One of the very first things children learn how to do, soon after crawling, is climbing on the sides of their crib. Within several months, they are trying to climb out of the crib. For most kids, this is where the fascination with climbing begins. While many adults will worry that kids may fall, allowing children to explore, including climbing and hanging, is healthy and part of their normal physical development.
In fact, within the National Association of Sport and Physical Education’s (NASPE) Content Standard for Motor Skills for the First Grade you will find the following:
‘Demonstrate transfer of weight while hanging (i.e. climbing wall, bars, rope climb)…’
Kids love to play, and climbing seems to be more often at the center of that play.The first jungle gym was invented back in 1920 by Sebastian Hinton of Chicago. It was made of metal piping fitted together.
Over time, climbing structures developed and started to be made of PVC and other plastics to ensure there was no dangerous, rusty metal to deal with. These all-weather surfaces made sense and still do today. Climbing structures have become arguably the most popular thing on the playground. Kids can climb with a little confidence knowing the soft netting will catch them if they miss a step.
Climbing walls, panels, and now nets have become very popular variations of climbing structures. Also the invention of the climbing dome – a panel structure that uses several pieces together to form a dome or half of a dome. Children love playing on these types of climbers.
Climbing walls and structures are generally safe when the organization that installs them ensures the play area has the proper ground surfacing. Some types of surfacing to help prevent injury from falls includes loose fill rubber mulch, a poured in place rubber surface, or rubber tiles.
The National Program for Playground Safety states that roughly 70% of playground injuries are due to falls of some kind. This is why it is important to make sure you use proper surfacing. While there are no guarantees any surfacing will prevent an injury, the proper thickness is likely to help minimize injuries. Below is a suggested guide for rubber tiles:
Rubber Tile Thickness Estimated Fall Height
2.25 inches 4 feet
2.75 inches 6 feet
3.25 inches 8 feet
The National Safety Council recommends 12 inches of surface material when used as fill (wood chips, rubber mulch, etc.) and recommends children under 4 years do not play on climbers.
According to a page on Wikipedia, the first modern artificial wall for climbing was created by Don Robinson in 1964 in the UK. The first gym for indoor climbing in the U.S. was created by Vertical World in 1987 is Seattle, WA. The popularity grew steadily from there, first for adults but obviously closely followed by those who manufacture playgrounds for children.
In fact, Sport Climbing has become popular so rapidly that it will be an official event at the Tokyo Olympic Games in 2020. The sport, along with baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, and surfing was voted in during the most recent International Olympic Committee (IOC) meeting in Rio de Janeiro.
Climbing will continue to gain in popularity as more viewers become fans, now that the sport will soon be featured in the summer Olympic games.