As a child I loved climbing and hanging from railings, and my kids are no different, but climbing frames have come a long way from those I used as a child ! My children and I recently had the opportunity to test the new Lil’ Monkey Climbing Dome for review. It is a climbing dome with a difference- not only is it a lightweight, flexible climbing frame, it also comes with it’s own augmented reality app!
When the package arrived from Amazon I was surprised by how light and compact it was. On opening the box I found a bunch of plastic parts and an easy to follow directions sheet, with lots of diagrams.
Assembling the Lil’ Monkey Climber was straight forward and took me about 35 minutes, with my daughter’s “help”. First we sorted the clearly labelled pieces into separate piles, then we had to create hexagons and connect them together. Once all the hexagons are connected we built the top. Each pole is held in place by a locking tab on the connectors, and if you do make a mistake you can press on the tab with the blade of a flat screwdriver to “unlock” it. I found that slightly twisting the poles as I slid them onto the connectors helped them to go on easily, and to “click” firmly into place. Once we had assembled the climber came the only tricky bit of the whole operation – the base is held in place with a series of plastic straps and tabs, and it takes some strong pressure with your thumb to press each tab into place.
As I assembled the climber I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the structure- it goes together easily and feels very sturdy and well – made. Despite being plastic it really does feel strong, and the poles have some flexibility in them – allowing to to give a little as the child climbs on it. My daughter enthusiastically tried it out once it was assembled.
It is not a tall climbing structure – the height of the top bars about 46″, and it is about 67″ wide. This didn’t seem to bother my kids, and it made me less nervous about them falling and injuring themselves especially as my daughter loves to hang upside down from the top bar. Since we built the Lil’ Monkey it has been throughly tested by my kids and their friends. Although the climber is designed for kids from 3-6 years old, even the 10 and 11 year-olds wanted to try it out ! The weight limit for the climber is 80Kg (177lb) so it is strong enough to cope with older kids testing it. It has quickly become a popular part of our garden play equipment, and could easily be moved inside in the winter months. I just wish it was available a few years sooner, my twins loved to climb as toddlers and we had to block off all the bookcases to prevent them scaling them, I would have loved to have this as a safe alternative in the playroom.
The climbing dome also comes with it’s own free app. It is not designed to be used when climbing. The child points the iPad at the flag on the top of the climber, then a monkey appears on the screen superimposed on the live picture of the dome and surroundings as seen through the iPad camera. The monkey is thinking of something to eat and the child needs to move around the dome until they see it, then tap it to feed the monkey. The tasks start simple and get harder as they move through the 28 levels. In later levels the child may need to find a pineapple, banana and apple all in the right order and some of the objects are hidden inside boxes they must open. The app has a timer and the child can earn 0, 1, 2 or 3 stars depending on how quickly they complete a level. You need to earn at least 1 star to unlock the next level. I found that at times it was hard for the kids to complete the tasks quickly enough to earn any stars so the next level didn’t unlock, which could be frustrating. There is also a bonus “endless” level which doesn’t have to be unlocked, and instead of earning stars you aim to beat your best time, so this is a good alternative if they are having problems unlocking levels.
The app is a fun addition to the climber but there are a few tweaks I’d like to see in a future update. The app currently has FB integration and I’d like this removed. I’d also like the next level unlocked if the child successfully completes the task even if they are too slow to earn a star.
Overall, I really like the Lil’ Monkey Climber, it is easy to assemble, lightweight & flexible yet strong and well-made. I would recommend it for any household with young kids that like to climb, I think the target age range of 3-6 is a good guide, but slightly older kids will enjoy it also.
Available from Amazon and other retailers for $139.99