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Published February 01, 2011, 09:06 AM

Climbing the walls

TOWNER, N.D. — I’ve heard of infants being referred to as “curtain climbers,” but I don’t know many kids who limit themselves to just climbing curtains. I know I never did. Besides, I grew up in a house with shades, and it’s a lot trickier to climb a roll-up, retractable shade.

By: Ryan Taylor, Special to Agweek

TOWNER, N.D. — I’ve heard of infants being referred to as “curtain climbers,” but I don’t know many kids who limit themselves to just climbing curtains. I know I never did. Besides, I grew up in a house with shades, and it’s a lot trickier to climb a roll-up, retractable shade.

As quick as I could, I started climbing anything I could get an arm and a leg up on. I climbed corrals, then trees, then barns and windmills. I see my own kids on the same path to new heights.

Haystacks were a lot of fun when my siblings and I were little. All lined up in a row, we’d jump from one to the next, but if we fell into the dark scratchy void between four tightly spaced stacks, we were in a bit of a bind. If one of your playmates couldn’t pull you out, you’d have to wait there and yell and hope someone missed you by suppertime. With a little luck, they’d bring a ladder for you.

Moving from stacks to round bales changed the game a little. More round edges to slip off of, but some twine you could grab to slow your descent. If you stack the bales three high, kids can get a little more altitude from which to ponder their surroundings.

These hay-climbing games can take a bad turn, as taught to us by our toddler girl last summer when she tried to keep up with her two older brothers on a small stack of bales.

As explained to me by a 6-year-old eyewitness, “she just kept walking and then (shoulder shrug) . . . gone.” Turned out the 5- or 6-foot drop off the edge, though it was relatively soft ground and hay — resulted in a fractured arm.

It gave our 2-year-old a little time in a splint and a fairly positive healing experience. She still describes the whole experience in two- or three-word sound bites.

“Fell off bales.” “Broke my arm.” “Too bad.” “Doctor fix it.”

It’s one of those good 2-year-old tales, and we never know when she’ll break into telling it.

Jungle gym

Modern playgrounds have all the cool things a kid might want. They go well beyond the standard swing set, teeter totter and slide. Now they have these multicolored, multifaceted, multi-fun play sets.

Inevitably, they have a little climbing wall attached to them, complete with the cool, rock-shaped handles to grab or rest a toe on as they make their way up.

Our two boys really like the rock walls at the playgrounds. When I took them to a hotel for a banquet supper recently, I gave no thought to the way they see things from their small, scheming, climbing eyes.

We ate our meal and while I was enjoying a cup of coffee, the boys asked if they could play quietly out in the hall. I didn’t see much harm in that, so I turned them loose and started eating their leftovers.

Eventually, curiosity got the best of me and I went out in the hall to see what kind of game they’d devised. My reaction bounced between pride and embarrassment when I saw our two little rascals scaling the brick wall.

The 4-year-old was up about 6 feet when I got a hold of him and brought him back down to terra firma. I was pretty impressed with their strength as they curled their little fingers around a protruding brick and pulled themselves up.

Their mother wasn’t nearly as proud. I suppose Spider Man didn’t get much support from his mom either.

But it might be a good idea for us to stay close by to catch them if they fall. At least until their web shooters grow in.

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