Parents are really very good at meeting their children’s needs on little more than pure instinct. We just know that toddlers need to be read or told stories, share in song with us, and run in circles around any stationary object. All these help the brain develop and grow. Learning is done with play. Yet, there is one activity that tots adore, but that most parents won’t tolerate—climbing.
When a little kid who just recently learned to walk starts climbing out of the crib, a play yard, a high chair, or over a fence, we panic. Parents are at once psychically transported to a mythical emergency room. We see our baby bent, dented, and broken because we allowed her to climb. What kind of parents are we, anyway?
We can’t parent from fear. We must instead be child-raisers with knowledge, skill, and more than a little courage. Our final duty, after all, is not only to protect but to prepare our child to live successfully in the world. So, if toddlers are driven to climb, there is probably a good reason. Their bodies know what their bodies know. Who are we to argue? There’s only one solution, we must make climbing safe for the little ones.
With the introduction of indoor climbing walls, the sport has gained millions of adult and teen fans. Now, if the weather is inclement, or there’s no time to head for the nearest rock face, we can step into a facility with all the latest equipment. We can spend an hour or so perfecting skills and getting into better shape. Well, your toddler would love the same convenience to have some great fun. For ultimate control and ease, why not build your tot a wall of his own right in your own home?
Where to build the gym?
Really, anywhere you have a bare wall, and floor space beneath can host a small climbing wall. You can even build one outdoors with the right preparation. Climbing walls have hand and foot holds that are fastened at staggered intervals. These holds should not be secured to the wall but to the plywood. A good-quality plywood sheet fastened securely on the wall’s studs will hold more securely yet leave little trace. You won’t want to fill 164 holes in the wall when it’s time to move. You can attach climbing walls to concrete, drywall, or bare wall studs. Most parents will probably decide to use an empty wall or corner in the child’s bedroom or playroom. It’s convenient, fits the décor better than in a living room, and is a constant temptation to burn energy.
What wood to use?
Ellie Farmer is called The Zen Monkey on Facebook and little wonder. Watch the two-year-old scoot up a rock-climbing wall as easily as most her age would crawl along the kitchen floor. Maybe Ellie’s strength training hanging from gymnastic rings help her upper body strength. Her parents are both competitive climbers so it may be in her genes. Mom and dad, Rachel and Zak Farmer, insist climbing was all Ellie’s idea. As we watch her grins and giggles, it’s easy to believe Ellie will be a Zen Monkey for life.
What are holds?
Duncan Xavier, a three-and-a-half-year-old Peruvian-German boy, certainly must count on his genetic roots. Both countries have lots of mountains and high elevations. Here he is in the mountains of Germany and Austria climbing the real thing; no rock walls for this preschooler! He’s on top of the world after this challenging climb.
Safety is first, as always
To calm your fears and face caution rationally, remember that the toddler’s climbing wall will likely be no farther from the floor than the top of a bunk bed. It will be a safer place to play, by far, that the nearest playground. When you have a tiny child, you’ll still need to provide a secure hand and a soft landing. Stay under your toddler while they climb. If you pay attention, it will be second-nature for you to grab her before she falls. You may want to place a gym mat on the floor once she is old and big enough to climb herself. Really, there is no need for a helmet or bubble wrap. If you think you may want to tackle this project, Atomik Climbing has a full set of instructions on how to build your wall as a professional would.