The fact that it’s a scary hobby for a parent to watch means that if Baby has got the climbing bug, you might find that your new full-time hobby is trying to intercept him before he has the chance to climb the stairs, your bed, the kitchen table, or the back of the sofa.
This habit can easily start to feel out of control, but it’s a normal part of many toddlers’ physical and intellectual development. The toddler period is an active time, and also a time that’s full of a lot of curiosity. Toddlers also tend to love showing off their new skills, and pushing their own limits. Climbing is an activity that can give them the chance to exercise all of these interests.
It’s more than just natural, though – giving your little one the chance to try out his climbing skills is a great way for him to work on his gross motor abilities, and can be a positive part of good physical and mental health.
As a rule of thumb, muscles that aren’t being used won’t continue to develop, so giving your little one the chance to use theirs is also giving him an opportunity to grow.
Climbing strengthens a toddler’s gross motor skills – the movement of the large muscles in the body like the legs and arms. Action is one of the most important factors in developing endurance, strength, muscle tone, balance, and coordination.
Helping your toddler build strong bones at this point in his life will have a long-term effect on his life. Weight-bearing activities like climbing are a great way to encourage bone health. Strong, growing bone responds well to being tested by physical activity. Climbing makes the bones stronger by encouraging a higher bone mass – which will help in lowering the risk of fractures or osteoporosis.
For toddlers, it’s really not the number or type of physical activities they do that matters. Instead, it’s about forming positive habits around physical activities, and building good memories around being physically active.
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least an hour or two of physical activity per day for toddlers. This activity doesn’t even have to be continuous, and can be spread throughout the day.
Physically and mentally challenging activities like climbing can help to encourage healthy sleeping patterns by lowering daily stress levels (yes, toddlers do get stressed out) and by making them tired. When the adrenaline wears off, your little one will be dozing off in no time.
Climbing is a great way for toddlers to put their growing problem-solving skills to practical use, to build their memories, and just generally to use their brains while they’re doing physical activity at the same time.
Climbing is a fun and beneficial activity for your child, although it’s important that climbing is done safely – supervised by a parent or guardian, and in a stable area that’s within his ability.
- Jeffrey M. Halperin, Dione M. Healey. “The influences of environmental enrichment, cognitive enhancement, and physical exercise on brain development: can we alter the developmental trajectory of ADHD?” Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Review. 35(3): 621-634. August 2010. Retrieved January 30 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3008505/.
- Alex Ireland, et al. “Motor competence in early childhood is positively associated with bone strength on late adolescence.” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 31(5): 1089-1098. May 2016. Retrieved January 30 2018. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/jbmr.2775/full.
- “Active healthy living: Prevention of childhood obesity through increased physical activity.” Pediatrics. 117(5). May 2006. Retrieved January 30 2018. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/117/5/1834.
- “Childhood obesity.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, January 25 2017. Retrieved January 30 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/healthyschools/obesity/facts.htm.
- “Facts and figures on childhood obesity.” World Health Organization. World Health Organization, October 13 2017. Retrieved January 30 2018. http://www.who.int/end-childhood-obesity/facts/en/.
- “Toddler – physical activity.” American Academy of Pediatrics. American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved January 30 2018. https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/HALF-Implementation-Guide/Age-Specific-Content/Pages/Toddler-Physical-Activity.aspx.