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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best soft climbers for toddlers

Toddlers have an abundance of energy, so much so that parents have a hard time keeping up. You need to have a strategy for your child to safely burn off that energy, especially on rainy days when they’re stuck indoors. That’s why it’s wise to have a designated play area in your home, and getting a soft climber is one of the easiest ways to create a safe, active play space.

Soft climbers are made up of large cushions that resemble colorful, oversize building blocks. Most models have hook-and-loop fasteners on the bottom so you can configure the individual pieces into an imaginative terrain of soft stairs, ramps, and tunnels for your child to explore.

Soft climbers aren’t complicated, but there are a few things to know as you shop, including the number of pieces included, how to set them up to keep your child safe, and any included extras you might want.  

I1
Supervised, active free play is one of the best activities for your child. It helps them stay strong while developing coordination, fine motor skills, and gross motor skills.

Key considerations

Benefits of climbing for toddlers

For adults, the CDC recommends finding the time for a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. For preschool-age kids, the CDC recommends they stay active throughout the day (unless napping). Kids don’t just seem to be more active than adults, they are more active than adults, and it’s hard for parents to keep up.

To help your children stay healthy, you want to find ways to keep them moving that don’t exhaust you, and a soft climber is an ideal solution. You can sit down and supervise while your child crawls and climbs. The play experience offered by a soft climber can improve your child’s overall health along with providing emotional and educational benefits as well.

Space needed for a soft climber

Area: The first thing to think about when considering a soft climber is your available space. While some models are relatively compact, only taking up a space measuring 4 feet by 16 inches, others require as much space as two side-by-side pool tables.

Safety: Besides the size of the climber, you need to allow for a buffer zone around it. Remove all hard or sharp objects from the play area surrounding your toddler’s soft climber. There should be no furniture close enough to the climber that toddlers could hit it should they fall. Additionally, if you don't have carpeting or other soft flooring, you might consider covering the floor with foam tile to help reduce the chance of injuries if your child stumbles. 

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Expert Tip
Don’t forget to also engage your child’s cognitive and social-emotional skills while talking to your child about their movements and the colors and shapes they see  while they’re playing on the soft climber
BestReviews Baby and Child Expert

Soft climber features

Pieces

Quantity: While it’s possible to purchase a soft climber that’s just one piece, the vast majority have two or more pieces that fit together like building blocks. The more pieces your set includes, the more variety you’ll have and the more space you’ll need for the climber.

Variety: The most common pieces found in these climbers are steps and a ramp. When placed together, they resemble a slide, though the ramp isn't steep enough for sliding. There are many other types of pieces in soft climbers, including squares, triangles, half-cylinders, tunnels, and ripples. A flat climbing surface is the most practical, but you can get nearly any shape your child might like.

Fasteners: Be careful with soft climbers that use hook-and-loop fasteners because they can be abrasive on a toddler’s tender skin. The best models have the fasteners on the bottom of the pieces so your child is far less likely to get hurt.

Design

Colors: Since a child's eyes aren’t fully developed until after their fifth birthday, they tend to prefer bright colors and dark and light contrasting colors. Because of this, it’s best to look for a soft climber that pleases your child’s sense of aesthetics rather than yours. Also, some models come in creative shapes, such as a ladybug or turtle. If your child gets excited by the picture, chances are they’ll be thrilled by the real thing.

Playpen: It’s also possible to purchase a soft climber that resembles a playpen, giving your child a well-defined play area. However, it’s important that you never leave a toddler alone in this type of soft climber because it won’t contain them. A child can easily climb out.

Extras: Some soft climbers have educational aspects in their design, such as letters, numbers, or animals. Also, it's possible to find models that have activities to occupy babies who aren’t yet old enough to climb.

Expert Tip
Always supervise babies and toddlers on soft climbers.
BestReviews Baby and Child Expert

Pricing

Inexpensive

For under $100, you can purchase a soft climber for your toddler that includes one or two pieces, such as stairs and a ramp. There isn’t a great deal of variety with these climbers, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing if space is limited in your home.

Mid-range

For use in the average home, you can expect to spend between $100 and $350. In this range, there’s a wide variety of climbers between small two-piece models and large climbers that are suitable for a daycare center.

Expensive

If you need a soft climber for a daycare center or have a lot of space in your home, high-end models start at around $400 and can cost as much as $1,000 or more. These larger sets include a wide variety of shapes that can be configured in a number of ways to offer toddlers new challenges.

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Staff Tip
Playing on a soft climber requires energy. A healthy diet provides the fuel toddlers need to stay strong, grow, and develop. 
Staff
BestReviews

Tips

A soft climber isn't just fun for your toddler; it's beneficial in a number of ways.

  • Climbing can help your child develop both fine and gross motor skills, enhance coordination and agility, hone a sense of balance, and develop a better sense of spatial and directional awareness.
  • Climbing helps build and strengthen the core muscles required for sitting up, standing, and walking. It also helps them learn proprioception, an awareness of the position and movement of their body.
  • Climbing enhances a child’s ability to concentrate and helps them learn problem-solving, decision-making, and critical-thinking skills.
  • Activities such as climbing have been shown to stimulate the brain to help children do better in school. 
  • Children who are physically active are less prone to experiencing behavioral issues. And playing with other children helps to develop social skills.
  • Climbing teaches children how to adapt to their environment, problem solve, confront challenges, assert their independence, and build confidence.
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Sleep is as important to the body as exercise. It’s when growth and development occur. Make sure your toddler gets the recommended 11 to 14 hours of sleep each day, especially if they’re very active. 

FAQ

Q. How old is a toddler?

A. To “toddle” means to take short, unsteady steps while learning to walk. A child can be considered a toddler from the moment they take their first steps until they have (somewhat) mastered the ability to walk. This period of growth and development typically occurs from 12 to 36 months.

Q. Why is it called the “terrible twos”?

A. Once children can walk, they want to explore their independence. This time also coincides with huge emotional changes as well as an increase in learning and thinking. The “terrible twos” is simply a child’s struggle to grow as they’re caught between wanting to feel safe and having the urge to strike out on their own. This can lead to frustration that the child doesn’t know how to express, so they turn to inappropriate behavior and tantrums. Having a soft climber can help a child safely explore their independence. 

Expert Tip
Soft climbers are good for babies to crawl over too!
BestReviews Baby and Child Expert

Q. What are developmental milestones?

A. Whenever your child learns a significant new skill, it’s called a developmental milestone. These skills can involve anything from crawling to standing to taking that first step.

Q. Can a soft climber help my child reach developmental milestones?

A. A soft climber provides your child with a challenging yet safe environment where they can be physically active. Depending on the type of climber you purchase, it can help your toddler learn a variety of important skills while they strengthen the muscles needed to reach those important milestones.
 

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