Trampolines are lots of fun, and can keep kids engaged in the backyard for hours on end. It’s important for kids to get exercise and get their heart rate up when, and for a variety of reasons including global pandemics, team sports might be difficult. Trampolines also help develop balance, core strength and when they’ve mastered a couple of tricks, it helps boost your child’s confidence and capability.
But not every likes trampolines, nor wants them in their yard. Some of the reasons not to get a trampoline include the high cost for good quality ones, and safety concerns for the kids. Trampolines are one of the greatest sources of accidents for children. Home insurance policies generally need special negotiation with the insurer to get any sort of backyard trampoline coverage.
So, when you are looking for a trampoline alternative, you want something that will still give your child the benefits of movement and exercise, without the high cost or danger. And can still be done in the yard with all the fresh air and sunshine you can want.
In our quest for Mission: Backyard Adventure, we searched for some pieces of play equipment that fit this brief – outdoors, physical movement, lower cost than a good quality trampoline. Here’s what we came up with!
List of Trampoline Alternatives
1. Slip n slides
This was one of our family favorites growing up. Hot summer days, a long flat stretch of lawn. And the thrill of the cool spray of water combined with fast acceleration. There will be many squeals of delight.
A Slip ‘n Slide has a long stretch of high-quality polyethylene. You set it up on a patch of lawn. Then attach a garden hose to the intake, and it creates a spray of water all along the mat. This becomes super slippery, and when you (or the kids at least) launch yourself on the mat at speed. You then slide the length of the mat. They now come with Boogie Boards which makes it even more fun, and the bumpers help you stay on track.
Tip for new players: I would suggest not setting it up on stony ground. As well as risking tearing the plastic, the bumps come through the mat and don’t feel nearly as good as turf.
Our Amazon Pick for Slip ‘n Slides is the original branded one (24ft long) with much stronger plastic sheeting than the cheap ones. You can now get them to clip together, and make a super long slide.
Check out the original Slip ‘n Slide here on Amazon!
2. Swing sets
We had an old swing set in the yard as kids. It had a bar and rings, as well as a swing, and I fancied myself as a gymnast, especially during the Olympic years. My kids had a wooden playset with swings, a climbing wall and a platform. I daresay that they thought they were climbing Everest at times.
Whilst swing sets can vary in price, there are some great good quality ones that are very reasonable.
This wooden swing set has two solid swings. It looks simple, straight forward and would provide hours of fun. As you look at this one or others, be sure to check out the reviews. When I was looking at cheaper wooden sets, they often had reviews that complained about significant cracks in the wood over time.
Check out the Heavy Duty Durango Wooden Swing Set Here on Amazon!
3. Above ground swimming pool
I love a good paddle pool. Sitting in the yard with the heat of the summer around you, kids splashing happily, nothing beats it.
I like the this above ground inflatable pool from Aquadoo. It’s a nice size for a few kids to sit and play in, and on a summer’s day, will let you all cool down in style. The heavy-duty PVC is 50% thicker than most on the market, and will withstand a variety of conditions. I’d recommend to get an electric air pump with it.
It’s also great to use as a ball pit. Empty and dry the pool of all water, then fill it up with soft balls, and let the kids slide and hide within.
Check out the Aquadoo Inflatable Pool on Amazon now!
4. Hopper Ball
A hopper ball is a giant inflatable ball with handles. It can be used inside or out, just not down a steep hill!
The AppleRound hopper is probably the most popular brand of hopper, and comes in a variety of colors and sizes. They have a size suitable for little kids, teens, and every age in between. These are fun when you have a few kids and a big lawn space. The kids will make up their own chasing games and bouncing competitions, whilst you sit back with benevolent satisfaction. Mission: Backyard Adventure! complete.
Check out the AppleRound Hopper on Amazon now!
5. Skipping rope
I’ve found that kids like playing games with each other. A long skipping rope is ideal to play with three to ten kids. You can get two long skipping ropes, and they’ll turn it into a game of Double Dutch before you blink.
This skipping rope is 23ft, but you can get one that is as short as 10ft, or as long as 49ft! I’d probably go for the 23ft one, but that’s also because I’d prefer not to have to stand there and turn the thing for the kids. And if it’s too short, it’s really hard for the kids to get a good run at it.
I love the idea of this, because it really encourages co-operative play.
Check out the Leadfan Double Dutch Ropes on Amazon now!
6. Obstacle course
If you can string up some bunting for a picnic, you can now assemble an obstacle course. Truly, they have made it that simple. And with the rise of the Ninja TV shows, it’s likely that your kids will want to test themselves.
With this Ninja Warrior Course, you might need to stay close by with a stopwatch to help the kids keep track of their personal bests, but it will be a small price to pay to see them gain physical strength and pride in their achievements. It helps develop balance as well.
I really like this Ninja course because it goes around two trees with a slackline at the top and the bottom, and you can adjust where the obstacles are. It means you make it suit the age and capabilities of your kids.
Check out the Ninja Warrior Obstacle Course on Amazon now!
7. Sprinkler fun
Which kid hasn’t run through a sprinkle on a hot day? They haven’t lived.
It’s time to pull out the garden hose, fix up a sprinkler to it, and water the garden. Oh, and let the kids have a run through at the same time.
I’d recommend the Aqua Joe. It’s completely adjustable, with a substantial base for stability as the kids jump, run and squeal their way through the water spray. It’s super versatile in coverage, you can make adjustments on both sides to keep the water right where you want it, and not waste it. Just to give you a sense of how powerful this is, it covers 3,600 square feet.
Check out the AquaJoe Sprinkler on Amazon now!
8. Geometric dome climber
This is a modern version of the monkey bars. It generally sits closer to the ground, but kids still have to pull their body weight up. They can sit up on top, or even hang upside down from the top bars.
This geometric dome climber from well-known kids’ equipment brand Zupapa is affordable, and easy to put together, especially if you have a couple of kids to help hold the bars in place. Kids under 10 years old love climbing and this dome is strong enough to carry up to six kids at once.
The bonus is that it’s light enough for one adult to move so you can get in to mow the lawn or just move it around the yard into the shade as desired.
Check out the Zupapa 10ft dome here on Amazon!
This is called a Flying Fox in some parts of the world. You string up a line with a moderate amount of tension, and then attach a small seat to it. You sit the child on the seat, instruct them to hold on tight, and then watch them travel down the incline.
On this Gusto Games version, it’s more exhilaration than pure physical exercise, but like a slide, it never grows old. You’ll need a decent amount of space. This one I’m recommending needs 110ft, and you can attach it to a couple of trees. However, you can also adapt it to attach to a well-bolted hook off the side of a building.
I like the spring brake feature at the bottom of the zipline to help with stopping, as well as the non-slip handles on the actual pulley attachment. It comes with an adjustable harness with lanyard to attach to the pulley.
Check out the Gusto Games zipline on Amazon!
If you’re not ready for a trampoline, fear not. There are a number of excellent alternatives to a trampoline. These are affordable, will get your child outside moving around, and lots of fun.