real monkey bars setup is built with interlocking plastic tubes that can be assembled or disassembled in about half an hour, but the process is a bit complex. Though it’s lightweight, this durable toy can support most kids up to age 8 (or up to 150 lbs. total weight limit), and the wide base prevents the need for anchors.
The high-quality plastic body of the Eezy Peezy is made with UV protection, so if you decide to keep this toy outside full-time, it won’t fade, crack, warp, or weaken. It’s both heat and freeze resistant, but the base connectors should be protected from water to avoid cosmetic damage.
What we love
- It's made from UV resistant plastic to prevent wear and tear
- The wide base means no anchors are needed
- The top detaches to allow the assembled unit to move through doorways easily
- Assembly can be difficult
Best pikler triangle
A classic Pikler triangle at its best, the Goodevas Climbing Triangle (check price on Amazon) is a durable indoor and outdoor climbing toy that encourages the development of balance and gross motor skills. The position of the toy can easily be adjusted to one of five angles depending on your child’s needs and abilities, and it can be a fun developmental toy for both physical and creative play until about age 5.
Pikler triangles, designed by Hungarian pediatrician Dr. Emmi Pikler, are one of the best toddler climbing toys for helping children to learn to navigate climbing skills at their own pace, explore their boundaries, develop strength and agility, and engage in free play and free movement. While young babies might use the toy to pull themselves up, a toddler will be able to climb partially up one side, and older children of 4 or 5 will be able of “master” the toy by climbing up one side and down the other.
At less than 20 lbs., the easy-to-build toy is also easy to move from inside to outside or room to room. While it can be used indoors or out, we recommend outdoor use in dry weather only, as moisture can damage even finished wooden toys over time.
What we love
- It can be adjusted into five positions depending on your child's age and needs
- It's lightweight and easy to move
- It can't be stored outside, and shouldn't be used outdoors in wet weather
Best outdoor climber for toddlers
A traditional toddler playset like the Simplay3 Young Explorers Adventure Climber (check price on Amazon) provides plenty of ways for tots to stretch their muscles, use their imagination, and socialize with siblings and friends. The hard plastic playset has safe, rounded edges, large platforms, and handles to make playtime easier and safer for little ones.
An open-door fort offers a place to hang out and keep a lookout, while an extra-wide slide lets them cascade back down to the floor or ground. Crawl-in portals on the side of the playset lead to a secret fort, where a steering wheel and dashboard inspire creative play.
While this fort is relatively easy to assemble, many parents have noted that a power drill or screwdriver will move things along much faster. Safe for use indoors or out, it’s made of UV-resistant plastic to resist fading and damage over time.
What we love
- There's room for multiple climbers to slide, socialize, and pretend
- It can be used indoors or outdoors, and will withstand UV damage
- You'll need a power drill or screwdriver to make assembly easy
Best toddler jump house
A twist on typical toddler climbing toys, the Little Tikes Inflatable Jump’n’Slide (check price at Walmart) is a pick that’s sure to get kids excited — their very own bounce house.
They can climb in or slide out via the wide slide ramp, and they’re surrounded by tall, protective walls as they bounce to keep them safe from falls. It’s not just fun, there’s benefits, too: jumping around, running, and keeping their balance are all important parts of physical development and dexterity.
If you think ‘party’ when you think bouncy house, you’re on the right track! This inflatable has a maximum weight capacity of 250 lbs., so it’s safe for siblings and friends to join in the fun. There are even shoe storage pockets to prevent damage to the toy (AND preventing that inevitable lost sandal at the end of the picnic).
The Jump’n’Slide comes with its own blower, as well as a safe storage bag and a repair kit.
What we love
- Kids can develop balance, strength, and dexterity while jumping and running around
- It has a maximum weight limit of 250 lbs., so it's safe for multiple children to play
- The pump needs to be run continually to keep the toy inflated, so you'll need to be near a power source
Best value foam blocks
Simple and budget-friendly, the Milliard Soft Toddler Stairs Climber (check price on eBay) set includes two brightly-colored, vinyl-covered foam blocks for climbing. A stair and a ramp can either be used separately or connected together via easy hook-and-eye fasteners to encourage physical play, including climbing, crawling, and sliding.
The indoor climbing toy is stain-resistant, and its soft but firm construction prevents injuries while experimenting with physical boundaries. Placing the toy against a wall helps to add stability for toddlers while playing with the toy.
No assembly is required, and the vinyl covering of the blocks wipes clean with a mild soap and water solution or your choice of disinfectant.
What we love
- A budget-friendly foam climber option
- No assembly required and easy to clean
- Pieces can be used together or separately
- There are only two pieces, so it's not as dynamic as other foam climbers
Climbing, crawling, pretending, and playing with other kids without feeling crowded are all on offer with GUS, the Climb-N-Crawl Caterpillar (check price on Amazon).
