Finding a toy to harness your little climber's natural tendencies takes some thought.

Climbing Structures for Toddlers

by Sharon Perkins

If you're tired of pulling your toddler off the cabinets or trying to keep him from swinging from the chandeliers, a climbing structure may help keep him off the furniture. Climbing toys for toddlers come in sizes from small to gigantic; the amount of space you have available as well as the safety of any potential climbing apparatus should be your top concerns before you go shopping.

Commercial Climbing Equipment

You can find play structures built for climbing that take up no more than a corner of your living room or equipment that fits only in a big backyard. When you're buying for a toddler, consider whether you're buying something he can use for the next year or two, like a small toddler-sized wooden or plastic slide with just a few steps, or whether you want something that will last until he graduates from middle school. Large soft foam blocks covered with durable plastic allow your toddler to create his own structure to conquer. Plastic tubes that lock together to form a climbing dome can also keep your climber busy. A large customizable playscape can contain ladders or climbing structures for toddlers that you can remove later to make room for forts or overhead ladders to swing from.

Creating Your Own Climbing Structures

You don't have to buy expensive structures; a strategically placed pile of tires spray-painted in bright colors or even a few bales of hay can provide hours of climb time for toddlers. You can also pile couch cushions on the floor and let your toddler climb all over them, the Family Education website suggests. Simply put them back on when you have company or need to sit down yourself.


Anything your toddler can climb on -- even approved play equipment -- can present risks. Around 200,000 kids visit the emergency room each year after playground accidents, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reports. Around 70 percent of incidents occur as a result of falls from equipment, according to Clemson University. Check structures for open hardware or sharp metal edges, which can cause scratches, cuts or punctures. Measure the distances between rails or other openings; spaces should be greater than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches to prevent entrapment, the CPSC recommends. Don't buy equipment too advanced for your toddler to use now, hoping he'll grow into it.

Setting Up an Area

If you're setting up a climbing structure outside, put down a soft surface, such as wood chips, mulch, shredded rubber, sand or pea gravel. Put down a 9-inch layer, the CPSC suggests. If you're setting up an area in the house, keep the equipment away from the walls and away from lamp cords, appliances or other objects that could present a tripping or choking hazard. A toddler needs constant supervision even on commercially-manufactured play equipment.

About the Author

A registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology, Sharon Perkins has also coauthored and edited numerous health books for the Wiley "Dummies" series. Perkins also has extensive experience working in home health with medically fragile pediatric patients.

Photo Credits

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