Pikler Triangle: A Parent's Guide to the best Montessori Climbing Toy

Pikler Triangle: A Parent's Guide to the best Montessori Climbing Toy

Introduction

A baby's first steps are an exciting milestone for every parent, but the new skill doesn't stop there. With a burning curiosity to explore the world around them, they'll quickly exercise their newfound ability to seek out new discoveries and arduous challenges. Do you remember the exhilaration you felt when you finally conquered the floor and stood up for the first time? Well, if you're like me then you probably struggle to remember what you ate for lunch 3 days ago. Since most of us can't remember such a historic event from our past, let's try a more recent memory for comparison.

How about the first time you sat eagerly behind the wheel of a car? The excitement and freedom you felt as a new teenage driver is surely a close comparison to what a baby feels when they learn how to walk. However, the joy of walking will soon fade once your baby discovers they also have a pair of arms to help them navigate and traverse their surroundings. With nothing standing in their way, except maybe a baby gate, it's only a matter of time until they start climbing on anything and everything in sight.

As parents, it is our duty to nurture this curiosity as well as provide the best guidance and tools during their transition to becoming strong and independent toddlers. One of the best ways we can accomplish this is by designing a Montessori-inspired playroom. A Montessori playroom is a safe and innovative play space that facilitates sensory stimulation and creative expression with the help of age-appropriate toys that engage a child's gross and fine motor skills.

Before filling your own playroom with Montessori toys, you'll need to consider the different toys available along with the needs of your child. With that said, let’s explore one of the most popular Montessori climbing toys, the Pikler Triangle.

More specifically, we’ll dive into the following topics and questions:

  • What is a Pikler Triangle?
  • Basic Functions of a Pikler Triangle
  • 5 Creative Ways to use a Pikler Triangle
  • Pikler Triangle Safety
  • What are the Benefits of a Pikler Triangle?
  • Best time to buy a Pikler Triangle
  • Best Add-ons/Accessories for a Pikler Triangle
  • Best Montessori Toys to Complement a Pikler Triangle

What is a Pikler Triangle?

The Pikler Triangle, also known as a climbing frame, or climbing triangle, is a popular Montessori-inspired climbing triangle designed to help babies and toddlers develop their gross motor skills and strength.

It's an innovative way to develop your child's balance, coordination, and gross motor skills.

If you’ve never heard of Pikler Triangle, you’re not alone! Its adoption is relatively new, but has been widely used in Europe and Asia for some time. The Pikler Triangle, also known as a climbing frame, or climbing triangle, is a popular Montessori-inspired climbing triangle designed to help babies and toddlers develop their gross motor skills and strength. Not only does it support a toddler’s gross motor skill development, but it also aids in balance control, muscle growth, and creativity strategy.

As a result of its immense versatility and effectiveness, it has quickly become a staple item in many home playrooms, preschools, and even day care centers. You also might be wondering where the name came from or what it means. I think it has something to do with pickles (just kidding). “Pikler” was the name of the woman who invented the climbing frame back in the early 1900’s! It was designed and named after Dr. Emmi Pikler, a certified Hungarian pediatrician and infant educator, and later popularized in the United States by one of her students, Magda Geber. I’ll discuss more about Dr. Emmi Pikler and her philosophy on infant and child development in a later section.

Characteristics of a Pikler Triangle

You’ll find that there are several slight variations to a Pikler Triangle, depending on the manufacturer, such as size, material, finish, and color. However, in general, they all tend to follow the same design blueprint of a triangular shaped ladder. Traditionally, they are all made from natural hardwood safety and durability.

The surfaces of the legs and dowels are typically sanded smooth for a natural wooden finish or painted with non-toxic paint to ensure your little one doesn’t end playtime with splinters or an upset stomach. The most common characteristic is that all have a triangular climbing frame equipped with wooden dowels that are spaced evenly apart between its legs. The size and height can also vary from seller to seller but in general, the top of the triangle is about 1 meter off the ground, providing a good challenge while also staying safe.

