toddlers climb

Is The Pikler Triangle Safe?

The Pikler Triangle was developed over 100 years ago by Hungarian pediatrician, Dr Emmi Pikler and it’s stuck around and hasn’t really changed that much. To put simply, it’s a wooden climbing frame. While traditional outdoor playgrounds and climbing equipment are targeted towards the older child with already developed gross motor skills, the Pikler Triangle is especially suitable for smaller children whose coordination and motor skills are still evolving. Thus, it can be used for children as young as six months to even 4-5 years old. Since it’s easy to assemble and carry, the Pikler Triangle can be used both indoors and outdoors.

Traditional toys and parenting thoughts would encourage parents to help children with using toys and climbing on them well before they are capable of climbing onto it themselves since their own coordination and motor skills do not allow it yet. Although the parents’ desire to see the child in a fun mood and the playful game is understandable, this practice inhibits the child’s development, as the child is unable to experience the limits of his or her physical abilities and develop at his or her own pace by shifting boundaries. As a child learns to walk, the child will drop more at first, but through effort and learning about his or her body, the child will develop balance and coordination, and falls are less and less frequent.

This is where the Pikler triangle comes in to help, that allows the child to learn about his or her body and boundaries at their own pace and in a way that doesn’t make parents worry. Compared to the outdoor playgrounds, which due to their height are dangerous and unsuitable for young children, the Pikler triangle is only 76 cm high, and the child can climb as high as his abilities allow.

For this reason, it is not necessary to adjust the height of the triangle as the child grows – toddlers aged 6-8 months can use the triangle sticks to lift themselves, but 4-5-year-olds can already climb to the top of the triangle and develop themselves in a more demanding environment. The Pikler Triangle can be used for the hut, climbing tree, slide or anything else, and so the child will not get tired of the triangle so quickly, providing the joy of discovery for a longer period of time. But if the Pikler triangle is no longer exciting for the kid, he or she is ready to play on the bigger playgrounds. Check out our selection of products in our online shop – we have a wide selection of different colours!

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Why Do Toddlers Climb?

They climb because they can (or at least can try to). Kids start to gain greater control over their body movements at around 18 months of age.2 They realize they can throw that ball, run fast across the park, and pull themselves up onto furniture. It’s innocent at first: your toddler just wants to sit up on the couch like mommy and daddy. Once he finds the power in his body, though, your child may want to explore the boundaries just like he does with everything else. For some children, the inevitable knocks and understandable fear of those high places are enough to keep them from pushing the limits too far. These kids will probably be easily discouraged from climbing by a few firm reminders and demonstrations that chairs are for sitting and bookcases are not steps.

There is another personality type, though, that will not be stopped. For these toddlers and 2-year-olds, climbing is a thrill. They both want to flex their muscles and satisfy their curiosity about what’s up there on the top shelf. Toddlers with older siblings maybe even more determined climbers because they are trying to imitate the kids around them.

Godfather of Play. He advocated for play environments and researched play for over 50 years. He wrote extensively about climbing and why it is so integral for kids today.

Triangle is important for kids to explore their bodies. Children under the age of six years are still discovering their bodies, and they need to do that through games. A pikler triangle is a perfect toy for kids to learn how to play while exploring their bodies.

They will learn how to use their hands and feet as they explore their body. Unlike other toys that might be dangerous, a pikler toy will aid in child development and can be used anywhere.

toddlers climb

Motor Skills

With a pikler triangle, your child will develop their motor skills. When kids are growing, they need to know how to use their hands and fingers properly. Human beings are meant to work with their hands, and teaching children how to use their hands and fingers can be helpful.

Using the pikler triangle, your kids will be able to hold onto the toy as they perform different movements. With time they will improve their motor skills.

Free Movement and Free Play

Children under the age of six years are discovering themselves. At this stage, kids need to have free movement and free play. The house can be very restrictive because it does not have enough space.

You will realize that at this stage, most kids end up climbing on furniture in the house because they want free movement and free play. The best way to go about it is to get a pikler triangle that will allow free play.

Physical Strength

Toddlers can be very energetic. At times they need an outlet for all the energy. With growing rates of child obesity, kids need to have a physical outlet.

A pikler triangle for kids is the right outlet for physical strength. The pikler will offer a place where kids can strengthen their physical muscles and also become agile.

Fun: “Children climb for fun,” says Dr. Frost. They climb to explore, to compete, to tap into their imagination and play make-believe, to chase their friends, and so much more.

Development: “All healthy children are born to climb,” says Dr. Frost. “Soon after birth, children employ built-in natural instincts to seek, see, explore, touch, and move objects and build mental and physical capabilities leading to initial climbing skills.” It’s in their nature. Climbing behaviour follows normal developmental processes.

