A space for little monkeys to be monkeys :)

toddler gym

This post is something I’ve been meaning to write for a long time, as I feel it is of utmost importance. It is about letting children be children. Or rather, creating an environment for them where they can do so.

One of the things I feel our modern society really lacks is the environment for children to explore the world on their own — to go off to places of their choosing, to run, to climb, get muddy and so on! Yes, there are special children’s gyms and classes and playgrounds. Some more fun than others, but neither is something a child can have access to on their own whenever they feel like it. I think it is sad that our children can’t freely go on exploring the world around them, leaving house after breakfast and coming back at dark as many of us and our parents did growing up.

On the other side, I’ve been seeing a number of educators expressing their concerns that more and more parents are very interested in getting their children some early academic development which implies sit-down classes, structured actives, etc. I’m not saying I’m against academic development, by any means. But I believe that a lot of it is best achieved in an environment where children can be free to explore, where they reach and withdraw on their own from objects, subjects and activities.

This is a vast topic of course and I don’t intend to cover it all in one post 🙂 … Instead I wanted to share with you some of my inspiration and a few practical things we’ve implemented that enriched lives of our children right here at home and I hope it can help your family as well.


In the western world most parents heard of Montessori and Waldorf education approaches, both of which I hold in high esteem as well. But in former Soviet Union we also had the Nikitin Family approach, which is very close to my heart. It is impossible to cover what they were all about in a single post and unfortunately their books aren’t translated in English. But one of the fundamentals of children’s upbringing in the Nikitin family was physical actives — not structured, not planned, but free for children to choose and do on their own. Here is a video giving a little glimpse of what their family’s children’s room was like. I love every bit of it!!!

The complete video is rather long, the part I’m sharing only is about 1-2 minutes and starts at 15:52 into the video. And if you are interested keep watching to see the fun sports event organized by Boris Pavlovich Nikitn for his children and their neighbors. The energy and excitement is just so wonderful!

Our own house

Our house lot isn’t very big and all our trees are very young, so unfortunately I’m not able to create the play space I wish I could for the boys. But we’ve got few things set up for them on the deck and around our yard (see our lovely sandbox play space) that I wanted to share here, as they don’t require a lot of space or money, but all together have been a great success. And because they are rather compact they could be moved indoors during cold months.

Toddler trampoline (7’x7′ wide) and athletic rings

Note: while I share Amazon links it is merely because that is the only place I was able to find these items. If I could get them from a different store, preferably a small business, I would do so instead.

Who doesn’t love a trampoline? It’s just not possible. 🙂 If I had a room for a large trampoline I’d spend there a lot of time myself :).

I found this little toddler trampoline on Amazon and it has been great! It isn’t design-y looking (I wish there was more beautifully made athletic equipment for children out there), but it serves its purpose very well. Both boys just love it. I can not list all the fits of acrobatics Ale performs there and of course Eleon is trying to do the same. It is most fascinating to watch them! Ale is 3 and Eleon is 1. The trampoline is big enough for both of them to be there, although we always have to remind Ale to be careful and not get carried away if he is there together with his little brother.

We combined the trampoline with olympic rings and it has been such a great and fun combo for both boys.

I ended up getting 2 sets of rings for our gym area. First I got these nice looking wooden rings, however the thickness of them was good for a 3 year old, but was too much for the little hands of a 1 year old. So I ended up also getting these trapeze rings and they’ve been perfect for Eleon!

Rope ladder

The rope ladder was added recently. Ale hasn’t quite figured it out yet, but it presents a next physical challenge for him, which I’m very happy about.

Climbing dome

toddler outdoor gym climbing
outdoor kids play  toddle gym
outdoor kids play  toddle gym
outdoor kids play  toddle gym

I also really wanted to get them something fun to climb on. I almost ordered some crazy expensive, but really amazing climbing set all the way from Russia, but something didn’t work out in the last moment. So in the meantime I ended up getting this little climbing dome. It is plastic and much simpler than I wanted, but so far both boys are enjoying it. Ale, who is 3, can climb all around it and likes to show us different ways he can hang off it. Eleon so far can only reach some of the bars, but he is trying hard to catch up with his big brother in mastering the thing. 🙂

Future additions

I also got a set of rock climbing holds for them, but so far I haven’t figured out where and how to add them unfortunately.

And just last week I found this indoor climbing wall. It looks like a more basic version of the amazing sets I saw being sold in Russia. We haven’t received it yet, but I am very excited about adding it to the boys play room and will post an update soon.

And here is my Pinterest board with various outdoor fun things, in case your yard allows for more fun stuff than mine! 🙂

What play things do you have going for your little monkeys? I’d love to know!

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