How to Deal With a Climbing Toddler

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Guest blogger Felicity Cook from Family Chiropractic Centre Charlestown describes strategies to deal with young kids that climb benches, bookcases or even the back fence!

Have you got a monkey child? Are you the parent of a child who loves testing out their newly found gross motor skills by climbing the benches, bookcases or even the back fence? Are you frazzled from trying to stop them and fearful of what might happen if you don’t catch them in time? Well the good news is you’re not alone and today I am going to cover 5 top tips on how to manage the toddler who is training to be a tree climber.

The Royal Children’s Hospital’s Safety Centre has identified that falls in kids under 5 most commonly occur from furniture or down stairs. Therefore it is important for both parent and child to have stress free strategies to deal with climbers before injury occurs.

Little Angus is the inspiration for this post. I had first seen Angus because the birth had left him with a bit of a funny shaped head. It wasn’t long before he was growing into an adventurous chubby cheeked toddler, doing as toddlers do and testing the boundaries. Unfortunately for his Mum Janet that included climbing. His most recent visit to my practice was because he had tried to take on a chest of draws…and come off second best. There were bruises, lost sleep, a trip to the hospital and lots of worry for Mum and Dad. The good thing is there many things that can be done to discourage even the cleverest of climbers.

  1. Although you can’t remove every climbable object from your environment don’t forget the basics, no matter how competent you feel your child is. For example keep easy to climb furniture away from windows, keep chairs tucked under the table, drawers closed, avoid baby walkers, guard sharp edges of tables and if your child can climb out of a cot consider leaving the sides down.
  2. Have times and places where climbing is allowed. Find local parks or play centres with interesting play equipment that age appropriately challenges your climber. This can be a great way to channel their energy AND preserve yours. It also avoids climbing becoming a forbidden act that toddlers use to challenge you with later on.
  3. Be mindful of your response or reaction to their climbing. While it can be dangerous, injury inducing and heartstopping to see your child climbing- the way we react to it is important. This helps limit the chances of climbing becoming an attention seeking behaviour in future.
  4. If climbing is just another outlet for a child who is very active look for ways alternative ways to divert their attention or to tire them out. There are some great kids activity programs out there that can harness that energy, challenge their inner dare devil and take some of the pressure off you.
  5. It is an important stage in the development of gross motor skill and co-ordination so if your child wants to test out these new found skills look at safer ways of engaging them. This can include supervised stair climbing, providing a step up so they can see what is happening at the kitchen bench when preparing food or play climbing games where there are plenty of soft landing spaces such as pillows available.

Testing and exploration are just part of the job description for toddlers. And as scary as they can be, so are falls, bumps and bruises. That’s why health professionals like me are there to help. Though the best part about climbing is that it is something your child will grow out of.

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