Learning: “Children are wired to learn and learning by climbing carries benefits in skill development, health, fitness, and injury prevention.” Children often climb to explore and gain new perspectives.

Adrenaline: Healthy development requires that children have many opportunities to take risks. Young children love to push the boundaries of what they should do, and climbing is another way for them to experience a “sense of danger,” says Dr. Frost.

I don’t want to watch my kids fall! 

It is nerve-wracking watching your child take risks and test their physical limits. However, psychologist Peter Gray, leading expert on risky play, suggests the benefits to the child are so immeasurable, that our parenting boundaries are actually impacting negatively on their mental health.  

“The story is both ironic and tragic,” Gray writes. “We deprive children of free, risky play, ostensibly to protect them from danger, but in the process, we set them up for mental breakdowns. Children are designed by nature to teach themselves emotional resilience by playing in risky, emotion-inducing ways. In the long run, we endanger them far more by preventing such play than by allowing it.

In the “old days” kids had much more freedom. Generally, their communities, streets and social environment were much safer – so they could climb a tree and scrape a knee without intervention.

As parents, the instinct is to intervene and either prevent or “help.” Professional advice is to do neither, stay close and observe.

Helping contrarily can endanger the child, as it enables them to get higher than their natural ability would usually allow. This is the case on a tree, on a bed, in a playground. They are then often ‘stuck,’ and need yet more help to return to the ground or keeping going. It sends the message that they must rely on you, the parent.

This is not a suggestion you ignore cries for help! Always respond but be mindful, be observant. If you need to intervene, try doing so verbally before you do so physically. Magda Gerber wrote in, Dear Parent: Caring for Infants With Respect, Rather than give the message, “When you are in trouble, you scream, and I rescue you,” we would like to convey the feeling, “I think you can handle it, but if not, I am here.” 

Spend as much time as allowed in the outdoors – in better days that is parks and playgrounds but on rocks, in trees, on logs. Then consider your indoor space – is your sofa the sacrifice? Or could you create an invitation to climb inside?

This can be especially important and helpful if you live in a small home and don’t have easy access to a yard, or if you live in climates that make outdoor play prohibitive at times.

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Toys Recommended for a Safe-Play Environment

In terms of play objects to have in the space, Gerber taught that passive toys make for active babies. When a toy lights up and makes sounds, the child doesn’t have to do much to play with it, but when a play object is open-ended (aka passive), the child uses his imagination to activate it. Keep in mind that some play objects might not be obvious to adults. Solomon, for example, had a basket of caps from glass milk bottles in a class. “One toddler picked up two of them, put one on each ear, and was wandering around the room for twenty minutes pretending they were a headset and he was Buzz Lightyear,” she says. “When he was done with them, another child picked one up, and she used it as a cup, pretending to drink. That’s what I mean about the toys being open-ended.”

For 2- to 3-month-olds, the first plaything in their hands. After they’ve discovered their hands, infants are ready for soft play objects, such as a soft cotton napkin, a little silicone bowl, a softball, and other soft objects that are easy to grasp and not too heavy, as the child is still integrating her reflexes and might accidentally hit herself with the object.

As the child gets older, more objects should be introduced into the environment. “Some of them might be soft, some might be a little more firm, but then there are also things in the child’s environment that don’t change shape or properties if that makes sense,” Myers says. “So you might have little silicone bowls, but then you would also maybe have a little wooden pinch bowl, or maybe a little metal condiment bowl. You would have objects that repeat on the same concept but are different materials and have different properties so the child can see how their actions change or don’t change with materials.”

Myers suggests some materials stay the same as the child gets older because he’ll play with them in an increasingly sophisticated way, while also introducing new, more advanced objects.

recommends play objects have a balance between dramatic play (dolls and items that can be used for dress-up), fine motor skills (baskets and bags into which objects can be sorted), and gross motor skills (things that are safe for toddlers to climb on). 

Setting up the Area for a Safe-Play Environment

The most important aspect of a safe play environment is it needs to be gated off in some way, according to Myers. “In order to make a space one-hundred-per cent safe, [it needs] to have a way that you can close it off from the rest of the environment, but know that your child can be safe in that space and not risk coming out of it when you aren’t expecting,” she says. A pack and play is enough space for an infant until she begins rolling over and needing more space for movement, while a “fenced in” area of a family room or a separate room with baby gates will work for crawlers and toddlers.

