Why You Should Take Your Kids Rock Climbing
At some stage most kids are climbing up everything in sight so why not take them to a gym or wall designed for that very purpose and let them enjoy doing it in a safe and ridiculously fun environment.
Dedicating a period of time to any physical activity is an important part of a child's life. It gets them away from the T.V, iPad or their phone for an hour or so and helps to burn a load of energy, helping them sleep well and improvin fitness.
Climbing is brilliant at improving children's flexibility, balance and general strength, all important elements in day-to-day tasks for younger kids and especially toddlers.
As they spend more time climbing, their skill and technique will improve and their general confidence should take a boost as they are able to climb harder routes.
The Social Side of Climbing
Aside from the physical benefits, climbing is a great way for children to develop their social skills. Unlike other sports (where they may be spread out over a large area), the kids are all interacting in a small space, ideal for making friends. That and the act of climbing encourages your little one to communicate with others, build trust and work as part of a team.
It also helps with listening and acting on instructions – requiring them to concentrate, focus and understand the importance of safety.
Climbing is Now an Olympic Sport
Sports climbing has been accepted as an event for the upcoming 2020 Olympic games in Tokyo. It is split into three separate disciplines: bouldering, lead climbing and speed climbing, with a combined score from each determining the winner.
You may be thinking what relevance that has to your kid? Well, what it means is that the UK Sport, the National Lottery and other charities, sports agencies and businesses will be investing in facilities, training and the grassroots of the sport.
This extra funding increased profile and popularity should result in more centres, coaching and opportunities for your child to enjoy climbing and all the associated benefits. In fact, the largest bouldering centre in Europe (The Depot) opened in Manchester last year.
You Can Go Climbing Whatever The Weather
The often-temperamental UK weather can limit outside activities, so one of the nice things about climbing is that it is an activity your child can do any day of the year.
It's an Affordable Activity
Almost all bouldering centres and climbing walls will let you rent climbing shoes, helmets and harnesses – with children's classes starting around £7 – £8. It's also a great activity for half-term where centres will run taster sessions and week-long courses.
What age can my kid start climbing?
You may have seen videos on YouTube on kids starting to climb before they can even walk but for most children, anywhere around 3 or 4 is a sensible option (when they are potty trained, can understand instructions and climbing walls accept them into classes).
These early age classes focus on having fun with supervised games and play on low-level indoor bouldering walls.
Can my child join a climbing club?
Not to be confused with climbing classes, climbing clubs are independently run and are normally operated on outside walls.
They are a great place for more experience teenage climbers to meet new friends and go on organised trips. Some clubs require parents to be present while some have their own youth officers to assume responsibility – it just depends on the size and funding of the individual club.
What are the different types of climbing?
Climbing shoes, chalk and a bouldering mat are all you need to go bouldering. The focus is on using a combination of climbing techniques, precision footwork and often more dynamic moves without the aid of a rope in order to scale the rock face.
Indoor bouldering's lack of equipment and low risk make it the ideal climbing discipline for kids to start out with.
The next logical step is to introduce kids to harnesses, rope systems and belaying. Top roping is a safe system that eases you kid into the world of climbing equipment.
Top roping refers to a climb where the rope is already threaded through an anchor at the top of the route, removing the need to lead the route. The assisting climber takes up the slack the higher you get up the wall, eliminating the risk of a long fall.
As your child's skills and confidence progress, they can try Sport climbing and at an older age leading the route.
Sport climbing can be done either indoors or out, with the rock or wall featuring permanent bolts or other secure anchor points. Climbers then clip their rope into these anchors using karabiners as they progress along the route, while being belayed by a partner. The act of clipping your rope in as you climb is also known as leading.
Where can I find my local climbing centre?
There are hundreds or climbing centres (indoor and outdoor) across the UK and Ireland that offer beginner lessons and instruction for kids of all ages. Take a look at the relevant directory below and find your nearest centre.
About the Author:
Pete Fletcher - Outdoor Expert
Pete grew up hiking most of the trails in the Lake District before being introduced to skiing. A few decades later and you're most likely to find him snowboarding, skateboarding, or making awful coffee.