My wife and I are frazzled with a little boy who has not only mastered the walk and the run, he has now started into climbing every available vertical surface.

We thought we had the house baby-proof, at least the living room. Other than standing over him every moment, we're wondering if anybody has any ideas for dealing with this.

For example, he's a perfectly healthy boy with a perfectly healthy skull. Better to let him fall a bit and learn or what? We have a bicycle helmet. I half jokingly suggested to my wife that we put a helmet on him and strap some pillows on him.

We know he needs to explore and learn, and we have surfaces like book-shelves, coffee tables, and furniture, that he seems to know how to get up and into, but not down from. I guess we've just got to hover for the next while.

Any tips at all, including ways to reduce the chance of your baby climbing up and falling on his head and breaking his neck, appreciated.

  • Pictures from my toddler years show nearly every climbable surface blocked off with large cardboard panels (e.g. cut down from appliance boxes). My son is going through the same stage right now -- all we can do is offer safer places for climbing and watch like hawks. As long as he's not taking a header from the dining room table onto the hardwood floor, we're ok.
    – afrazier
    Feb 17, 2012 at 13:56
  • 3
    Make sure your furniture is secured so it can't fall over. Apr 23, 2012 at 6:45
  • Originally we used drywall anchors, but I'm taking those out and securing directly to the 2-by-4 studs inside the walls.
    – Warren P
    Aug 21, 2014 at 19:52
  • My nephew went by the nickname "Gravity Boy" when he was a toddler after his habit of finding high places and falling from them. Block off everything truly life-threatening, but nothing replaces eyes on the child.
    – Marc
    Dec 19, 2014 at 4:12
  • Take him to a climbing centre or build him a climbing wall - climbing is great and he may have a talent! :)
    – Teige
    Mar 20, 2015 at 16:09

6 Answers 6


Our daughter does the same thing. She had a couple of days where she decided she wanted to jump off the couch head-first onto the hardwood floor.

She was told no, no, no, no - until she understood that she may not do that. She didn't do it again. So we did it on a case-by-case basis. Some places, like our bed, which is pretty high - we let her climb. And then we teach her how to get down (turn around, slide down).

So you have two options: define places that are off-limits, and for places that are not, teach her how to climb or get down. (My husband taught our daughter how to climb our bed and how to get down from the bed.)

So be firm. Be strict. Say no - and only say it - when you absolutely mean it. Some things are never okay, and she has to learn that.

  • +1 I Concur ... it is called being parents. Toddlers need to be watched and managed. There really is no way around it.
    – tomjedrz
    Feb 19, 2012 at 1:10
  • +1 for mentioning that one should choose sometimes to say yes, and then teach them to climb down. With toddlers, occasionally saying yes is a good policy to adopt.
    – Jax
    Apr 21, 2014 at 22:14

You may have guessed from my answers to other questions, but I strongly support the idea of letting kids try everything so they do learn what hurts while at a young enough age to avoid breaking themselves, so I recommend the following:

Do a wee bit of babyproofing (eg. don't let them climb on the fireplace, remove glass from shelves etc) but aside from that, let them climb. If you find there is something you really don't want them to climb on, tell them no and offer an alternative. In our case, we didn't want them to climb on the mantelpiece (it had a fire underneath, and had some valuable antiques on it) so we provided a couple of tree trunks in the garden to climb on instead. This also had the advantage of being set in soil so when they did fall off they didn't hurt themselves that much.

Other than that, all babies fall and bash their heads. Better to do it when they are small and not very far off the ground. If they haven't had the chance to do it at this age, they will be far less capable of understanding the risks in later life.