“Over the years, I’ve found that parents are sometimes resistant to this because they don’t like the look of gates or they feel like it’s imprisoning their child,” Solomon says. She recalls a time a friend called for advice. “Her son was always at her feet crawling after her, and she said, ‘I’m afraid I’m going to step on him. I give him the run of the whole house, why does he always have to be with me?’,” Solomon says. She replied that the whole house was overwhelming to the child, and he didn’t feel secure. She advised her friend to put up a gate or corral, put a few toys in the enclosed area, and spend some time with the child in the enclosure to endear him to space. “And so she did, and it made a big difference for both of them. Some parents don’t understand that what looks like a prison to us, to the child provides a sense of security,” Solomon says.

Dr. Herwitz adds that ideally, the enclosed space should be in an area where the child can hear and see what’s going on around her, so she doesn’t feel isolated from the rest of the house, and where the parent can easily hear and see what’s going on with the child.

The enclosed area should also be clean, there shouldn’t be furniture the child can climb or standing lamps that could fall over, and if there are low shelves in the area that they are bolted to the wall. Solomon also suggests parents crawl around on the ground to look at the space from the child’s point of view to see if there is any potential danger.

toddlers climb

Benefits of Children Playing in a “Yes” Space

Having a safe play environment in the home gives children unfettered playtime, which has numerous developmental benefits.

It gives a child time to explore the world on her own, says Johanna Herwitz, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist, RIE® Mentor, Pikler-trained specialist, and founder of Mindful Parenting New York City. “The child gets to have a physical [and] a mental space to do her own thing, and she can play with whatever she wants to,” Dr. Herwitz says. “She gets to make choices, and she gets to follow her own interests.”

Infants learn through their senses, Myers adds. So having the space to explore freely—to touch things with their hands, move their bodies, and mouth toys that are safe—allows their development to naturally progress as fully as possible.

A child will start to develop the ability to focus. Playing without interruption “supports the child to develop a long attention span,” Solomon says. “If a baby or toddler is frequently being interrupted, they don’t have opportunities to focus in on something for long periods of time.”

It helps the child build self-confidence. By having a “yes” space, the parent begins to develop basic trust in the child’s abilities to solve problems, be interested, and learn, which gives the child space to do those things. And that’s how the child develops self-confidence, according to Dr. Herwitz.

“Playing really helps a child learn how to solve problems, how to be tenacious, how to overcome challenges,” Solomon adds. “When things are difficult, they keep on going and see if they can figure it out. And all of those skills are going to be useful to them when they go to school.”

A child is more likely to cooperate outside of the “yes” space. When a child is given room to do the things he wants to within reason and make his own decisions, his autonomy is satisfied. “I think that when that autonomy is satisfied, then the child is more likely to cooperate and to go along with things that may or may not be his first choice,” Dr. Herwitz says.

A “yes” space also benefits parents: It allows them to relax knowing they can use the bathroom, answer the door, or make a meal without worrying about the safety of their child. “I find that when I’m with children, and we’re in a safe space, and I’m observing them or just being with them, it feels so much more comfortable for me than if a child is in a space where the outlet isn’t covered or if there’s something on the table [they shouldn’t play with]…my attention is [on] thinking about those things, [so] that I can’t fully enjoy being with a baby like I can in a safe space,” Myers says

Keeping Young Climbers Safe

Of course all the accepting and distracting in the world won’t stop you from jumping in fear every time you spot your toddler teetering off the edge of a window sill or hanging from the chandelier. Knowing, though, that you’re not going to be able to stop the climbing, you might concentrate on creating a safe-as-possible environment for little ones who will (inevitably) fall.

One area to pay special attention to is crib safety.4 It usually doesn’t take too long for climbers to learn how to scale the crib’s sides. Some parents might try to keep a toddler safe in a crib by using a crib tent. Others see it as a sign that it’s time to transition a toddler to a bed.

If you choose to keep your child in a crib, it might be best to make it as easy and safe as possible for a toddler to get out. Instead of taking the risk that your toddler will get hurt dropping out of the crib from a high point, you might place a secure piece of furniture close to the crib that your toddler can climb out onto and from which he can easily lower himself onto the floor. Experts recommend not using pillows around the crib to cushion a toddler’s fall since these can easily move and leave your toddler vulnerable to potential injury.4 

Beyond the nursery, look around the areas where your toddler usually plays and see how you can make the environment safer by taking steps such as:

Placing a toddler-friendly step stool near bookshelves or by other areas that he can’t reach (and where you don’t mind him grabbing things off the shelf).

Pack away trinkets, knickknacks and other items that are magnets for curious toddlers (it’s temporary; you should be able to put them back out by the time your child hits preschool).

Move furniture away from the windows and be sure that all windows are properly secured to prevent falls.

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.

One last thing to keep in mind is that climbing is one of those phases that toddlers will pass through. Any stress you feel now, remember that it will not be forever. Your toddler will outgrow the desire to climb on everything just as she discovers something new that is likely to make you feel just as concerned.

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