4 types of Pikler Triangles

Now that we’ve covered the similarities between these engaging climbing toys, let’s dive into the 4 types of Pikler Triangles and the key differences of each:

Traditional Climbing Triangle - The traditional Pikler Triangle is best visualized by an upside down “V”. These climbing toys generally have a fixed base that do not fold down for ease of storage. Despite these being difficult to put away, they offer the most flexibility of all Montessori climbing toys.

This style is often cheaper as it tends to be the easiest to find and manufacture. Pikler triangle sets can come with a variety of accessories including slides, ladders, rock walls, and so much more to assist in the development of your child.

Foldable Climbing Triangle - Unlike traditional climbing triangles, foldable climbing triangles are generally engineered with a pin mechanism that allows for the climbing toy to be stowed away at a moment’s notice. This is an excellent option for those who’s playspace migrates or those of us who are a little tight on additional space in our homes. While they may not fold entirely flat, they are surely a great alternative to a traditional pikler set.

Transformable Climbing Triangle - Being able to define the area with which your child plays can be just as important as the toy they are playing with. With the transformable climbing triangles, there is customizability with playtime. Typically using locking pins, the transformable triangle can be shaped into a variety of angles and heights to best suit your child’s needs. Often, these climbing triangles can be found in the arrangement of a house.

Climbing Arch - If a hammock and rocking chair had a baby, the result would be a climbing arch. Whereas traditional climbing triangles are “V” shaped, think of a climbing arch as a widened “U” that facilitates engaging sensory play. The best part? It’s multipurpose. Flip your climbing arch over and you now have a safe and durable space for your child to climb. Not only will your child have a variety of options during playtime but both arrangements offer just as much fun as other configurations.

Just as each child’s needs are unique, so are the Pikler Triangle sets that can be selected. Rest assured that regardless of which climbing toy you chose, your child will be more than thrilled with the new and fulfilling challenge.

Basic Functions of a Pikler Triangle

A Pikler Triangle has several functions, limited only by your child’s imagination. However, the primary function is to help improve a toddler’s strength and mobility, bridging the gap between crawling on all fours and walking on their own. It’s most commonly used indoors, but it can be used outdoors as well. Whether your toddler is playing indoors or outdoors, it’s a structure that will encourage critical gross motor skill activities, such as climbing, crawling, and jumping (safely, of course).

After climbing to the top, your toddler will have 3 options: (a) climb down either the opposite side or the same side, (b) slide down using the included slide, or school students, or (c) jumping down from one of the dowels. If they aren't comfortable hiking all the way to the top then the ladder, rockwall, or slide can be easily adjusted to sit at a lower position on the frame, providing a more gradual ascent. A little creativity can go a long way with a Pikler Triangle; it can also be used in an obstacle course when combined with other toys, furniture, or another Pikler triangle.

Note: Outdoor is normally just fine as long as you don't leave it outside where it will be exposed to the elements for an extended period of time.


Who is Dr. Emmi Pikler?

Dr. Emmi Pikler (1902-1984) was a Hungarian pediatrician, author, and theorist. Pikler is mostly known for her revolutionary works in infant and child care. Her approach was implemented in each orphanage that Pikler ran in Budapest (the first opening shortly after World War II) and eventually became known worldwide for her studies. Now that we know who Pikler is, let’s take a deeper look at her philosophy and how she paved the way for unconventional (at the time) child care practices.

What Is The Pikler Philosophy or Pikler Approach?

The Pikler approach stretches across various cultures and languages all around the world; Pikler’s stance on infant and child development continues to be implemented in daycare centers to family homes and everything in between. So, what exactly is the Dr. Emmi Pikler approach and how does it differ from traditional philosophies of child development? Let’s dive in. Pikler claimed (and was later supported by various neuroscience research) that “movement is the first language of the brain”. This perspective began the foundation of the Pikler approach and led her and her team to explore what is now known as “natural development” or the ability for a child to learn at their own pace and by their own schedule, similar to the Montessori Method. In short, Pikler gave infants and toddlers the ability to explore (i.e. develop) at their own leisure by giving children the tools to support physical and psychic health and development.

