What is the Pikler triangle & is it Montessori?

The Pikler triangle is commonly associated with the Montessori education. In this blog post, I will answer the following questions: What is it? Is it in ligne with Montessori? Do you need it? And where to buy it?

What is the Pikler triangle?



Quite simply, a Pikler triangle is a climbing frame. It was designed by Emmi Pikler, a Hungarian pediatrician who studied the needs of babies and toddlers. Based on her observation, she encouraged freedom of movement and designed materials to promote safe exploration. The RIE method is also based on Pikler's ideas. I wrote about that way of parenting babies here

According to Emmi Pikler, babies will climb when they are ready. The Pikler triangle will allow children to explore "climbing" in a safe way. It is low enough to ensure safety, at first, the child will only hold it to stand up, then climb a few rungs and only climbs to the top when they are confident. The key is not to put them on the climbing frame but to let them explore safely. 

The original design is approximately 85 cm height and recommended from 10 months old. Pikler® furniture is made to specific measurements worked out by Dr Pikler, made to high quality standards.
Only 4 manufacturers is Europe are are certified to carry the Pikler Registered Trademark.

How is it different from other climbing apparatus?


Most climbing frames are aimed at older children. They are suitable for children who can walk and can climb stairs up and down by themselves. It's a new challenge for active preschoolers.

You may think that using the public playgrounds equipment is all that your child needs. I would agree with you but what happens most of the time is that, as parents, we push our children beyond their limits on playground equipment. We place baby at the top of the slide, we hold them and make them climb the ladder. By doing so, we potentially place our children in an unsafe situation. I would always advise not to help babies and toddlers or even preschoolers to reach a higher ground. If they can do it by themselves then it is "safe" for them. If they need your help, then they are not ready for that next level. Obviously, always supervise your children when they climb!

The Pikler triangle is a safe climbing frame for babies and toddlers. 

There are alternatives to the traditional Pikler triangles that have been used in day care for a long time, way before the Triangle became popular. More on this below.

Is it in line with Montessori?


In my opinion, Pikler's ideas are in ligne with Montessori. Therefore the Pikler triangle is a Montessori friendly material. Having said that, in Montessori infant environments, we commonly use a "bridge" or "toddler staircase". The bridge is used for babies who crawl while the staircase encourages toddlers to climb up and down a set of 3 to 4 steps. It allows the child to practice movement that he will need in real life. As of course, children will need to be able to walk up and down stairs and steps. 

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Do you need a Pikler triangle?


With a price of a around £200, is it worth it to purchase a Triangle? Most parents, from my FB group love the Pikler triangle. It can be used from around 6 to 10 months of age and up to 6 years old. You can add some accessories to give more challenge to a confident walker. It is an  item that would keep for your grand-children or you can sell it for a very good price. If you buy it for your baby then it's around 6 years of play (so around £30 per year). 

If it's out of your budget, I would also reassure you that your baby will learn to climb no matter what! Children pull themselves up using the coffee table as support. They walk along the sofa. A few big cushions on the floor and they enjoy an obstacle course. Your child is not going to miss out if you cannot afford a Pikler triangle. My children didn't have one and my son is still climbing everywhere!

Where to buy a Pikler triangle?


Where to buy a Pikler triangle is a common question in our FB group. Because of the price, many parents want to find a cheaper alternatives. I know that some have asked a local wood worker to make one for them. Some have dismantled a cot and used that as a climbing frame.

I would urge caution here as it will be used by babies and toddlers.

There is a maximum height to respect and the rungs must hold a maximum weight. There are strict CE standards for children's toys and furniture that must be respected. 

In the UK, there are 2 main brands.

Sawdust and Rainbow and Triclimb. Both are made in the UK, sustainable and CE certified.

There are some options on Etsy but they are not CE tested although if they support 50kgs, it is the official CE testing limit. Often the issue with the frames is the height, they are often too tall to be CE approved. 

Sawdust and Rainbow founder, Rosie Hughes is a member of our FB group and here is what she says about the Pikler.

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Coleraine native, Rosie Hughes never thought that she would be selling indoor wooden climbing frames across the globe. In, 2017, while decorating her house for Christmas, she found her 17month-old son, Reuben on the first rung of a ladder. Rosie then set about finding a safe climbing frame for him. After a lot of searching and not finding what she was after, she decided to put her Engineering and Manufacturing qualification to good use and make her own. She shared a picture on a parenting group on Facebook, and the orders started flowing. Sawdust and Rainbows was born.

"I was inspired by the Hungarian Paediatrician, Emmi Pikler who was passionate about babies developing in the way nature intended, allowing the child to learn and master skills at their own pace. Creating the Pikler inspired triangle for Reuben was a slow process. He spent some afternoons on my back in his carrier singing and eating treats! But we got there and when his frame was finished he loved it - climbing on it, using it as a tunnel and sitting on the rungs."

Rosie continued: "I started making the triangles, which I call the Wee’UN, in a shed out the back of our house. Within two years I'd outgrown the shed and had three staff. The range has grown too, and now includes a variety of frames, tunnels, a slide and accessories for toddlers and pre-schoolers. Last year we moved to a refurbished poultry house outside Crossgar and hired two more staff."

The recent lockdown due to Covid19 was a strange time for the fledgling start-up. With everyone stuck at home, orders started to go through the roof. March 2020 was busier than the previous Christmas, and this July has been Sawdust and Rainbows' best month of trading.

Rosie now has stockists across Europe, and recently sent her second shipment to the United States. A stockist in Australia has just been confirmed.

According to Rosie, she's ready for the challenge: "I've been blown away by the interest in my products. I've put so much heart and soul into designing, crafting and safety testing, that it's such a thrill to be able to share them with the world.

Their company is big on safety: 

All our products are independently tested by a professional lab from birth.

During manufacture our products go through a range of sanding processes to pass the Corners and Edges section.

The rungs we use can withstand a ¼ of a ton.

Part 3 of EN71 (chemical migration) all our paints, varnishes and wood is chemical tested Toy Safe. We can trace all our wood right back to the forests they come from.

Part 8 EN71 is safety of activity toys for domestic use. Our items are tested for stability, so they won’t tip while in use. Head, neck and torso entrapment – the top rung design on the Wee’Un is spaced so that even the child’s body can’t get through. Potentially, if the spacing is different, young climbers could be put at risk of their body sliding through and their feet not touching the ground. On the shorter items, like the hump and little’un, because the child’s feet can reach the floor the rungs are slightly wider apart, which makes the frame useful to build confidence and coordination in other ways.

For more information about Rosie's range of indoor wooden climbing frames visit: www.sawdustandrainbows.com

Do you have a Pikler triangle? Do your children enjoy it? Let me know in a comment!

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About the Author Carine Robin

Carine Robin has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, specialising in child psychology. She worked for various social services in her home country of Belgium, before moving to Ireland in 2006. It was there that she started working in a nursery and discovered Montessori education. After having her first child, her passion for the philosophy grew and she qualified as a Montessori teacher and managed a preschool. Carine has been running a Montessori based parents and toddler group and coaching families for 9 years. She now also runs an online group for over 14000 parents, sharing her knowledge and passion with people from around the world. In 2018, Carine realised families needed more support and launched her popular online parenting courses and monthly subscription boxes, full of personally designed Montessori materials.

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