Climbing a Stairway to Heaven

There’s a baby who knows that all slides are pure gold, and she’s climbing a stairway to heaven…

Hannah loves a good slide. She has done so ever since she was first introduced to them on our trip to Queensland. Since that first time, her mobility has developed to the point where she can navigate her way up steps, over platforms and onto slides independently.
As Hannah’s mobility has increased, we have gradually withdrawn our support. We have stopped placing Hannah at the top of slides, instead we leave her to find her own way. Hannah’s enjoyment of this process is obvious. She crawls around, explores, climbs, stops and watches other kids, and eventually she finds her way to the top. Once there, she is rewarded with one of her favourite experiences – a slide.
Today we stumbled upon a new playground. It was brilliant, except for one key feature. The way up to the slide. Instead of the usual, safe staircase, there was this…

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The staircase of doom

It may be hard to fully assess the true level of difficulty that the ladder presented to anyone under the age of two from this photo, but it was high. In fact, my first thought was that it was impossible. I was sure that Hannah wouldn’t even try it, and that we would have to revert to placing her at the top if she wanted to slide.
I placed Hannah down on the soft-fall and watched for a while as she explored the ropes and around the base of the equipment.
Before long, she was at the ladder. She stood, with the bottom rung in her hands. I took it as an indication that she wanted to get up to the slide, so I moved in a bit closer. I was ready to help her after she realised there was no way for her to get up.
Much to my surprise (I really shouldn’t have been surprised, she has a proven history as a climber), she reached up and pulled herself onto the first rung, while holding the second. This was no mean feat – even with her tiny footprint, Hannah’s toes dangled precariously over the edge of the disproportionately thin step. Hannah appeared to feel a little insecure about her position for a few seconds as she fought to gain her balance, but then she appeared comfortable. I hovered behind, the nervous parent ready to catch his child, or help her off when she felt stuck.
Neither of which happened. Up she reached and, in an instant she was another step up.

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Look at that stretch! Not bad for a 14 month old

The top of the contraption proved to be the trickiest part. Hannah spent a good while standing on the top rung and assessing her situation. There was no obvious way for such a tiny body to heave herself up onto the platform. Too high above, on the sides there were hand holes, but these were clearly designed for children with longer reach. All she has to work with was the smooth plastic platform that stretched out before her.
Eventually, through pure determination, Hannah managed to haul her little body onto the platform. There she sat for a few minutes, soaking it all in, enjoying her new-found perspective at the top of the world.
After a while she crawled over to her ultimate reward – the slide. She edged her way onto it and, as she felt gravity take hold, she lay down on her stomach. With a big smile, she let go. A joyous squeal faded into the distance and Hannah was off.
Hannah immediately returned to the ladder, ready for round two. In total, she made her way up the ladder three times, for three slides down. This was not a lot of sliding in the hour in which we were in the park, but Hannah didn’t seem to mind. I could have picked her up and placed her at the top of the slide each time, and had it all over and done in a matter of minutes. However, I truly feel that the way we approached it resulted in a much more worthwhile experience for Hannah.

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