A jungle gym is a piece of playground exercise equipment designed to be played on safely by children. The name has both a generic and a specific use. Generically, it may refer to any of a number of equipment designs on which children climb and perform imaginative play, or which they transform into a fort, castle, or other structure for their purposes. The specific Junglegym was a particular piece of play equipment created with sturdily connected bars, that was designed in 1920 by a lawyer named Sebastian Hinton and patented by him.
With the jungle gym, Hinton aimed to give children a safe environment to climb in, noting that such facilities were often not available to them. He also envisioned other types of movement, such as swinging and crouching, and purposes, such as playing tag or interspersing climbing and swimming. He also made his plans open-ended, in order for the size to accommodate the size of the children who would use it.
Hinton designed the jungle gym to allow movement in all directions through a series of cubes, so that a child could go straight up, to the side, in a zig zag pattern, or any other directional choice, and always have plentiful supports on which to steady him- or herself. Thinking about the possibility of a fall, he determined that crossed ropes should be secured across the bottom level of all the lowest cubes for additional safe footing.
While Hinton envisioned his creation being used on playgrounds, generic jungle gym equipment is also now frequently found in backyards. Some contemporary equipment does use rope, but most have open bottoms, and help protect children by placing the equipment on a suitable, specially prepared surface, such as wood chips or other specialized material.
There are many variations in jungle gym size and shape, with some equipment having multiple parts for climbing, swinging, sliding, crawling, balancing, etc., and others being geared to narrower purposes. Some companies invite consumers to contribute to the design of the jungle gym that they take home.