As soon as Laura Lytle’s son Luke turned about a year old, he began climbing on everything in her home. The local mother
of two had to hide all the barstools under her kitchen island to prevent a serious climbing injury. “Climbing on everything is an understatement,” Lytle said. “I cannot take my eyes off of him for a split second.”
All parents who have or have had toddlers can sympathize with Lytle, especially ones with active children. It can be physically and mentally exhausting to keep up with your climbing child. However, the good news is that climbing coincides with other key milestones, such as walking, cruising and pulling to stand, and it’s an impressive feat for your tyke.
“Toddlers climb because they can,” according to a report by Baby Sparks. “But it also helps to support important skills, like sensory-motor ones (balance, coordination, stretching and flexibility). Pulling with the arms and pushing with the legs strengthens large muscles, and climbing increases bilateral coordination.”
Climbing also helps fine tune motor skills, like grasping and gripping. It also strengthens cognitive skills related to problem- solving, having spatial awareness and navigating environments, per Baby Sparks.
While it can be good for your toddler, it can still take minutes off a parent’s life or anyone who worries about a child’s safety. Parents should be aware that trying to actively stop toddlers from climbing likely won’t work. What’s worse? It may even encourage the behavior. Children want to move, and they want to do it all the time. Make sure you are giving your child time in safe and open spaces, like indoor or outdoor playgrounds, where they can explore, climb and burn energy under active supervision.
However, you can’t always be on the playground. For some ages and personality types, redirecting a child’s behavior to a safer behavior may do the trick, according to Maureen Ryan from VeryWell Family. Constructing safe spaces in your home, like setting up cushions or purchasing soft stairs, may work well.
For local mom Devin Taylor, purchasing a climbing triangle for her 18-month-old son has greatly helped. Developed by teachings from Montessori Scholar Dr. Emmi Pikler, the Pikler triangle “focuses on building freedom of motion, forging independent activity, and allowing children to increase their motor development skills starting from an early age in a safe manner,” according to the manufacturers of The Montessori Climber.
Taylor purchased a more affordable version of the triangle that has helped her son explore while reassuring her that he will be safe.
“It’s very basic, but he climbs up and down and will sit astride it on top. Will sit under it. And the three sides have slightly different spaced-out bars for different skill levels,” Taylor said. “You can even turn it on its side, and he can climb in and out that way. It doesn’t exactly stop him from trying to climb things he shouldn’t, but it’s a good deterrent, and I know climbing is great for their motor skills and building muscle. It was a helpful investment, in my opinion.”
Parents should also be aware to safeguard high-risk areas in the home once their child becomes a climber. Bed safety is paramount, so if your child has begun to climb out of the crib, it may be time to transition them to a toddler bed. Move furniture away from windows and remove dangerous or breakable items off shelves.
“Always secure heavy furniture, such as bureaus and bookcases, to the wall using inexpensive, easy-to-install anchors (sold at hardware and home improvement stores). If your TV is not already wall-mounted, you can strap it down too. Young children can be severely injured or even killed if a television set falls on them,” said Ryan from VeryWell Family.
Just like every stage of childhood, this too shall pass. Soon enough, your toddlers will grow tired of climbing all over everything and find one more thing to make you worry!