My toddler loves climbing. It’s by far her most favourite thing to do. Nothing comes even close. From the moment she wakes up in the morning, till she is finally ready to go to bed in the evenings, she wants to climb. ALL.THE.TIME. She started climbing even before she learned how to walk properly.
At first, I was feeling excited and extremely proud of my little girl. Another milestone. You know that feeling, don’t you? When your baby surprises you every day with new skills that she’s mastered. But these feelings didn’t last too long. Anxiety over this behaviour soon replaced the joy.
The life with a climbing toddler
It’s been about five months of her climbing on top of tables, chairs, high chair, sofa, even kitchen tops and us pulling her down and saying no. We try to find other distractions and explain to her that it’s really not safe for her to sit and play on top of the kitchen counter, which she can climb on from the adjoining sofa. But very often our talk and reasoning with her go to no avail.
Which only leads to one thing and that is frustration on both sides, the parents and the toddler. For us, it’s the fear of any accidents and possible injuries. For the little one, it’s the frustration of not being able to explore and do what she wants fully.
Climbing is meant to be good for her balance, developing gross motor skills and gaining independence. This is all great but how do you let her climb freely when she doesn’t understand the risks involved? It’s a tough situation for parents of these little mountaineers.
The minute she finally understands the TV stand is not for climbing; she finds something else instead. There is just nothing that’s off limits to her. That girl sure has the willpower and determination and is not giving up.
When we are at our local playgroup, she is happy to play with the toys provided for about 10-15 minutes, before she discovers the chairs in the corner of the room and toy shelves she can climb on. Always a lot more interesting than sitting in the middle of the room with the rest of the kids and play with the toys. At the end of each session, we all sit in a circle, sing songs and kids have some snacks. But the idea of sitting still doesn’t sit well with my daughter either. She tries to grab other kids’ bowls and beakers, so I’m constantly pulling her away from other kids’ stuff.
We’ve also recently started taking her to a soft play which one of my mummy friends recommended to me. And the little one loves it. There are three different play area sections; 0-2 years, 2-5 years and 5-12 years. Guess which one is my daughter’s favourite? Yes, that’s right. It’s the big kids’ zone. She’s not even slightly interested in the baby’s area. When she can climb all the way to the top of the big zone, she is right in her element.
Encouraging climbing in a toddler safe environment
There are ways you can encourage your climbing toddler, instead of just trying to stop this often annoying behaviour. As I said, we tried to discourage her from climbing anything and everything, but that always resulted in discovering new objects and possibilities for climbing.
So, I think, at the moment we just have to accept it and learn of some safe ways to help her meet her needs.
The soft play centre I mentioned works perfectly for burning that energy our toddler has. However, we know the best time to go there is during the week when the ‘big’ kids are at school. That way she has enough space to run around without the risk of being knocked down by older kids. In the end, she is still tiny comparing to them, so we always have to stay close and keep an eye on her.
Most outdoor playgrounds also have some climbing facilities that are relatively safe for a toddler. Although your little one still has to be supervised when using them. I take her to playgrounds whenever the weather permits and let her take the lead instead of directing her towards swings, slides or anything else mummy thinks she should be spending her time on.
Another option is to slightly rearrange your indoor home environment. If possible, temporarily move away to another room any furniture your toddler loves to climb. We had to rearrange our living room a bit, like removing some extra chairs, to limit the hazards for our curious toddler.
I would love to get her some toddler climbing equipment, but space is limited, so that’s not an option. And as we don’t have a garden, keeping it outdoor is also not an option. While I think that living in a single storey flat with a baby has some great benefits, accommodating your toddler’s desire to climb would be slightly easier in a house with an outdoor space.
If you live in a flat like ourselves, maybe there is a hallway and communal area with stairs. Let your toddler climb those stairs sometimes. With your supervision of course. As long as it doesn’t annoy any of your neighbours, I don’t see why not. We can’t get her any climbing equipment inside the flat, so stairs are good enough substitute.
These are just some of the ways you can encourage your toddler to climb in a safe environment. Safety is the most important thing. Getting outdoors as much as you possibly can help your child stay active, burn off that excess energy and safely express her independence.
That’s the plan for now. Until she is mature enough to understand where it’s safe and appropriate for her to climb, we’ll just carry on keeping her busy and fill her days with different activities.
Do you have a little climber at home? How do you cope? I would love to know.