Below are the 7 main virtues that the Pikler approach are built upon:

  1. Full Attention - Offering your child your undivided attention displays your love and respect for them. By attempting to multitask during playtime, the parent is communicating to their child that the other task is more engaging and deserving of their focus.
  2. Slow Down - During her studies, Pikler noted that infants generally developed better, were happier, and cried less when their environment and caregiver were calm. By creating a peaceful environment for development, the experience will ensure enrichment for both child and parent.
  3. Building Trust and Your Relationship - Communicating trust to your child offers your baby the ability to rise to the occasion which they are being presented with. When the approach is that of respect, the child is being assured that they are capable of solving their own problems (be it climbing on a Pikler Triangle set or discovering that the family cat doesn’t like bath time).
  4. “With” and not “to” - Have you ever been talked AT? I have. And I can tell you that it is never pleasant to be on the receiving end of a one sided conversation. Dr. Pikler viewed infants as active participants in their care, not passive recipients. Engaging with your baby and toddler emphasizes the importance of their own growth and development. Rather than approaching child care as an activity to direct, guide your child in conversation with a foundation of patience and allow them the opportunity to respond accordingly.
  5. Babies are never put in a position which they can’t get into by themselves - Failure has often been associated with…well, failing at something. However, failure is a wonderful part of life and is crucial for us (not just infants and toddlers) in navigating our world. Whether your child is learning to lie on their stomach, roll over, or walk they are learning the ability to execute these movements. By giving your child the opportunity to experiment and learn to overcome their difficulties in movement, the caregiver provides an environment with which the child can move their body in a way that is organic and comfortable and not dictated by anyone else.
  6. Uninterrupted Play for Infants - Babies do not need to be “entertained”. In fact, Magda Gerber (remember the student of Pikler’s who brought the Pikler Triangle and Method to the United States? That’s her.) believed that given a nurturing environment and freedom, infants are entirely capable of entertaining themselves. Allowing uninterrupted play for babies allows them to experience independence as well as fostering their imagination.
  7. Tune in to Your Baby’s Cues - Did you know that most of how we communicate is through body language? For those of us who don’t have the knowledge base of vocabulary yet, understanding how to interpret your child’s silent cues is paramount in understanding their wants and needs. When we don’t “listen” to our child, the message that is being relayed back to them is that they are being ignored regardless of their attempt to communicate with the caregiver. Is your infant turning her head to the side when you speak loudly? Is your child putting up their hands when that spoonful of broccoli puree is approaching? While veggies and loud tones may be necessary from time to time, picking up on your child’s nonverbal cues graces them with the message that their caregiver is in tune with their needs.

Pikler Triangle Safety

Like most toys for your child, always ensure that they are being monitored by an adult when being used. Whether you are purchasing a Pikler Triangle set from a reputable company or building one on your own, it is always a good idea to check the stability of the toy prior to use.
Of course, you can always make playtime safer with a few extra steps. The Pikler Triangle can be set up on a carpeted surface or situated next to a cushioned playmat in case of a tumble. Consider adding some pillows for an extra soft place to land or simply allow your toddler to organically navigate their home environment without additional coverage.

Safety tips while using a Pikler Triangle

  • Always set climbing toys on leveled surface that will prevent slippage.
  • Check all hinges, pins, and fastenings prior to play to ensure proper operating conditions.
  • If you do not have carpeted surfaces in your home, arrange a playmat next to (or underneath) the climbing toy.
  • When using an adjustable triangle set, be sure to not set the angle too steep for your child to safely play.
  • Dress appropriately for playtime - socks can be too slippery when climbing on a Pikler Triangle. Consider opting for barefoot play to prevent falls.

What are the Benefits of a Pikler Triangle?

