What's special about the Pikler Triangle?
In simple words it's a climbing frame. While traditional playground climbing equipment with swings and slides are targeted towards older child with already developed gross motor skills, the Pikler Triangle can be considered as a starter set that enables your developing toddler to hit age appropriate coordination and developmental milestones.
Hungarian paediatrician, Dr Emmi Pikler developed the Pikler Triangle over 100 years ago. Like most great ideas it's still around and hasn't really changed that much. It can be used for children as young as 6 months to about 4-5 years old. In fact, the wooden rungs can even be used to attach rattles and other sensory toys immediately from birth making it like a baby gym. Essentially it is an all-in-one sensory and motor development ‘toy’ from 0-5 years and can be used both inside and outside.
What’s the difference between a Pikler Triangle and just heading to your local playground?
As parents we have a habit of placing of children on play equipment much before their little bodies are able of climbing onto it themselves. It is just the desire to see our children enjoy something we know to be ‘fun’. All of us have on time or another ‘helped’ our child perform a motor task that they aren’t capable of doing themselves, so they can skip to the ‘fun’ bit. For example descending the slide before they can climb up the ladder themselves.
While the intention to give our children a happy experience is good, what this simple action does, is freeze a child’s abilities to find boundaries on their own, boundaries that teach them their own limits and allow them a sense of safety in themselves. The tendency of us as parents to lead our children’s physical development on a regular basis, that takes away their opportunities to learn to lead themselves.
So where does the triangle come in to it?
Fundamentally: if a little one cannot climb, he or she just will not climb. We are born with a logic that is innately designed to protect us and when we test the boundaries of our abilities we learn from the experience. We try to walk and we fall, hence finding the limit of our centre of gravity’s within our base of support. It is the founding theory of neuroplasticity - our nerves, that is, our brain, is malleable, and hardwires what we practice so we find stability, improve our control, our balance.
The Pikler Triangle allows our children to learn their own boundaries in their own time and in a way that keeps parental heart palpitations to a minimum when compared to placing toddler on high playground platform then running underneath, waiting for when they plunge themselves off the edge!
As the triangle is only a metre from the ground, and as babies and toddlers will only get that high when they are ready, the risk is kept to a minimum. The triangle doesn’t need to be adjusted as your child grows because it is the foundation on which they reach developmental milestones, at their own pace.
Babies as young as 6-8 months can pull to stand using the rungs and children as old as 4 and 5 can climb to the topmost point, continuing to learn new skills and develop their control in a creative way that also fosters a sense of imagination.
When children start to pretend-play, what started as a climbing frame can become a castle, a helicopter, a treehouse, a tepee amongst others. You’ll witness how their mood determines how far they will push themselves each day and each month they’ll try something new.
And they’ll do it all when they are ready at their own pace!