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Me and my wife have a one year old baby.

We have a staircase with a fence - something like this https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/c1/bf/38/c1bf38c07feec93bcf3c82226094dd08.jpg

One day, while I was holding our baby, the baby got curious about the fence, so I got him closer and he grabbed the fence with both his hands. I gently tried to pull the baby away from the fence, but he wouldn't let it go. He was firmly holding onto it and smiling. He wouldn't let go. So I gently let the baby's body closer to the fence, to ease the force of me pulling on the baby, and again tried to gently pull the baby away from the fence, but he wouldn't let go and was smiling even more.

I didn't want to pull on the baby to make him let go of the fence, so I moved the baby's body closer to the fence, and gradually bent my knees so that the baby was holding like 50 % of his own body weight. After 5-7 seconds the baby let go of the fence. All the time the baby was smiling and was very entertained.

I'm pretty sure that if I completely bent my knees, the baby could easily hold his entire weight.

I'm a sports climber and I know that if I can't hold onto something, I just let go and nothing bad would happen to my hands, wrists, arms. What if a one year old baby wants to hold himself onto something? Can this cause any injuries to his fragile hands or wrists?

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    Not part of your question, but probably worth mentioning: Such horizontal bars can be seriously dangerous especially for babies who have discovered how to climb - it goes deep down on the other side and the edges of the steps can crack baby's skull like a egshell hitting the rim of a bowl. I am speaking from experience here. Please consider securing them at least temporarily. – Stephie Jan 20 '16 at 12:46
  • You said your self that the baby let go of the fence it's a instinct that you are born with. – Nachmen Jan 20 '16 at 13:10
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    +1 to that, but if your baby is a climber now, that's unlikely to change! If you can turn the gate through 90 degrees so the bars are vertical it would be an awful lot safer (provided they can't fit through the bars) Our son is coming up to 18 months and climbs everything he can, he'd be up and over that in the time it took to realise he was gone. – Ieuan Stanley Jan 20 '16 at 15:02
  • You already bolted any furniture the baby could climb and topple to the wall, I assume. – mart Jun 28 '16 at 12:10
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Little humans are incredible things. We're born with a lot of instincts, many of them actually related to climbing — for instance, if you put your finger into the palm of a newborn baby, they will instinctively grab onto it, even when asleep. This is a throwback to when losing your grip on that tree branch was a fatal mistake! It takes a long time (9 months or so I think, not sure of the exact period) for this instinct to be overridden by a lack of requirement.

Secondly, babies are strong. Anyone who has tried to get a small child arching their back into a car seat can attest to that! Relative to their size and weight they are capable of an awful lot more than it looks like they can.

Thirdly, pain is an instinctive response, it's not something you "learn" to pay attention to. If a cat scratches a baby, the baby will cry and likely be scared of the cat. They don't actively seek out a repetition of the pain. In this case, a baby won't wilfully put itself in a position where it is feeling pain, such as attempting to support its weight through its hands before they are ready. It's only as we get older that we learn to be stupid enough to ignore the messages our body sends us!

So essentially, the act of climbing itself won't cause your child any harm — If they are strong enough to climb, their body is strong enough to take it.

There are, however, caveats (as always). While the act of climbing itself isn't harmful, the results of climbing can be:

  • If the baby slips, and jolts its arms by instinctively grabbing on (falling reflex), it could theoretically get something like Pulled Elbow. This kind of injury doesn't do lasting damage, but it is sore! It's like dislocating a joint.
  • The higher your baby climbs, the more like it is to hurt itself if it slips. It's true that babies bounce, but this isn't something to be tested :P
  • Attempting to climb a bookshelf (for instance) can lead to things being pulled over on top of them. THIS IS VERY DANGEROUS. If your child is inclined towards climbing, make sure everything climbable in their reach is fixed so that it won't fall over.
  • As stated in the comments, if there is something they can climb, make sure it doesn't lead to somewhere dangerous. If you think they could climb your stair gate, you need to change it/modify it so they can't. A stair gate is pretty useless if they can just climb over it!

Overall, it's something to be encouraged in the right environments (places that are safe to climb, even consider taking them to a climbing wall (if you're an avid climber then presumably you have places to climb nearby! There are climbing gyms near us that have bouldering areas and similar for toddlers and babies), and it's something to discourage in the wrong environments — like many other things, there are certain lessons that can't be learnt through experience. You just have to be consistent about saying no to climbing the wrong things (like stair gates!).

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