This can be quite the hot topic with playground mama’s and teachers alike, but I’m here to tell you that I let my kids climb up the slide, and YOU SHOULD TOO! I’m not crazy, I promise. Just stick with me here…
In my second or third year of teaching, we had a training from the Ooey Gooey Lady that truly changed my way of thinking. I was with you, playground mamas! Slides are for down, stairs are for up! But this has really stuck with me throughout all the years as a teacher, and now a mama. She talked about how climbing up slides were great for motor development. How it developed different muscle groups than going up the slide. After hearing that, I switched my thinking on slide climbing (I was teaching 4 year olds at the time). But in the last 10 years, I’ve learned a lot more about climbing up slides and playground ‘rules’ (or my lack of them).
K climbed up these stacked cubes with the big kids. We love playing with bigger kids so they can see new skills modeled! We also love playing with smaller kids so they can learn gentleness, how to be helpful, and so they can model new skills!
Here are a few reasons your playground rules should be kept to a minimum, and your kid should be allowed to climb up the slide:
- Climbing up the slide helps the child strengthen their arms, legs, and core strength.
- Flipping over from tummy to back to slide back down is a great gross motor skill.
- Climbing up the slide using one arm and one leg at the same time, and then alternating, is called a bilateral movement. Bilateral movement is used in occupational therapy to help improve coordination (something all toddlers need, lol!).
- Many playground activities create the conditions for kids to cross their midlines. Crossing the midline is when your limbs cross the middle line of your body. This shows core stability. It also helps the left and right hemispheres of the brain connect with one another, and helps connect the brain and the body to each other. That means that playing on the playground can actually help develop a child’s academics as well!
Image from ILS Learning Corner
- Children build strength from climbing, hanging, stretching, reaching, jumping, and other playground activities.
Joseph climbs this structure often, but still gets scared sometimes and asks for help. Since I know he can do it, instead of helping when he asks, I stand nearby and encourage him that he can do it. He always does!
- First, I think it’s important to mention that my kids climbing up the slide is not a free-for-all. It’s monitored. They’re taught to look up and see if someone is coming down (even at 2 years old). They know that the primary purpose of a slide is to go down, so if someone is going down, they need to either turn around and slide, or get off and let that child have a turn. They also learn through natural consequences (ie: getting kicked in the face or bumped into) what happens when they don’t use reason. This builds my toddler’s reasoning skills.
- This also creates the environment for my child to develop self-control and taking turns.
- Playgrounds are one of the only ‘safe’ environments for your child to develop courage, take risks, and be “dangerous”. So LET THEM. But teach them where and how it is ok to take these risks. It’s ok to have couch rules at home, while letting your child climb and jump off of things at the playground. It could actually help you at home– “That’s a playground activity, not an inside activity.”
- Kids have to work hard and not give up to develop new skills. This is a great life skill!
- Playgrounds allow kids to just be kids! In a world of high stakes testing, educational push-down, and rigor even in preschool, they need a time to just be kids. So back off (I see you, helicopter mommy!) and give your kid some freedom.What you can’t see here is that Kenzie is hanging by herself, while spinning on a rotating structure. We learned during our month at The Little Gym about developing their ability to hold and hang without assistance. This gal is fearless and strong!
Disclaimer: Daddies are a big help with letting go of our ‘dangerous’ playground fears. When I was gasping at every attempt to climb a seemingly too difficult structure, daddy encouraged them to do it and made me back off. Then I saw how capable my two year olds are, and learned to just let them be! 🙂
So what about you? Do you let your kid climb up the slide?