  • Ergonomic Design - Pikler Triangles are often easily foldable or collapsible for convenient storage even in the smallest spaces such as your closet, under your bed, or against a wall. This often overlooked feature in climbing structures can amount to huge space savings especially for parents who live in an apartment or smaller home.
  • Hand-Eye Coordination, Balance, and Dexterity - One of my personal developmental milestones for children is their recognition of having hands. This phase is so exciting because they not only begin reaching out for things (e.g. toys, books, the family dog) but they begin to understand that their physical grasp on these items matters just as much as the item itself. When using a Pikler Triangle, your child is developing their ability to grip, release, and even pull themselves up; which all translates to better handwriting and fine motor skills in years to come.
  • Self Confidence - Going back to the beginning of the article where I mentioned the elation that came with learning how to drive, recall how you may have been nervous the first time behind the wheel. Now, fast forward to how you feel these days about driving. The same concept applies for your child. Each ascend on a Pikler Triangle will foster confidence within your child and before you know it, they’ll be pushing themselves further than you could have imagined.
  • Critical Thinking - Running parallel with confidence building is the development of critical thinking and assessment of risk. When engaging in Pikler Triangle play, your child will have to make risky (yet safe) decisions such as when to climb up, climb down, or jump off. The development of this type of skill set is critical in not only the year stages of life but extend well into adulthood.
  • Imagination - In a world full of screens, the Pikler offers children an environment to create their own excitement without the need for batteries or overwhelming sounds. There are no limitations to how your child uses their climbing toy. Whether they are engaging with the climbing toy traditionally or using it as part of an obstacle course, the flexibility that comes with triangle sets is endless and limited only by the imagination of your baby or toddler.

Best time to buy a Pikler Triangle

Now that we’ve covered what a Pikler Triangle is and some of their key benefits, you may be curious as to when you can introduce such a toy to your child. Below we will expand upon the ideal age range to begin familiarizing your baby or toddler with this exciting and versatile climbing toy.

Pikler Triangle for Babies (0-1yr)

Babies can benefit greatly from playing with a climbing triangle even before they begin walking independently! A Pikler Triangle can be introduced to your baby as early as 6 months of age, or as soon as you see them grabbing and reaching for things above them and around them. This is a critical time in a child's life when they begin developing spatial awareness and basic gross motor skills. Did you know that babies can use their arms to pull themselves upright even before they learn to walk? In fact, this is the best time to buy a Pikler Triangle because it can serve as a tool to fast track your baby's physical and mental development.

Pikler Triangle for Toddlers and Children (1-5yr+)

It’s not a surprise that toddlers enjoy climbing on anything and everything that they can get their hands around. Besides the obvious benefits such as development of motor skills and dexterity, a Pikler Triangle gives children a place to do exactly what they’re designed to do at such an age - climb. Introducing a Pikler Triangle set provides a healthy and safe space for children to explore a natural instinct but to also release the copious amounts of energy that toddlers tend to have stored up (which is great for nap time).

Introducing the Pikler Triangle before your baby can climb

Babies are naturally curious and can often be found reaching upwards to grab onto things. This is how babies naturally start to stand up on their own before they are able to walk. Because of this, we should let the child move at their own pace and not force them to use it before they are ready. Simply place your climbing triangle in a safe space with little to no other toys and distractions. Naturally, they will be drawn to the climber in the center of the room and feel compelled to check it out. It's important to observe them during this time to ensure they have a safe introduction. It may take a few days or weeks for them to want to grab onto it. If they don't seem interested just be patient and keep trying.

Safety Tips:

  • Be sure to put your climber away when not in use. Here at Lily and River, we designed our Little Climber so it can quickly be folded for easy transport and storage.
  • Place a thick rug or safety play mat underneath your Pikler Triangle whenever it is set up. You can also place some pillows around the climber for extra protection. Our multi-purpose playmat, the Big Mat, is connectable, washable, and designed to provide a more comfortable, and safer playtime experience.

Where to Buy Pikler Triangle?

Here at Lily & River, we offer Children friendly products that are designed and tested thoroughly and made with quality non-toxic materials.

