Understanding Climbing Behaviour
The human brain is wired with an inborn teacher. Soon after children learn to walk, the developing brain urges toddlers and preschoolers to climb. Climbing develops the brain in a variety of ways. When children climb, both sides of the brain work together to tell the right hand and the left foot to move together and the left hand and the right foot to move together.
Climbing builds pathways in the brain that teach the muscles and brain to work together and especially how to use both sides of the body at the same time. When children climb, their eyes and brain work together to learn where to grab and hold, where to place knees and feet, important skills for developing spatial awareness skills.
Parenting Tip – Provide Appropriate Climbing Opportunities
If parents don’t want children to climb on furniture, where do parents want kids to climb? Choose a place indoors or outside where toddlers and preschoolers are allowed to climb. Encourage climbing fitness and offer climbing time as part of a child’s daily routine.
Use the following ideas as a starting point for providing adequate climbing time for toddlers and preschoolers:
- Small Hard Plastic Slide – Several manufacturers make small portable slides that can be used indoors or outdoors. Children can climb up the ladder and slide down over and over again.
- Outdoor Play Equipment – A variety of safe outdoor play equipment is available for preschoolers.
- Public Preschool Playgrounds – Check in your local area for public playgrounds that offer safe climbing equipment for preschoolers.
- Climbing Gyms – Some indoor climbing centres provide preschool play areas with low level climbing holds suitable for young children.
- Trees – Small sturdy trees can provide a place for kids to explore but make sure that the surface below the tree is dirt, mulch, or a comparable soft surface. Do not allow children to climb above concrete or hard paved surfaces.
Parenting Tip – Redirect Misbehaviour
When children climb in inappropriate places, instead of trying to stop the climbing, redirect children to a safe, appropriate place to climb. Discipline for climbing means teaching children where they can climb. Children learn through repetition and parents and caregivers may have to redirect children a number of times before children will remember where to climb. Redirection works best when adults stay calm and focus the child on where he can climb, instead of where he can’t climb.
What if My Child Still Climbs after Redirecting Misbehaviour?
If children are offered appropriate places to climb on a daily basis, are redirected for lengthy amounts of time, and still climb on in appropriate spaces, then children may be climbing to get the adult’s attention.
If you suspect that children are climbing to get your attention try some of the strategies below:
- Make sure the child has plenty of age appropriate toys and activities to meet his needs for learning through play and exploring his world.
- Spend focused time with a toddler or preschooler several times throughout the day doing age appropriate activities such as finger plays, reading short books, and cuddling.
- Create a few simple routines during the day for getting dressed, cleaning up toys, and spending focused time with the child.
- If the child has little interaction with other children, set up some play dates with sibling’s kids or visit a local playground to give the child opportunities to play with other children.
Children need plenty of social interaction for healthy development. If you suspect that your child climbs only to get your attention, make sure that your child’s needs for social interaction are being met both by you and by interacting with other children.
Not long after children learn to walk, they learn to climb. Climbing is a natural part of healthy physical development and optimal brain development. But when kids climb all over indoor furniture, many frustrated parents scold, punish, and yell in an attempt to get toddlers and preschoolers to stop climbing. Instead of trying to stop the climbing, parents will be more successful if they redirect climbing to appropriate spaces.