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Building a Climbing Wall

Muffin is a champion climber. Whether it's stairs, jungle gyms, boulders, or the grills on the windows, she is scrambling up everything faster than anyone can stop her. I don't know exactly when or how I got the idea but a few months ago I found myself at the Atomik climbing holds website, loving the photos of little kids on their rock-climbing walls. So we decided to build one for Muffin.

I studied the FAQs and how-to instructions and we decided on a simple outdoor plywood wall. We don't want to invest too much labor into it because we'll be moving soon. A framed piece of plywood with removable holds is perfect. It's sturdy enough for a toddler and when it's time to leave we can unscrew the holds, pack them up, and use them for a new wall at our next home. I ordered the set of 24 Kids Holds and for a little extra fun, some Garden Animals holds. I also ordered all the hardware through the Atomik site, to make sure it would be exactly what we needed. I don't trust India to sell me what I want; we tend to be sold what merchants think is best, even if they have no idea. I didn't want to take chances with this project, especially since safety is a concern. The package was heavy and I waited anxiously to see if our mail depot would accept it or not. (Our mail is sent to a U.S. mailing address and then forwarded to us overseas. There are some restrictions on what they won't ship.) Once I saw that the package was accepted we moved on to the construction phase.

While waiting for our holds to arrive we bought the plywood. We did this ourselves, in person, rather than give full responsibility to our driver or haggle with plywood sellers over the phone. We were first quoted prices as high as 5,000 rupees ($90!) but ended up paying 1,700 rupees plus 300 more for home delivery.

Muffin went to work sanding the board, saying all along, "It's for me to climb on!"

One afternoon when Muffin and I both passed out at nap time, Mike did the painting and texture. The instructions call for textured paint, in order to keep the holds from spinning, but layers of paint with sprinkles of sand worked just fine for us. We decided not to prime the board or weather seal it. It's not going to rain again between now and when we move and the wall's placement in the yard is an area that gets very little direct sunlight. It should last a few months.

Next came drilling and framing. We wanted the wall to lean against the side of the house rather than attach to the house. Framing the plywood gave it some structure and strength and also created a buffer space so the bolts wouldn't scratch the house. Again, this needed to be sturdy enough for a 28-pound toddler, not for adults.

The holds arrived and Muffin spent some time unwrapping them and admiring them in the living room.

Drilling and the frame. There are several 2x4s across the back for stability.

Mike put most of the holds on during nap time, so I didn't get any photos.

Voila! The finished product.

We have a tiny yard so this is a good way to add play space to it. Muffin hasn't gotten too far off the ground yet. I think she's getting used to it, plus the holds are little rough on bare feet but she hasn't wanted to put socks on for climbing. Mike and I have both gone up and down it a few times to show her how and it holds our weight remarkably well. The holds seem very sturdy. I'm sure Muffin will love it over time. And when we pack up in a few months we can unbolt the holds and start over again in our new home!

Note: If you make your own climbing wall, please, please, please read professional instructions and do not go simply by what you read on this blog. We mostly used the Atomik advice but made our own decisions based on our needs and the materials available to us. The Atomik FAQs give lots of great advice on making walls for children of different ages and adults of different capabilities. Their customer service was responsive; I posted questions on their Facebook page and they responded within 24 hours.


Anonymous said…
so so so neat! Will is turning into a climber too and I would love to make him something like this in a few years! And I lovet hat the holds are permanent but the board can change when its time to move or when Muffin gets big enough to require more support/higher holds etc! What a super cool project!

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