The Best Toys for Your Little Climber

Fun ways to advance your tot's motor skills.

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July 01, 2020

Photo By: Instagram: @lilyandriver/ @merezimmermann

Photo By: Instagram: @LillyandRiver

Safe Ways to Play

Your nutty little toddler has been climbing since he or she could lift their foot, but their tendency to climb sofas, gates, bookcases and playpens is driving you nuts. Many kids are natural climbers, and climbing can develop gross motor skills, problem-solving, balance, creativity and strength. Why not give your little climber something that’s structured and built to climb? Check out our list of creative, fun climbing toys and furniture for babies, toddlers and even older kids.

Pikler Arch

Etsy is a goldmine for climbing toys, especially of the Montessori variety. One thing we loved about this company, ClimbingFun, was that they featured pretty rainbow-colored arches, which are great for little tiny climbers like ours, who’s only 1 year old. While a Pikler triangle can be a little difficult for a 1-year-old to navigate, an arch is easier for him to perch at the top of, so he can rest there as king of the mountaintop. Learning to come down the other side of a Pikler arch is also a little easier than on a Pikler triangle, especially for a new toddler. We’ve witnessed our little one struggling to transition to the other side of the triangle, but he can climb down this arch with ease. This beautiful rainbow-patterned climbing arch is made of European beechwood, not pine, with a frame of Birch Plywood. It comes fully assembled, so you won’t have to break a sweat putting it together. When your climber is ready to hit the Pikler triangle and climb up a slide with holds, you can grab this set with all three.

BUY IT: Etsy, $165

Climbing Dome

This climbing dome is no joke; it’ll have the kids in your neighborhood peering over the fence to beg their parents to let them come over and play. At 4 feet 6 inches high and 9 feet wide (with larger options available), it’s almost playground-worthy! This dome grows with your kids. Before they can climb, it makes a fun “camping” dome or fort with a blanket over the top and a bunch of flashlights. As they get bigger, your kids can stand up underneath, reaching up to grab and hang from the dome like monkey bars, or pull themselves up and through the holes. Rock climbing holds get them seriously ready to boulder at the gym. Made of powder-coated steel and being UV resistant, the structure suits ages 3 to 10. Whether they’re scampering up and down and all around or have hooked their legs onto the dome and are dangling upside down using their abdominal muscles, the Lifetime Climbing Dome is a great way to give kids endless fun and exercise.

BUY IT: Lifetime, $240

Skyward Summit

Skyward Summit is the ultimate Everest for kids, featuring over 100 square feet of climbing area. Up to four kids can race each other to the top to see who can grab the flag first, traversing multiple climbing walls. This outdoor gym comes with climbing walls, climbing cargo nets and nine hand grips. The inside of the gym offers a shaded spot for play out of the sun. If that’s a bit too intense for your style, or if you haven’t got the space, try the Woodland Climber, a dialed-down structure featuring two climbing walls, a platform with base and sides, a slide, two steering wheels and a ladder.

BUY IT: Step2, $600

The Little Climber

Made for ages six months to 5 years, this Pikler triangle-styled climber receives perfect five-star scores from dozens of reviewers, and for good reason, since it’s high-quality, beautiful, fun and easy to use. Our rambunctious toddler boy will squeal with delight while he’s progressing from the third rung up to the fourth rung, feeling like he’s testing his limits. This beautiful climbing toy is a great indoor activity for a rainy day, especially when we can’t take him out to the park or to roll around on our bouldering mats while we’re rock climbing. Unfolded, the climber opens up to a triangular shape, with rungs to climb on both sides. The baby-friendly sealant is 0-VOC. Pick from natural premium hardwoods like birch or bamboo (the latter for an additional $100), with a natural wood finish or a white sealed finish. For accessories, you can get a ladder that flips over to double as a slide, a rock wall that also doubles as a slide, or both. As baby progresses, raise the slide, ladder or rock wall to the next rung up and challenge her more. It even comes with a cute, accompanying Little Climber read-along board boo, and the climber is perfect for small indoor spaces. When you’re done, just fold it up flat and put it away in the nursery closet.