We are family owned and operated and we are committed to environmental stewardship, planting 1 tree for every order.

#1 Climber According to Forbes & 50,000+ Littles Worldwide.

Customer Reviews for Little Climber



Best Add-ons/Accessories for a Pikler Triangle

As your child grows, additional accessories can be added to your Pikler Triangle to ensure that playtime is not only enriching, but fun as well! We think it’s impossible to frown while descending a slide, I’m confident in saying that your little one would agree! In order to maximize excitement and versatility, each of our Little Climber Accessories are reversible with a slide on the other side, combining the benefits of the ladder and rockwall. Slides are not only a fun reward for reaching the top of a Pikler Triangle but they offer an enticing motive to ascend the climbing toy!

Each of our Pikler Triangle Accessories can easily be adjusted to any height so your toddler can move at their own pace as they develop their strength and gross motor skills.

Reversible Ladder/Slide

Climbing Accessory for Little Climber

Reversible Rockwall/Slide

Climbing Accessory for Little Climber

Climbing Ladder Accessory (recommended at 8 months) - Our Reversible Ladder/Slide Accessory is a great way to introduce different types of climbing, allowing your baby or toddler to experiment while they improve their dexterity.

Climbing Rockwall Accessory (recommended at 18 months) - Our Reversible Rockwall/Slide Accessory will surely take playtime to the next level, offering fresh and challenging ways to climb! The confidence that your child will gain as they begin to combine their newfound skills will reaffirm your decision to introduce this toy to your home playrooms, preschool, or day care center.


3 Montessori Toys to Complement a Pikler Triangle

1. Big Mat (Safty Playmat)

Our multipurpose foam playmat ensures that playtime is also safetime. Connectable, washable, and stackable, the Big Mat is designed to provide a more comfortable, and safer playtime experience for your baby or toddler.

Velcro + Zippers

Washable

Memory Pad

2. Little Rocker (Climbing Arch)

The Little Rocker sports an elegant arch design that makes for a beautiful and versatile addition to any playroom. When used as a rocker, It can be used as a comfortable way to rest after a long play session. When flipped over it can also be used as an arch-style climbing toy, a perfect addition to your Little Climber.

(Rocker Version)

(Climber Arch Version)

Little Pro Playset

(Little Climber + Little Rocker)

This is such a popular combination that we created the Little Pro Playset

3. Little Climber (Pickler Triangle)

What’s better than a Pikler Triangle? Two Pikler Triangles, of course! Sometimes two is definitely better than one. A second Little Climber can be used to create a large bridge that will surely add new ways to climb, crawl, and play, bringing endless playtime combinations! This is truly the ultimate indoor playground experience.


Wraping it Up

Selecting an appropriate Pikler Triangle for your child doesn’t have to be a headache! From this overview, Pikler Triangle: A Parent’s Guide to the best Montessori Climbing Toy, I hope that you not only have a better understanding of what a Pikler Triangle is and how it can be implemented into your child’s life to foster their developmental toolbox, but resources to reputable products that are aligned with the teachings of Dr. Emmi Pikler herself. Whether you choose a traditional triangle set, a transformable triangle set, or something in between your child will thank you for years to come as you’ve made their growth a priority in your home.

Our babies and toddlers are only little for so long; starting them off with their best foot forward is the least that we can do as parents. And at the end of the day, approaching your child with respect, patience, and love is the most gracious gift of all. So I ask you this: what will you do today to foster your child’s learning?


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Lily & River is a family owned & operated children's workshop located in Phoenix, AZ (USA). Our mission is simple - to create the safest and most effective Montessori inspired toys to empower your little's to live a happy and healthy lifestyle.

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Bonus Information

If you made it this far then I bet you would like some of our other resources. In our related post --> The Benefits of Montessori Toys for Children, we discussed:

  • What makes a Montessori toy so special?
  • Types of Montessori Toys
  • What is Montessori Education?
  • Top 10 benefits of Montessori education for children
  • What is Maria Montessori’s philosophy?
  • The Importance of Playtime