Sturdy and lightweight, the toy can be used indoors or out, is designed to comfortably accommodate multiple kids, and can be expanded even further with the purchase of another set.
We also love the Avenlur Toddler Gym (check price on Amazon), which has a rope wall, ladder, monkey bars, swing, slide, and rock climbing. It’s a bit of a splurge, but it’s indoor fun and physical play that rival the playground and it’s usable up to age 5.
How we chose these toddler climbers
We are real parents with real kids, and so we understand that for most families the main considerations are safety, suitability, space, and budget. Using these criteria we went very deep with our research to find fun toddler climbers at various price points that would engage kids and help them to develop their motor skills and physical confidence.
Beyond our basic common sense and exhaustive research, we reached out to several expert climbing parents on Reddit.com/e/climbing and Mountain Project Forums (the most popular hangouts for climbers online). We asked for their input and had them check over our selection, which we now proudly stand behind.
Why is the benefit of climbing and physical play?
Physical play helps children explore their environment while problem-solving, socializing, and staying fit. It is how toddlers develop motor skills, build muscle mass, and improve their coordination.
When kids climb, they develop confidence and personal competence. It can help them to improve balance and dexterity, test their boundaries, and explore their physical abilities.
Can’t I just make my own DIY toddler climbing toys?
If you’re a super handy woodworker or DIY queen/king, you might consider taking a swing at making your own climbing toy.
This wooden Pikler triangle and rock climbing wall are built to last, a great project for the family craftsman:
This PVC pipe Pikler triangle is a creative, money-saving take on the skill-building Montessori toy:
Foam blocks make for great building play and are a useful landing place for a wide age range of children.
What to look for in a toddler climbing toy
Read along to discover a few helpful pointers for picking out a toddler climbing toy.
- Wooden Playsets. Wood is a durable, natural, and renewable resource that’s great for climbing toys, but wooden ladders and hard platforms aren’t ideal for clumsy toddlers. While most wooden toys are safe, it’s important to avoid harmful chemicals and paints. If you place a wood playset outside, make sure it is on a shock-absorbing surface, such as wood chip, sand, or a rubber mat (Healthy Children). Untreated wood is more vulnerable to rot and decay, but it is far safer for children.
- Foam Blocks. Soft climbers for toddlers promote motor development while optimizing children’s safety. That’s a win-win situation, parents! Blocks should be soft enough to buffer a fall but solid and firm enough that they don’t sag under your child’s weight. We like sets with vinyl exteriors because toddlers are messy and they wipe clean in a snap. Velcro strips are yet another game-changer, as they keep block configurations from acting like rogue icebergs. While some of these sets can be a bit pricey, they’re an amazing outlet for spirited toddlers.
- Plastic Playsets for Indoors and Out: High-density plastics makes a great foundation for kids climbing toys. They’re easy to clean and even easier to assemble. Not to mention, plastic jungle gyms are often far cheaper than wood and metal alternatives. On top of that, plastic tends to avoid sharp edges in favor of soft, rounded corners that offer parents and caregivers peace of mind.
Your child’s climbing toy should be appropriate for their age, weight, and abilities in order to prevent potentially serious injuries. Keep in mind that toys aren’t required to have safety certifications, so those that are ASTM certified get bonus points for peace of mind.
Even safe climbing toys have the potential to be hazardous if they’re not used properly. It’s always best for a climbing toy to be placed on a shock-absorbing surface, just as you would a sliding board or swing set.
Outdoors, this can mean materials like sand, rubber mats, or wood chips, as mentioned above. Indoors, roll-up foam rubber mats can provide a safe, cushioned surface for any accidental falls.
Additionally, children should NEVER play with climbing toys unsupervised. Adult supervision is essential at all times.
Different Ways to Play
While a Pikler triangle or two-piece set of padded climbing blocks will keep kids entertained for a while, you’ll notice that sets like the Woodandhearts Montessori Climber and the Avenlur Toddler Gym keep drawing kids back because they offer different ways to play.
Mixing up their play routine encourages creativity and logic in addition to testing and boosting their physical skills in different ways, so it’s worth considering toys that can be rearranged or which offer several methods of play, like climbing walls, crawl spaces, or slides.
Outdoor vs. Indoor Climbing Toys
Some gym playsets and climbing toys are great indoors or out, but others are strictly indoor climbers
Playsets made of hard, kid-safe plastic tend to be ideal outdoor climbing toys, as long as they’re UV-treated. They’re not vulnerable to the elements, and they’re easy to wipe clean (or spray off with the hose).
Although wooden climbing toys are great, they’re not always great outside. Many manufacturers will directly advise against the use of wooden toys outdoors in wet weather. Unfinished wooden toys, which are best for children, are more vulnerable to rotting, warping, and decaying.
If you opt for a climbing toy that will be used both indoors and outdoors, plan to have suitably safe play surfaces in both locations to prevent injuries. In addition, consider the weight of the toy and if it will need to be disassembled before moving — this can become a serious inconvenience.