If there was one rule that I firmly believed in when I was a new parent it was that slides were for going down, not for climbing.
It was one of my ten commandments of parenting, right below “Thou shall eat all vegetables before having dessert”.
I would get so angry when I took my youngest to the playground and we saw those “rule-breaking” kids climbing up the slide.
For one, it seemed dangerous for all parties involved. I didn’t want a child to get hurt when my kid’s sneakers smacked into their face. And I certainly didn’t want my kid to get hurt from sliding into someone coming up.
Climbing up also made sharing the slide more complicated. If everyone is sliding down you only have to worry about waiting your turn with the kids at the top. With kids climbing in every direction, it’s chaos.
But there were other reasons as well – muddy shoes on the slide made it dirty when kids climbed up, sliding down appeared more orderly, I could go on and on.
My son would see the other kids venturing up the slide and try to climb himself. Instantly I would swoop in to correct him by reciting my rule: “ladders and stairs are for climbing, slides are for going down”. He would listen, but appear obviously disappointed to not play like the other kids.
Then one day my thinking on the subject changed.
I started to pay more careful attention to kids climbing up the slide. How they did it. Why they did it.
Now I’m a convert. Yep, now I’m on Team Slide-Climbers.
Here are 6 reasons you should let your kids climb up the slide.
1 | Encourages Thinking Outside the Box
Allowing kids to climb up the slide allows them to think creatively about the world around them.
There are millions of ways to play, who’s to say the “right” way to play with a toy or piece of equipment?
By not limiting how your child can interact with the playground, the slide could be anything in their imagination. They could be climbing a building, or even Mount Everest. Or maybe they are escaping from a lake monster or competing in the Olympics.
They aren’t forced to conform to a certain method of playing because someone has dictated it. Instead they are allowed to question their surroundings, test theories, and find different ways to interact.
It’s simply a wonderful opportunity for imaginative play and an invitation to view the world differently.
2 | Explore Their Physical Limits
There’s no doubt that climbing up a slide is more physically demanding than sliding down.
Climbing up forces kids to test their limits. Of course they have to be strong, but it’s also a good test of their balance and coordination.
They learn about momentum – the importance of getting a running start and not slowing down.
It’s also an opportunity to find their physical limits – are they strong enough to pull themselves up with their arms? How much do they have to use their feet?
Climbing up also engages their vestibular system to work balance. They have to find a new center of gravity to prevent falling backwards or on their face.
Gross motor skills are also refined as they alternate shifting balance from hands/feet to shuffle up the incline.
3 | Work Problem Solving Skills
As I mentioned earlier, climbing up a steep incline isn’t easy. Chances are, your child will fail occasionally. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to work on their problem solving.
They will have to brainstorm new techniques and strategies in their efforts to reach the top.
They’ll have to work through feelings of frustration and learn to persevere as they try, fail, and then try again.
And then when they finally achieve their goal, they’ll gain confidence in their critical thinking abilities. They’ll learn that hard work and dedication leads to feelings of empowerment, pride, and accomplishment.
4 | Encourage Social Awareness
It’s no secret that slide-climbing can cause some drama at the playground. But instead of seeing this as a negative, I like to spin it as a positive experience for children to work on their social interaction.
Encourage your kid to be mindful and pay attention to other children on the playground. Show them the difference between a small toddler vs an older kid and how they should act with each.
Teach consideration and respect. A little courtesy goes a long way in preventing conflict. Children going down the slide have the right-of-way, slide-climbers have to wait their turn on the side.
If they make a mistake and upset another child, they have to learn to navigate that too. Teach them to apologize, make sure everyone is okay, and learn from the experience.
5 | Practical Safety Lesson
Am I the only parent who is constantly cringing on the inside while I watch my kids play on the playground?
Kids love the thrill of danger and sometimes that leads to bumps and scrapes.
Rather than forbidding climbing up the slide altogether, teach them to do it safely. Start by setting up some ground rules:
- Always pay attention to the other kids on the playground. Double check if anyone is around before you climb up the slide.
- Slide climbers must wait for all children at the top to slide down before climbing up
- While waiting, children should wait to the side of the slide (instead of at the bottom where the sliding children will land).
I’ve even heard moms say that kids can only climb up the slide when no other children are at the playground. If you live near an uncrowded playground, this might be a good option for your family.
6 | It’s Fun
Above all else, climbing up the slide is fun.
Come on, admit it, we all did it as children. The feelings of challenging yourself, breaking the rules, exhilaration, excitement, etc.
My kids love it and I love watching them have fun. I can’t deprive them of finding that joy on the playground.
Don’t worry parents, even though my kids are now proud slide-climbers we’ve talked about the proper etiquette. They know kids coming down have the right-of-way and will wait their turn.
But when the coast is clear, don’t be surprised to see them scale that slide faster than you can blink, laughing and screaming the whole way up.
And I’ll be sitting on the bench giving them a big smile and a thumbs up, all while trying to ignore the glares from those “up-the-ladder-down-the-slide” parents around me.
Does your kid climb up the slide? Have I changed your mind on the subject? Let me know in the comments!