BUY IT: Lily and River, $200

Panda Playground Indoor Jungle Gym

Made for ages 18 months and older, this exciting indoor jungle gym features five fantastic ways to play, including a slide, a swing, a rope ladder, a wooden ladder and gymnastic rings. Plus, there’s a bonus feature that EZ Play doesn’t even mention: your kid will love hanging off of, pulling up on and flipping over the side bar, just like you did when you were a kid. It’s small enough to fit into tight rooms, and it’s foldable once kids are worn out. The gym can handle up to 60 pounds of weight total, with 50 pounds per feature. Made of splinter-free ash wood, it’s light enough for one person to carry, and it’s available in a pretty blue, purple and green color scheme, or in a natural wood tone.

BUY IT: EZ Play Toys, $450

Little Bean Rocker

Could you get cuter than this balance boat that can fit up to four kids? This rocking boat is great for kids to work on their balance by swaying back and forth, but can also be flipped around and climbed on. There are multiple play opportunities for this rocker, from allowing one kid to rock another who’s inside the boat, to attaching slides and climbing ramps to ascend to the top. At 34" long, 26" wide, and 19" tall, this rocker is large enough to provide space for kids to explore, but small enough to fit in a decent-sized room or nursery. Made for toddlers aged 18 months to 3 years, this rocker really works not only with balance, but with spatial perception, both of which will prepare them to be future climbers reaching for that next hold. The sides are constructed with high-quality European birch plywood, with rods and slats made of pinewood. For color patterns, choose from non-toxic acrylic paints in natural wood, earth tones, rainbow or rainbow pastel.

BUY IT: Wiwiurka, $305

2-in-1 Castle Climber

Little Tikes is a beloved name in the biz for good reason, with its reputation for producing everything from tiny first slides to larger playgrounds. The outdoor 2-in-1 Castle Climber is like a little fortress of play, boasting a ramp, a ladder, two platforms, a plank and a slide. There are multiple levels to ascend and different styles of footholds where kids can climb, making for a more exciting challenge. Up to three kids ages 2 to 6 years old can play on this, though it’s better suited to younger ages. For older kids, try Wildcat Falls from Little Tikes’ gorgeous Real Wood Adventures collection, which features two premade climbing walls with climbing holds, a vertical cargo net, a ladder, rope swings, a lookout tower and an eight-foot-long wavy slide.

BUY IT: Little Tikes, $300

Over and Under Tunnel Climber

Children’s Factory features a variety of great climbers, but the Over and Under Climber is reasonably priced and a great beginner toy for little ones aged 8 months. Step up one side and slide down the other. This climber advertises a maximum age of three years old, but this has lasting value as a structure to lean against or lay on while reading or playing. Attach the pieces with the hook, loop fasteners provided and place the floor mat under the tunnel to keep kids clean. The dense foam with no sharp edges will help shelter little ones as they climb around and tumble, but large foam mats underneath are always a great idea.

BUY IT: Children’s Factory, $272

Lil’ Monkey Fuji Climber

Made for ages 1 and up, the Lil' Monkey Fuji Climber is a great space-saving solution for apartment dwellers. It’s easy to fold and store in the closet, and its cube-shaped structure, along with a tunnel, offer a compelling distraction on boring rainy days. Kids will love climbing, swinging off of and poking their heads through all the windows. Turn it into an obstacle course by timing each kid as he or she races through the tunnel and into the cubes and out the other end. For a fun extra game, turn it into a fort by adding sheets and towels over the top.

BUY IT: Kohls, $75

Bilibo by Moluk

A super important facet of climbing is learning balance. This impressively multifaceted toy for ages 2 to 7, called the Bilibo, will help your climber get the balance she or he needs to ascend to the greatest heights. Shaped like a turtle shell, you can set it up on the ground to let toddlers stand upon or encourage them to hop or step to the next one, improving their balance as they shift their weight. It’s 16 inches wide, and just large enough for little bodies to fit in so they can spin around while sitting, and balance while standing. But this isn’t just a balance toy, it’s also a great sensory toy that you can fill with sand or water, a container for small toys, a cradle for dolls and a building block to make pyramids with. The best part is that your kid will feel comfortable leading play with this toy–just place it in front of him or her and let them begin exploring all the things they can do.

BUY IT: Fat Brain Toys, $27

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