Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Toddlers and Helmets – From Bike to Crag…

C’s original helmet from Bell

My husband and I have always been fans of the brain bucket.  Climbing, biking, horseback riding, driving down I-77 during rush hour (one of these might be an exaggeration)…when it comes to adventures in the outdoors, many of our family photos involve a collage of hard hats.  In the climbing world, this sometimes makes us seem a little bit dorky – while there are some climbing situations where I don’t wear my helmet, 90% of the time I’ve got one on if I’m more than 15 feet off the ground (for a more detailed version of my helmet stance for climbing, check out here and here).

C trying out Mommy’s Trango helmet

For me the bottom line is that head trauma can have devastating and permanent consequences, and with so many risk factors outside of my control, wearing a helmet is a simple and easy way to buy a little bit of insurance.  It’s kind of a…”no-brainer” (cue boos from the bad joke police…).  With our strong stance on helmet usage, it’s no surprise that Cragbaby scored his first helmet as a Christmas present at 8 months old.  It was a kid’s helmet made by Bell, and was designed specifically for cycling. (or in C’s case, hitching a ride in his Chariot behind Mommy and Daddy’s bike).   C received a balance bike for his birthday when he turned 2 this past March, and from the beginning we made a hard and fast rule of “NO HELMET = NO BIKE.”  This meant that sometimes C went through weeks at a time where he didn’t ride his bike because of the whining that ensued every time we brought out the helmet.  (And ironically sometimes he would put away his bike after 5 minutes, but then leave the helmet on for another hour…you just never know with toddlers, I guess).  Anyway, we figure that the sooner he learns that helmets are synonymous with certain activities, the better.  

C and his brand new Petzl PICCHU

Now that he’s two and a half, Cragbaby is getting to the point where he is starting to climb outdoors a little bit (though he’s been dominating the walls at Inner Peaks for a while now).  That means we’ve had to add a third helmet to our entourage whenever we pack our gear for the typical weekend’s events.  And since C’s original bike helmet was on the outs (not sure how it got a giant crack across the front from nothing more than milling around the driveway on the balance bike…), we all of a sudden found ourselves in the market for both a cycling AND climbing helmet…

I don’t know about your family, but ours is into efficiency, especially when it comes to gear.  It’s a great feeling to be able to cross multiple to-do’s off your list from purchasing just one item.  So when I saw the PICCHU  helmet from Petzl, I knew it would be a good option for a multi-sport athlete like Cragbaby.  It’s one of the few climbing helmets on the market designed specifically for itty bitty noggins, and the only one that I could find that meets multiple safety standards for both climbing and cycling.  It’s intended to fit children 3-8 years old (C isn’t quite 3 but it still fits him just fine), which means, in theory, this one helmet should last us through any adventure life throws our way for the next 5 years…now that’s what I call efficiency!  

Just like Daddy!


C has decided that driving trucks is serious business and requires a helmet as well…

When he first saw it, he was a little unsure, as it didn’t look at all like his old (broken) standby.  “It’s scary, Mommy,” were his exact words.  But once I showed him that it was “just like Daddy’s,” he demanded to put it on right away, and ever since then it’s been the first thing he grabs when he goes into the garage.  Cragbaby likes the bright red color and the fact that it came with several pages of stickers to personalize his hard hat (although he’s chosen to put them on his sandbox cover instead…).  I like the fact that  it is easily adjustable for a wide range of head sizes and that it makes C look like a cute little toadstool.  But my favorite thing about it is the fact that C likes to have it on.  That tells me that it’s comfortable for him and doesn’t feel heavy or excessively hot on his head.  But most importantly, that tells me that the messages we’re sending C about the importance of safety are being received loud and clear!  

What are everyone else’s thoughts on helmets?  When, where, how, and why do you (or don’t you) use a helmet for yourself or your kiddo? 



10 Responses to “Toddlers and Helmets – From Bike to Crag…”

  1. Claudia

    C is getting so big!!
    The helmet is adorable 🙂


  2. helmets all the way! i sometimes feel silly and wish my kids were wearing helmets in the gym when they do big swings by the wall! but alas that would be a bit over the top! 😛 just purchased the Mammut Tripod 2 Climbing Helmet for my boys to share when we go climbing at the Red Columbus Wknd! super excited – but since they already have a bike helmet, went for a lone climbing one. will keep C’s helmet in mind when my littlest starts coming with us for camping/climbing! 🙂 xo


  3. We’re all about helmets. Skiing, biking, skateboarding. Tragically, a 38 year-old dad in our community recently died while skateboarding with his kids. He fell and hit his head. Yeah, we’re dorks, but a head injury just isn’t worth it.

    Thanks for the great post.


  4. Great post Erica! I always insist that my kiddos wear helmets when they’re climbing outdoors (or even just standing at the base of certain climbs). I usually just have them wear their bike helmets, but now I’m thinking of checking out this helmet, seems like it would be safer and more versatile. My personal helmet stance is only when climbing loose, alpine stuff or ice climbing. I hate helmets 🙁 I know thats bad though…


  5. If I looked half that cute in a helmet, I’d wear one all the time! 🙂


  6. I think we’re so used to wearing helmets while white water kayaking & biking, that the thought of even doing something “adventurous” (or just high-speed) without a helmet doesn’t even cross our minds. That said, our little one who’s 10,5 months old now doesn’t have a helmet yet. Ups. I think this is on the purchase list for next spring, as during the winter it’s all about cross-country skiing which for her means sitting in the sledge. 🙂


  7. Oh and forgot to say, I LOVE the Petzl helmet!! Wonder if I should get one… 🙂


    • Erica

      Hey Satu – Me personally I prefer my Trango helmet (it’s lighter and more breathable) but they don’t make a child’s version. Thanks for your comment – does your little one enjoy the kayak (not implying you’d take him/her on whitewater, just wondering if you ever do any flatwater stuff with the little tyke?)

  8. Colleen

    hi, my husband and I disagree about our 2 year old twins wearing helmets for outside play. We have a large wooden deck with several steps up to a smaller deck and the girls love to climb and practice walking up and down and have slipped a couple of times even when I was standing or sitting near them. We also have a full staircase with steep steps to the second floor of our house, and I am always nervous when I am helping them climb up since they refuse to let us carry them, so we take their hands and let them walk up. They are constantly bumping their heads every day and I mentioned helmets to him, but he insists that is ‘over the top’ and they should only wear helmets when they start riding bikes. Please advise, thanks!


  9. Erica

    Hey Colleen,
    I think the decision to wear or not wear helmets like that is a personal one that each family needs to decide for themselves…since I don’t know your kids and their level of motor skill development, I’m pretty hesitant to advice. I will say that we never used helmets for anything just around the house, but that we taught our son (and will be teaching our 6 month old as well) to always wait for a spotter whenever he wants to attempt to climb anything, whether it be the changing table (a popular one!) or the stairs. This post might help? Best of luck to you, and thanks for commenting!


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“Not all who wander are lost.” —JRR TOLKIEN