The first time you see your little attempt to climb a piece of furniture, you’ll probably find it adorable. You’ll call for your partner to drop what they’re doing and come to watch. You’ll probably pull out your phone to capture the cute, and likely funny, moment to playback in years to come.
That’s the first time. When they’ve grown more comfortable in their climbing abilities, it’s less cute and adorable when they’re climbing just about any surface they can - those tall shelves, a dining room chair onto the kitchen table (yes, really!), the TV unit, a windowsill, the storage box, the piano chair. Whatever they can find, they’ll climb.
Naturally, as a parent, you don’t want them to get hurt. After all, those items aren’t built for climbing and they pose a relatively high fall for a toddler. And yet, you also don’t want to restrict the growth and development of gross motor skills.
Parents are increasingly turning to toddler climbing toys to offer a safe way for their children to continue learning those skills. In this guide, we’ll explain exactly what a toddler climbing toy is, highlight some of the key considerations when buying one, and pick out 10 of our favourites for you.
The Benefits of Climbing for Toddlers
Gripped by the fear of your precious child hurting themselves, it’s really easy for parents to enforce a no-climbing rule. However, that’s incredibly unrealistic and may do more harm than good in the long-run. It’s important to understand why toddlers love to climb and why it’s so good for them.
It’s easy to think of climbing as a means to an end for a toddler. If they want to be like mum and dad, sitting upright on the sofa, how do they get there? They need to climb. If they want to be like a big brother or sister, sitting up at the table to eat their breakfast, what do they need to do? Climb.
It’s natural for toddlers to continue exploring their newfound skills, pushing the boundaries of what they’re able to do with their bodies. Learning to climb is also quite an important skill for toddlers to develop. It’s an incredibly effective way of building strength, balance, and flexibility as they develop their gross motor skills beyond basic movements.
A study conducted by the University of Florida in 2015 also found some remarkable mental benefits of climbing, too. Psychologists discovered that climbing, and dynamic activities like it, have a significant impact on the development of a child’s core executive functions like working memory, which is essential not just for the processing and storage of information, but for behavioural skills, as well.
What is a Toddler Climbing Toy?
Coming in all manner of shapes, sizes, colours and materials, toddler climbing toys are essentially small climbing frames or jungle gyms that encourage climbing indoors in a safe way. They typically range from the very simple to the multifunctional and extravagant.
Things to Consider When Buying a Toddler Climbing Toy
With so much variation between toddler climbing toys on the market, there are a number of important considerations to make as you look for the perfect fit.
Our 10 Favourite Toddler Climbing Toys
Now you know what to lookout for when searching for a toddler climbing toy, here are our 10 favourite choices on the market.
“The igloo shape means it’s brilliant for imaginative play and other activities. Some parents have placed the frame over a ball pit, or placed a few duvets over the top to make a den. It may lack obvious play features, but there’s plenty to do if you think of it as more than a climbing toy.”
The Eezy Peezy Monkey Bars Climbing Tower is a geometric igloo shaped climbing toy made from interlocking plastic tubes designed to create a more advanced climbing experience for older children. The double-lock spring system connecting the tubes gives it a strong and sturdy frame capable of holding more than a couple of older children. The tubes are given a UV protective coating, meaning it remains durable and resistant to fading in the sun if kept outside.
Key features: Interlocking tubes, double-lock spring system, UV protected plastic.
Dimensions: 178cm (L) x 178cm (W) x 118cm (H)
Age range: 3-8 years
Weight limit: 150lbs/68kg
Best for: Outdoor play
“The bright colours make this really appealing to little ones. And the way it folds away makes it really appealing to parents who don’t want a climbing toy to take up their entire living room all the time."
The Pikler triangle is a concept created by Hungarian paediatrician Dr. Emmi Pikler over 100 years ago. She believed children as young as six months should be allowed to explore the triangle on their own terms. This Pikler is a bright and colourful option from Driddle made using responsibly sourced sold beechwood. To keep the triangle firmly in place, it uses a wooden triangle plate and easy-screw mechanism, which also allows for easy folding.
Key features: Responsibly sourced beechwood, 15 bright and colourful rungs, screw-lock mechanism
Dimensions: 88.9cm (L) x 78.7cm (W) x 76.2cm (H)
Age range: Up to 6 years
Weight limit: 100lbs/45kg
Best for: Young climbers
“All three components can be combined to create one large climbing toy, or mixed up to offer different ways of playing. The multi-use ramp also offers new ways to play.”
This 3in1 Montessori climber consists of a Pikler triangle, a nine rung climbing arch and multi-use ramp made from a premium birch plywood offering plenty of strength. The ramp can be used as a slide or bridge on one side, or a rock climbing ramp on the other. The three pieces of apparatus can be linked to create a large climbing toy, used individually (arch and triangle only) or combined with the ramp for a two-station frame.
Key features: Multifunctional set up, 2in1 ramp, premium birch plywood
Dimensions: 278cm (L) 78.7cm (W) x 76.2cm (H) - These are the total dimensions when all three components are attached together
Age range: 6 months to 7 years
Weight limit: Not specified
Best for: Toddlers who like to be constantly challenged
“The slide and bright colours make the Step2 sports climber bags of fun, especially for younger children playing and exploring with friends.”
The Step2 sports climber is a bright and bold, plastic multi-game play gym centred around its slide. The step ladder helps to introduce the concept of taking alternate steps while climbing, and feature counting dots for each step. There is also a small basketball hoop and a crawl-through tunnel space, offering plenty of different ways to play. There is also a small, numbered dial to help keep score during games.
