What happens when my child starts climbing?

So you’ve got to walk before you run, and (usually) crawl before you walk, but what does folk wisdom say should be your warning sign before Baby starts climbing up the sides of buildings? In fact, your little mountain climber may not give you much warning before they hit a phase when everything they see looks like something to clamber on top of so they can start looking for even higher peaks. If your house has stairs, a sudden interest in scaling those might be a tip-off that Baby will be looking for new climbing frontiers soon, but it could also be something as simple as Baby learning to climb up onto the couch next to you on their own, or seeing something on a table too high for them to reach and thinking I could get up there.

Climbing isn’t one of those phases that every child has, and when it does happen, it’s definitely a mixed bag. On one hand, it’s both a sign of growing strength and coordination and a way for Baby to get even stronger, and to work on their spatial awareness and problem-solving. On the other hand though, climbing is both potentially dangerous, and usually not all that socially acceptable. What’s fine on a jungle-gym or, when children are a little older, a particularly welcoming-looking tree, is a lot less accepted in your living room, or, worse, someone else’s. Still, it’s a phase that’s hard to halt once it’s started, so once it does, what’s next?

Pick a plan and stick to it

Like so much of dealing with a toddler, consistency is key. What matters less than whether you decide that climbing is out entirely, can only happen outside, can only happen in your own home, or can only happen with your supervision, is that once you decide which of those it’s going to be, you stick with it. Toddlers are just starting to reach the age where they can understand rules and instructions (whether or not they choose to follow them is a totally different issue), but when rules aren’t consistently enforced, it can confuse them, or teach them that rules don’t really matter.

Prepare to be ignored

Rules and boundaries are a key part of Baby’s development, and sometimes they don’t make a bit of difference, so make sure that every piece of your big or climbable furniture is well-secured, even if you expect to be supervising them any time they are in a given room. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how often you’ve explained that bookcases aren’t for climbing – all it takes is ten seconds with your back turned for Baby to go scurrying off in that direction. Heavy or glass objects on shelves that might be climbed into, onto, or near enough to reach are also dangers to avoid. Securing drawers and oven doors with a child-lock ensures that they can’t be pulled out and used as steps, and pushing chairs all the way under the table means you at least have the warning of Baby pulling them out again before they use them to climb onto the table.

Provide an alternative

Climbing is just one outlet for an active child, and climbing inside your home or in unsafe outdoor areas are just two locations for it. If Baby is getting enough exercise and active outdoor play to tire them out from right on the ground, they may just have a lot less interest in the intricacies of climbing afterwards. If they have the well-supervised opportunity to find out exactly how much more fun climbing on a good jungle-gym is than the cabinets in the kitchen, those cupboard-doors may start to lose some of their appeal.

Be an educator

Baby may be doing just fine at teaching themself how to climb up on their own, but they may still need a helping hand figuring out how to get themself down safely, or learning the right way to fall so that they protect their head. If Baby is determined to climb, you can help make sure they do so safely.

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