  • +1 for mentioning that they're going to fall sometimes -- better that they do it while still flexy and low to the ground rather than later.
    – afrazier
    Feb 17, 2012 at 13:50

I agree with Rory to a point. Kids need to learn natural consequences, and falling is a natural consequence of climbing on things. However, there is a safety element that you can't ignore. My son was a climber, and there were many times I caught him trying to climb one of our bookshelves. Bookshelves for me are a big no-no. These are big bookshelves and if he pulled one over on him it would really, really injure him. So the bookshelves are screwed to the wall. I'm sure you know about this, but you can buy little kits pretty inexpensively to do this. The reality is that you can't possibly watch your son every second of the day. For those situations where you simply don't want him climbing on something because falling could hurt him, that's more of a discipline issue. Certainly, teaching him to safely climb down from a bed is important, and providing him with ample opportunities for safe climbing, but if there's something that you don't want him climbing on at all then you might need to institute a time-out policy.

Just so you know, my husband was once carrying my son on his shoulders and dropped him to a hardwood floor where he hit his head. He had to fall in excess of five and a half feet. A quick trip to the ER showed that, other than being scared (and my husband feeling awful), he was fine. Kids are way more resilient than we give them credit for.

  • Actually I do agree with you here @Meg - my bookcases are also fixed to the wall. I do see that as just sensible in any case, but isn't it amazing just how resilient they are - probably why we have survived as a species so long :-)
    – Rory Alsop
    Feb 17, 2012 at 13:55
  • 2
    Absolutely! If I hit my head as many times during the day as my kids do, I'd be a walking concussion!
    – Meg Coates
    Feb 17, 2012 at 14:04

This is similar to other answers, but hover and teach him to climb. You will have to stay close by his side for a while. I agree with @Swati that there will be times you will have to set limits about things that he can never climb and be consistent with those. You should also teach him to climb up and down any chance you get. If he's a climber, I think it's in his blood for a long time. I was on the TV stand as a toddler, in trees throughout my childhood, and a rock climber in college and beyond. There's just something about heights and the thrill of climbing. So, teach him to climb up and down anything (other than no-no's) that he is interested in. Let him try the big kid areas at the park. Show him how to use his knees and toes. Let him practice his balance on your lap while you move your legs side to side and up and down. And, make sure there is plenty of practice coming down things instead of letting him crawl up and then rescuing him.

  • 1
    Good advice! Similar to kids who like to lock the bathroom, sometimes preventing is futile and it's wiser to teach how to do it properly. Apr 23, 2012 at 6:44

When my child was doing something dangerous, I pretended/showed them they would fall (like this, and push them a bit) and would catch them in the last minute. That way they would experience that they COULD fall and would be more careful next time. But it works better on older kids .. e.g., 2+ years....

  • 3
    Did you not worry that you might inadvertently teach them that you would always be there to catch them? Feb 17, 2012 at 6:51
  • 1
    My son has made a game out of throwing himself backwards and making us catch him ever since he was sitting up on his own. Falling, for him, is one of the most fun activities available. I fear we're going to be spending a lot of time in amusement parks riding roller coasters in the future....
    – user420
    Feb 17, 2012 at 14:00
  • I'm also afraid my son will learn to enjoy the fall if I used this method of him "falling" and catching him. He also likes throwing himself backwards in my arms for me to catch him, and flopping himself on the bed.
    – Rachel
    Apr 23, 2012 at 2:07

I know this post is old but the topic is always current! ;) I was having the same problem with my son, and we also took the approach of designating only certain items to climb. I agree that our little humans can, and do, understand that certain items are off limits for climbing, if you consistently offer reminders. ;) We decided to go with an indoor climber, and our house is small. It has been working out perfectly! The message has been that he is supposed to climb his climber, and he has permission to push it up to the couch for further exploration, but that is it! He respects this rule very well, although he still tests the waters from time to time, as they all do.

  • 1
    Hi ZeMom and welcome to the site. Your answer is a good one, and no problem with old questions, that's part of our system. I did edit out the link to your blog, however; in general, self promotion isn't part of our system, particularly for newer users. Please put the link in your profile, instead, and feel free to refer to it there if appropriate. Thanks!
    – Joe
    Dec 18, 2014 at 18:25

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