Kids are natural climbers. As soon as they can walk, and in some cases before, they begin clambering over the furniture with an admirable degree of fearlessness. Not long afterward, they will discover climbing frames and trees. For parents, whose natural anxiety is coupled with a desire to develop confidence in their children, teaching them to climb safely is a priority.
Why Climb Rocks?
There are so many reasons why rock climbing is a great activity for kids that it is hard to list them, but perhaps they boil down to the fact that it teaches excellent life skills:
- Planning a route and adapting it as you go along
- Trusting your buddies and gain their trust
- Appreciating the importance of being fit and agile, both physically and mentally
- Learning how to recover from a setback
- Understanding the need to take responsibility for your own equipment, skills, and choices
All these skills take time. In the normal course of life, kids are easily deterred by failure; but with climbing, they discover early on that the rush of endorphins associated with the buzz of completing a climb is so addictive that they are willing to keep trying until they get it again.
How to Get Started
Children who are reasonably confident can be introduced to organized climbing from about five years of age. The best place to start is an indoor center. Indoor climbing walls are carefully designed to give a satisfying challenge for every level of ability. They also avoid the disappointment of planning a climb and then being stopped by the weather.
Eventually, it is possible to move onto outdoor climbs on natural rock. Expert supervision is obviously important here. Children are completely safe as their early climbs are always on a top rope. This means that their rope goes through an anchor above them—if they fall they don’t descend more than a few inches. Only their pride gets hurt, which makes them more determined to succeed.
How to Move On
The techniques of climbing are developed over a lifetime. Once your kids have got the climbing bug, you can stress the importance of training and experience over natural ability and enthusiasm. They need to learn how to pace themselves and develop a rhythm when climbing. And of course, they need to learn how to fall safely and how to deal with fear.
Joining a climbing club with a youth section is a good plan. The camaraderie of climbers is legendary, and even if you don’t climb yourself, if you happen to have a rugged all-terrain vehicle like a Jeep Renegade which can get to some of the best climbing rocks, you will find yourself extremely popular!
Teach Them to Hang On
Climbing is a stimulating, rewarding, and natural activity for children. In an age of anxiety, it teaches children how to be self-reliant, and parents how to give their kids space. If your child shows the slightest interest, there is every reason to encourage it.
Kyle Stephens loves being a Father. He puts his thoughts and tips down on virtual paper through his articles which appear on a range of parenting blogs.