There seems to be a common theme with families in my classes at the moment. We are in the middle of winter, you’ve already spent some time in the park but it gets cold and wet after an hour, and back home the kids start climbing the walls (mostly figuratively, but sometimes literally).
First it’s important to understand that your child is not deliberately trying to wind you up. Exploration and climbing are important for young children. This trying period often comes once a child is able to walk well and they want to physically challenge themselves.
Have you heard the term “maximum effort”? They need to work their bodies to their limits. You’ll find them carrying heavy objects, your heavy bag, needing to move furniture etc.
What to do?
When they start climbing on the table for the 10th time in 10 minutes, take a deep breath and try some of these ideas that I came up with two mums this morning in class (thanks Doreen and Stephanie for the inspiration!):
- Tell them what you want them to do – “Keep your feet on the floor” instead of “Don’t climb on the table”.
- Write a note – make a sign on the table with a picture of someone climbing and a red circle with a line through it. You can point to the sign and say, “it says no climbing”. Then it’s the sign, not you, having to tell them to stop.
- Set up an obstacle course – collect pillows, blankets, make tunnels, slides, pillow towers etc. Get creative.
- Set up a safe space – I love how Janet Lansbury calls these “yes” spaces. I’m all about the child being able to explore freely in all areas of the house. But it is also important for both your child and yourself to have one area of the home where they can explore freely without limitations.This can be useful when you need to use the bathroom, feed the baby, or just take a 5 minute breather. I’d make most things at your child’s height safe for them to touch. Or move things out of reach. Or move something to block their access to a television, glass cabinet or easy to open drawers that are proving too tempting.
- Let them climb all the stairs – in Amsterdam we are not short of stairs. Use this to your advantage and have them climb the stairs to the 3rd floor to work off some of their energy.
- Get them to move heavy things from room to room – get them to help you collect things from around the house for the obstacle course. Then get them to help put them back at the end. Get them to help carry the shopping, move cans from one place to another, fill a small suitcase for them to carry from place to place etc.I once watched a video of a Japanese Montessori school where the children would carry potatoes in a wire basket on their back across the field to use “maximum effort”.
- Make a climbing wall or a climbing frame. The climbing wall in our classroom has been great. You can see every muscle of their body at work. If you are handy, making one for at home is definitely an option! I’d still love to make a Pikler triangle for our class too. I love Ananda Montessori’s new one here.
- Get them to run up and down the hall or around the living room while you count for them.
- Set up a throwing game – small bean bags can be thrown in a hoop, or you can use soft balls in the house if the environment allows.
- Have a pillow fight OR do rough and tumble games OR put some mattresses on the floor where they can jump – think of games with lots of movement where they can use their energy in a safe way.
What are your favourite things to do with energetic toddlers who love to climb? I’d love to hear.