One of the great things about treehouses is their versatility. Each design is a one-of-a-kind creation, and your choice of treehouse accessories can make the structure something your kids will remember for their entire lives. Without any special accessories, a treehouse is basically a playhouse in a tree, but with additions like swings, a zip line, monkey bars, a rock-climbing wall or a rope bridge, the space becomes an immersive, activity-filled hideout that can provide children with endless adventures.
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Whether you're building a DIY treehouse or hiring a pro to build it for you, it's important to consider your ideal accessories so you can ensure your plans properly accommodate your ideas. In fact, dreaming up fun treehouse designs with your child is just one of the many great bonding activities in which you can engage while working on your kid's new hangout spot.
Tree Swings of All Styles
Even without a treehouse in the picture, tree swings have long been favorites of children of all ages. The great thing about a treehouse swing is that you have nearly unlimited options from which to choose. If the treehouse platform is strong enough, you can mount a traditional swing set or porch swing from the underside of the platform structure. For a more traditional tree swing, you can simply tie a rope swing, tire swing or netted seat swing to one of the tree's branches. These are particularly great options for DIYers, as they are inexpensive and relatively easy to secure.
The Treehouse Zip Line
A high-speed alternative to swings, a zip line is one of the best treehouse accessories for kids who want an action-filled place to hang out, and they provide an exhilarating way to get down. Unfortunately, not all yards are equipped for a zip line, which can take up a lot of space. Also, zip lines can be a little more dangerous than many alternatives, which is why kids, especially young kids, should always wear a helmet when using them. To make the trip a little safer, you may also want to choose a model with a harness or a seat.
If you want to build this type of accessory, contact a zip line specialist who can instruct you on how to design a safe, fun course, guiding you not just on the location and angles but also the proper materials and equipment for your family's needs.
Treehouse Monkey Bars
If you really want your kids to make the most of their treehouse, it can pay off to incorporate as much playground equipment as possible. This means your kids won't just use their imaginations while playing in the yard but also get out all their youthful energy. Monkey bars are a great option for that purpose, as they help build arm strength, coordination and balance. Trapeze rings are similar treehouse accessories that provide a little extra swing while you move from ring to ring.
If you like the idea of your kids getting exercise and gaining upper-body strength from monkey bars but can't think of a good place for the bars, then a rock-climbing wall is a great alternative. It not only takes up vertical rather than horizontal space but it can also be used as a secondary means of access to the treehouse (along with something easier to use, like stairs or a permanent ladder).
While there are plenty of commercial rock wall designs available, you can also build your own using plywood and a climbing wall kit. You simply drill a grid of holes in the plywood and install a T-nut (kits include dozens of them) in each hole. The handholds mount to the T-nuts with a mating bolt. This allows you to move the handholds to change the climbing route anytime you like.
Rope Bridge Between Structures
A rope bridge isn't practical for everyone, but if your treehouse design incorporates more than one structure, you'll want to connect them somehow, and one of the most fun methods is through the use of a rope bridge. That being said, there are some drawbacks to rope bridges. For one, they are not safe to use on windy days since they sway so much, so if you live somewhere that's particularly windy, avoid building a rope bridge or at least build an alternative path between the structures. Additionally, a rope bridge should be built with the aid of a professional since an incorrectly installed rope bridge can be dangerous.
Hammocks as Relaxing Treehouse Accessories
As much as you probably want your kids to get their energy out in their treehouse, they should also be able to relax in it. That means adding kid-friendly furniture, and a hammock is a great option, especially if you're hoping your kiddo might take a nap in the treehouse once in a while. Hammocks are an especially good addition to ship-themed treehouses since they fit the theme.
A Cargo Net to Climb
A cargo net is both fun and challenging to climb and is good for upper-body strength and balance. It's the perfect accessory for a treehouse with a pirate theme. Like climbing walls, cargo nets offer a lot of options since they come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and materials so that you can be sure your cargo net matches the climbing skill of your little adventurers.
