*An expert contribution by @themovementmama
I’ll never forget the first time I saw a Wiwiurka Pikler-inspired Triangle—I was astounded at its beauty and intrigued by its potential in purposeful play. As a Pediatric PT, it’s my job to find ways to make hard things fun—to trick babies and toddlers into getting stronger in ways that may not come easy. I also seek to find toys that will last through multiple developmental stages and can be repurposed in different ways. For both my own little family and the families of my patients, the Pikler-inspired triangle has and will be something I continue to recommend as a staple in their home that withstands the test of time.
Here are my top 5 ways to utilize the Foldable climbing triangle for promoting gross motor milestones in your baby
Promoting overhead Reaching and Kicking
There is so much “gear” that is promoted to parents that only lasts through a few months of motor development. One of the most popular items is an activity mat with overhead hanging toys. I adore these types of toys because they encourage visual tracking and attention, development of overhead reaching, bringing hands to midline, understanding of cause & effect, and strengthening of the core and legs through repetitive overhead kicking and lifting of the legs. But did you know the Pikler can actually be used for achieving those same motor milestones? I love to use these linking rings to attach my baby’s favorite toys to the bars of the triangle for them to reach for, grasp, and kick. The great thing about the varying heights of the rungs of the triangle is the ability to increase the challenge for your baby as they get older by moving the toys higher and higher. I also love to place a beautiful high-contrast muslin blanket over the top of the triangle for fun visual engagement. And if you’ve got an older sibling, there’s nothing quite like watching big brother or sister climb over as the babe is playing under.
Pressing up in Tummy Time
Tummy time is one of the toughest workouts for your babe. Finding new ways to make it fun and enticing is one of the biggest challenges for parents and Pediatric PTs. I have found that using the same linking rings, you can attach toys to the rungs and place your babe just outside of the triangle to encourage lifting their head, neck, and arms to see and reach for the toys. As your babe lifts higher and higher in tummy time, they move closer and closer to the strength necessary for independent sitting and crawling. Utilize safe household items as their toys of interest to entice them to lift higher and higher, as you hang the toys on taller rungs. For example, use one of the links to attach a clean loofah, whisk, or old CD. These novel items will encourage them to press up, reach, and learn!
Encouraging Independent Sitting
When a baby first begins to sit, they must place their hands down on the ground for stability. With time, however, they must gain confidence with releasing one hand, and then the next, gradually learning to maintain their balance while they sit more upright. For encouraging this skill, you can use the same linking rings to attach toys or tie these beautiful scarves around the rungs to entice your baby to begin releasing their hands in sitting, while also providing the triangle as a safe support surface to hold onto during this learning process. They will gradually begin to move their little hands higher and higher on the rungs until eventually, they’re able to sit completely upright on their own!
Facilitating hands and knees Crawling
Crawling on hands and knees is one of the most important motor milestones your child will ever achieve. If you’d like more information on why crawling on hands and knees is so crucial, read my post on it here. I’ve found that many babies get stuck in the rocking on hands and knees phase and have trouble getting out of it. One of my favorite ways to address this is to work on reaching out in front of them to bat at toys. This promotes the strength required for balancing on three points instead of 4, which allows them to lift their hand to move forward to crawl. You can hang toys from the outside of the rungs of the Pikler for setting up this purposeful play activity. Place the toys on the bottom rung to start building confidence and move them up over time—the higher your babe can reach, the stronger they will be for moving forward in crawling. You can also make a tunnel by throwing a blanket over your triangle and playing peekaboo on the other side, making it a game to crawl under to get to you.
Strengthening the ability to Pull to Stand
When babies first begin pulling to stand, it is often on very low surfaces like your lap or a low-lying piece of furniture. This is because at first they must use that hard-earned arm and core strength to pull themselves up, as they haven’t yet had the opportunity to build the strength to press up through their legs into a standing position. The Pikler is a perfect surface for your babe to begin pulling up to their knees and eventually to stand from. The increasing height of the rungs allows them to get comfortable with this new skill at their own pace.
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