With both indoor and outdoor opportunities, rock climbing is a unique activity the entire family can enjoy year round and -- with special safety considerations -- even kiddos in the 2- to 5-year-old age range can enjoy this challenging activity. Before you know it, the phrase "my kids have so much energy they are climbing the walls" will take on a whole new meaning!
Where to Climb
As rock climbing continues to grow in popularity, it is becoming easier to find child-friendly climbing options. Many climbing walls offer classes specially designed for tots as young as 2; expect to stay close by and possibly participate if your child is under age 5, as some gyms require it. Check your local YMCA or recreation center to find climbing classes in your area. Outdoor climbing tours and lessons are also available to kids; find an instructor who is certified through a climbing organization, such as the American Mountain Guides Association (amga.com). A list of certified guides and climbing schools can be found on the website. If you live in a mountainous region of the country, rock climbing schools are readily available and most offer child and family climbing lessons; your state tourism website or a park ranger may also provide information on climbing tours and lessons.
It's important that you outfit your child in properly fitted safety gear that is made especially for a child of her age, height and weight. Do not use adult gear or try to modify a too-large harness to fit your young one’s smaller frame. Special full-bodied harnesses are used for children under 10; they fit more securely on a child as they have less developed hips than adults. Special climbing shoes are also beneficial, as the sticky rubber sole of the shoes helps your child’s feet stick to the wall, making climbing easier and safer for her.
Safety is of the utmost importance when rock climbing to guard against the potential for injuries. Before you let your little monkey at the rocks for the first time, he should enroll in a rock climbing class to learn proper technique and safety precautions. Even children who are experienced climbers should always be supervised by an adult. Wearing tight-fitting clothing, proper shoes and a helmet are all important when climbing. Warming up and stretching are also important to prevent strains, sprains and other injuries. Get in the habit of helping your child check her gear, such as knots, buckles, belays and rappel systems, before each use.
Benefits of Rock Climbing
Rock climbing is a tremendous workout for your kiddo, so tag along and get your sweat on too, Mama. Climbing teaches your child confidence, self-esteem and self-reliance as he gradually improves on his rock-climbing skills. What once seemed an insurmountable obstacle is now a warm-up wall for him that he can accomplish in no time flat. HealthGuidance.org touts the additional benefits of rock climbing as increased balance, endurance, physical determination and a connection with nature.