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Climbing up, up, up to the sky

Gross motor


Suitable for children: 
Child climbing on playground ladder

There are many different ways you can move about. You can crawl, run, jump, roll or climb.

You can climb up, over, under and through things. Next time you are outside, at the park or moving about talk to your child about the different things they can climb.

We are going to the park with the big trees and logs. When we get there you can climb up the trees or over the logs.

The cup is on the shelf. You will need to climb onto the step to reach it.

Talk to your child about the different ways they can climb. Explain that they will use different muscles and parts of their body. Will they use all of their body or just their legs when they step onto or off something?

When you climb up the ladder at the playground you will need to use your arms and legs to pull yourself up.

Your bed is lower than mine. When you climb into your bed you only need to use your legs to get up.

Materials you will need

  • Your body

Alternative tools

  • Playground
  • Trees
  • Ladder
  • Steps
  • Logs
Skills this activity improves
Why does this matter?

Regular physical activity when your child is very young can have a positive impact on their immediate and long term health.

Physical activity helps children to develop their senses, posture, strength and balance. As they move about they are using all of their body. Whole body movement will include their upper body, lower body and will help with trunk stability.

As they move around in the natural environment or use the playground equipment they are developing language to communicate what they are doing and they are listening to directions. As they climb up, over or through things they will be listening to and following positional and directional language.

What does this lead to?

Encouraging your child to move and climb in different ways helps them to understand that they can use and move their bodies in many ways. As they explore the different ways their bodies move they are learning about measurement, space and size and how to move within and around objects.

As your child moves they’re using all of their body and senses. They are developing strength, control and coordination in all of their body parts including the large muscles in their trunk. Having a strong core, or trunk, is important as it helps children with good sitting posture. Having a good sitting posture is important for writing and completing table tasks.

Language to use
  • Position
  • Up, down, over, under, through, between
  • Top, bottom, middle
  • Start, finish
  • High, low
  • Steep, gradual rise, gradient
Questions to use
  • Can you run up a tree?
  • Can you climb up a hill?
  • Do you need to use your hands to climb up all types of ladders?
Useful tips
  1. You might also like to take a look at the activities Let’s get physical, Baby obstacle course and Up, over, under, through.
  2. See 51 things to do before you’re 12 for more ideas about being active and physical outside.
  3. For more information on your child’s physical development see the Child Health Record - the Blue Book.
  4. The Department of Health also has some hints and tips about physical activity for children aged 0 to 5.
More ideas
  1. Set up an obstacle course inside. You can use small cushions, bags or containers that your child can step over.
  2. Save boxes when you have items delivered. Your child can crawl and climb through them or over them.
Variation by age

Birth to two year olds

  • Start with climbing onto and off low objects. Gradually make the objects higher or wider.
  • Encourage your child to climb up the ladder and then slide down the slippery dip.

Three to five year olds

  • Make a list of the number of objects you can use for climbing.
  • Time how quickly your child can get to the top of the ladder or the hill.
  • Encourage your child to measure how high they can climb.

Questions to ask

  • Where is the top of the slide?
  • Will you step over the big one first?

Questions to ask

  • Can you climb up a chair?
  • Can you climb under a rug?
  • Who can get to the top the fastest?
  • Can you climb higher than the top of my head?

Language to use

  • Big, little, small
  • High, tall, low
  • Up, down
  • Top, bottom

Language to use

  • Big, little, small
  • High, tall, low
  • Up, down
  • Top, bottom
  • Fast, slow