Most jungle gyms are made from metal, PVC, plastic, or other synthetic materials; metal jungle gyms were among the first models to appear in the early 20th century, and children began to learn to stay away from them on hot days. The direct sunlight could make the metal hot to the touch, and hanging on for too long could lead to discomfort or even burns. A wooden jungle gym will avoid this problem, as the wood will not absorb heat like metal and even plastic. Constructing a wooden jungle gym is also usually very easy and sometimes less expensive.
In locations where aesthetics are important, the wooden jungle gym cannot be beat. Metal versions can rust after continued exposure to the elements, and plastic and PVC versions may warp or bow. The colors can also fade on plastic models, thereby degrading the overall aesthetic. A wooden jungle gym is likely to stay visually appealing for many years, and if the finish of the wood fades, it can be re-coated with a stain or paint to immediately improve the look of the structure.
If the owner of the wooden jungle gym intends to build the unit from scratch, wood is the best choice because it is easy to cut and drill on-site; metal often needs to be prefabricated to specific lengths and heights, making customization much more difficult. PVC and plastic can be cut to length, though many components of the structure will need to be molded ahead of time into specific shapes. Wood is highly customizable and generally easy to work with, making it the best choice for the do-it-yourselfer.
One of the worries owners generally have concerning the wooden jungle gym is splintering or cracking, which is certainly a reasonable possibility. Children climbing on the structure may be susceptible to injury after the wood has dried out from continued exposure to the elements. If the owner is willing to maintain the wood, however, splintering and cracking can be avoided. It will be necessary to inspect the structure periodically to monitor for such damage. Luckily, if a piece of the wooden jungle gym is cracking, splitting, or otherwise becoming weak or unusable, it can often be replaced fairly easily by cutting a new piece of wood to the proper dimensions and bolting it in place after removal of the damaged piece. In many cases, the new piece of wood can even be painted or stained to match the finish of the rest of the structure.