Key features: Smooth play slide, basketball hoop, easy-climb stairs, crawl-through space
Dimensions: 168cm (L) x 76.2cm (W)
Age range: 12 months to 6 years
Weight limit: Not specified
Best for: Playing with friends
“This climbing toy from Wedanta is perfect for the more adventurous and advanced young climbers who want to push the boundaries and develop their climbing skills.”
This large jungle gym from Wedanta is an adaptation of the Swedish wall (those large gymnastic wall bars you probably saw in the school gym) with seven different play areas. It includes three different colourful rung ladders, each with different sized gaps between the rungs, a rope net ladder, monkey bars, hanging gymnastic rings and a slide.
Key features: Four different ways to climb, monkey bars, gymnastic rings
Dimensions: 132cm (L) x 124cm (W) x 150cm (H)
Age range: 2 to 5 years
Weight limit: 110lbs/50kg (manufacturer recommends no more than two children at a time)
Best for: More advanced little climbers
This triangle climber from Wedanta is perfect for those little ones just starting out on their climbing journey. On one side it boasts a rope climbing grid, which give toddlers plenty of options when making their way to the summit. Waiting for them on the other side is a slide or a ramp with steps to help them descend back to the floor – perfect if you want your little ones to enjoy a small thrill at the conclusion of their climb!
Key features: 2-in-1 climber slide/ramp, incline of the kids slide and angle of stairs is adjustable to child’s activity needs.
Dimensions: (L) 97cm x (W) 64cm x (H) 97cm
Age range: 24 months to 6 years
Weight limit: 88 lbs
Best for: Those just starting their climbing adventures
"There’s so much on offer within one toy for relatively little outlay – climbing to playing in the ball pit, there’s something for everyone with this all-in-one climbing toy. "
This 3-in1 play set from Eezy Peezy has something for every toddler. From climbing apparatus and a slide, to a full on ball pit with 50 balls, there’s enough to entertain and challenge your little ones for hours. There’s even a toss target for the balls, which is great if you want to your children to hone their hand/eye coordination as well as their climbing skills.
Key features: Climbing frame, slide, ball pit, toss target, 50 balls
Dimensions: (L) 142cm x (W) 157cm x (H) 74cm
Age range: 1 to 3 years
Weight limit: 150 lbs
Best for: Toddlers with short attention spans
"It’s great for parents who are looking for their toddlers to develop multiple motor skills at once. So much more than a climbing toy."
This Wheels on the Bus climber adds a musical element to your child’s play. Not only can they climb up the front of the bus and slide off the back, but they can also spend time within the bus listening to nursery rhymes, using the horn, ignition, gear shifter, and the fold out school bus sign. So if you are keen on helping to develop your toddlers ABCs and 123s in addition to climbing play, this may be the toy for you.
Key features: Bus toy with a climbing frame and slide, range of musical accompaniments, working horn, fold out stop sign like a real school bus.Dimensions: (L) 39cm x (W) 90cm x (H) 61cm
Age range: 18 months to 5 years
Weight limit: 54 lbs
Best for: Young climbers who enjoy musical rides.
Another multifunctional climbing toy for toddlers that boasts a range of customisation options, this offering from Montessori is perhaps offers the most climbing variety of all the toys reviewed here. For the climbing side of the triangle you can choose from pirate, ninja, spider, bridge, just to name a few. There’s also choices when it comes to the slide (you can turn it into a chalkboard or a set of stairs if you prefer).
Key features: Huge customisation options, sleek birch plywood construction, can be expanded to add similar climbing toys from same range.
Dimensions: (L) 76cm x (W) 89cm x (H) 71cm
Age range: 3 years and above
Weight limit: 130 lbs
Best for: Slightly older toddlers moving onto their second or third climbing toy
"This climbing toy is brilliant if you don’t want your toddler to grow out of their toys too quickly. The incredible load bearing capabilities mean that you can even join in and use it as an adult!"
As the name suggests, this is a veritable sports gym for your toddler. Mounted on a wall surface rather than the floor, this is effectively a huge ladder that incorporates lots of other cool features. For instance, your toddler will have the benefit of a rope swing, rope ladder, wooden ladder, gym rings, and slide. There’s not much that this wall-mounted climbing toy doesn’t pack in!
Key features: Rope swing, ladder, slide, rope ladder, gym rings
Dimensions: (L) 65cm x (W) 80cm x (H) 221cm
Age range: 2 years and above
Weight limit: 286 lbsBest for: Older toddlers interested in taking their climbing skills up a notch
Toddler Climbing Toy FAQs
1. Why is Climbing Good for Toddlers?
Climbing play a vital role in the development of our children’s motor skills. Research conducted by Playcore found that climbing from an early age helps to hone spatial and directional awareness while boosting physical skills such as balance, hand/foot coordination and agility.
By negotiating varying inclines, platforms, and levels, children begin to develop their proprioception – the ability to sense one’s own body position within a given space.
2. What Age Do Toddlers Start Climbing?
Usually not long after they have learned to walk. This new ability inspires them to take on all kinds of new challenges and so it won’t be long before you see them trying to climb the stairs or reaching up to the coffee table.
Once your toddler is two, you will notice that they can climb up and down most furniture without your help, so you might need to invest in a more complex climbing toy to keep them challenged and motivated to explore new boundaries.
3. What Is a Good Age for Children to Start Rock Climbing?
Technically speaking, as soon as your toddler can walk, they can climb. However, it is advised that wait until between the ages of four and seven before introducing your child to more strenuous activities such as rock climbing.
Most climbing centres usually ask that children be least five years or older to attend. However, that is not based on their ability to climb, but rather their ability to follow instructions.
In the meantime, the above list of climbing toys will give your toddler plenty of practice before trying out the real thing (if they want to) later down the road.