A Crow’s Nest
Another must-have for a pirate- or ship-themed treehouse, a crow's nest is almost like adding a small second story to your structure. While installation isn't easy, the benefits are plenty. A crow's nest can further engage your child's imagination and spur additional climbing to further improve body strength. The view might even influence you to climb to the top.
A sizable crow's nest can serve as a launching platform for a zip line or a slide. Alternatively, if it's close to the ground, a crow's nest can be a great place to hook up a cargo net or rope ladder, which will further enhance the pirate theme. Inside the nest itself, you may want to add a ship's wheel, pirate storage chest or a periscope to inspire further imaginative play.
A crow's nest is also the ideal place to install a telescope since it will provide the best vantage point for checking out the local scenery as well a for stargazing. If you install a telescope for looking at the sky, though, be sure your treehouse is safe for both night and day use since you won't want anyone getting hurt trying to climb up or down while using the telescope at night. Some simple lights in the treehouse, including the crow's nest, should be enough, though for the best stargazing, be sure they can either be turned off from the crow's nest or aren't so bright that they cause excessive light pollution and ruin the view.
A Trap Door With a Rope Ladder
If your child plans to use the treehouse as a secret clubhouse or castlelike tree fort, a trap door is a must. Trap doors are fairly easy to install, but for best results, remember to use a spring hinge or some type of counterweight system to make it open and close more efficiently. For even more fun, add a rope ladder that can be pulled up to stop invaders from entering the hangout or can be dropped down in a hurry to provide a super-sneaky escape route.
A Slide Exit
While it doesn't provide access into a treehouse, a slide can provide a quick and fun exit. In fact, they're actually a safer way to get down from a treehouse than a ladder. For an even more entertaining exit, consider adding a spiral slide or roller slide. If your treehouse is near a pool, you could even install a water slide that connects to the pool, but keep in mind that water slides are only useful in warm months, not year-round.
A Classic Fireman Pole
What if you don't have the space or budget for a slide but like the idea of a quick and safe exit? A fireman pole is a great alternative that's particularly easy to install. Fire poles are also a good challenge for older kids to climb, building strength in the hands, thighs and arms while providing a good cardio workout.
Rope and Bucket or Basket
Once your kid is up in the treehouse, he won't want to climb down just to get snacks or water, and you might not want to climb up to bring things to him. Instead, consider a pulley system that uses a bucket or basket on a rope to lift things into the treehouse. In fact, some things may be hard to carry up while climbing a ladder, so this can actually keep your kids safer since they won't be tempted to climb while holding something.
An Operable Drawbridge
The perfect accessory for a castle-themed treehouse, a drawbridge can be a little challenging to install and requires a good amount of vertical clearance that not all trees can provide. That being said, if your treehouse is near a hill or another structure, this is a great way to connect the structures while adding an extra imaginative element for young knights and princesses. You could even dig out a small moat below to enhance the experience even more.
Bells and Whistles
If you want a treehouse with all kinds of bells and whistles, consider adding literal bells or whistles — after all, kids love noise. A dinner bell is a classic treehouse addition that can be strung all the way to the ground so mom and dad can announce dinner without climbing up, and the children can use it from the top of the treehouse too. A dinner bell is a great way for young sailors to issue warnings on their ship, for an adolescent teacher to alert her students that class has begun and for imaginary firefighters to warn each other about a dangerous blaze.
Wind chimes are another delightful addition to treehouses, taking advantage of the wind blowing through the boughs in order to create beautiful music. A great thing about wind chimes is the wide variety of options since they come in so many shapes, sizes and materials.
You might also consider adding a steam whistle, especially if your child is into trains. Be aware that you'll need to hook up the whistle to a compressed air tank that will periodically need to be refilled.
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Jill Harness is a blogger with experience covering architecture, design and decor trends from around the globe. As she lives in what would politely be called a "fixer upper," she is particularly interested in writing about DIY projects and repairs. Most of her home design writing can be found at www.homesandhues.com. You can find out more about Jill's experience and learn how to contact her through her website, www.jillharness.com.