Rock Climbing for Kids: What Every Parent Needs to Know

As a parent, sooner or later you will ask yourself the question whether your child is ready to test the waters in the world of sports.

There’s a plethora of health, social and mental benefits to sporting for children, so it really is a good idea to consider allowing your child to sport regularly. However, there’s also a myriad of sports that you can choose from, and rock climbing probably isn’t the first thing that comes in mind for most.

That’s unfortunate, because rock climbing is a great choice of sports for children and contrary to popular belief it’s one of the safest options out there. It’s also becoming a more popular sport by the day, attracting more and more (sub)urban enthusiasts, as indoor climbing facilities skyrocket. Moreover, did you know that you’ll be setting your child up for a shot at an Olympic medal?

In this article we’ll dive deep into all questions parents might have about rock climbing for kids. We’ll consider at what age your child can start rock climbing, how it will impact the mental and physical growth of your child and what different sorts of rock climbing there are available to kids. Lastly, we’ll also be discussing some of the practical topics, such as affordability (which might surprise you).

Climbing for Kids

At what age can my child start rock climbing?

The age at which children could start sporting is not set in stone, but kids can be ready to embark on their first sporting adventure as young as 3 years old.

By that age, kids will be physically capable enough to exercise in a structured way. In rock climbing specifically, it’s not uncommon to see children aged 3 or 4 to tuck on their first climbing harness.

Even though a child can easily climb his or her first wall by then, kids should have to wait before they’re given the responsibility to belay others. The main reason for this, is that one needs a reliable attention span to safely belay a climbing partner. Kids attention spans are not fully developed until they’re about 16 years old. Nevertheless, children can learn the basics of belaying years before that, as long as there are safety measures in place.

Fortunately, this does not mean children can’t climb until they’re adolescents. Adults can belay the children or supervise the use of automated belaying machines. Additionally, virtually every climbing gym has low difficulty, low height, and safe walls built specially for children to practise on. Below we’ll even discuss a popular form of climbing that doesn’t involve the use of ropes, making it a perfect form of climbing for children.

What are the benefits of rock climbing for kids?

There are numerous benefits that rock climbing has for children. Here’s a non-exhaustive list:

1. Climbing Boosts Confidence

There’s no greater boost to a child’s self esteem than single handedly reaching the top of something that’s many times higher than themselves. Climbing teaches your child that when you put in the effort no challenge is insurmountable. And neither are walls or mountains. The confidence climbing builds, will definitely help them later on in their (professional) lives.

2. Health benefits

The health benefits of rock climbing for kids are tremendous. Climbing requires you to use pretty much every single muscle in your body and thus keeps your whole body in shape.

Besides strength, agility is also very important in rock climbing. Flexibility of your arms and legs greatly enhances your climbing ability and children engaged with this sport will develop into agile, athletic adults.

Rock climbing furthermore boosts your child’s endurance, cardiovascular system and eye-hand coordination.

Climbing therefore will help your kid to become a great allrounder and it gives them a solid foundation for nearly every sport. Nearly every sport? Yes, ‘nearly’, just because we’re still not sure whether chess really counts as a sport. However, according to one study climbing walls at schools increase academic performance too!

3. Self esteem

Rock climbing is filled with moments of gratification. When your kid climbs to the top he will feel proud of himself. being complimented by your peers or instructor on completing a climbing route isn’t uncommon en helps build your kids self esteem.

4. Decisiveness

When climbing, children are confronted with various of ways in which they can climb the wall. Some options are easier than others. As lingering around while hanging from your arms drains strength, being decisive is of the essence for efficient climbing. Climbing teaches your kid to assess a situation, make a decision on how to handle it, and execute it to the best of their ability.

5. Sleep

Sporting in general is really good for a healthy sleep pattern. As climbing challenges childs both physically and mentally, they’ll have had plenty of opportunity to spend all their energy at the climbing gym before going to bed.

6. Stress

Climbing reduces stress. Few sports force you to live in the moment like climbing does. It just melts away all your worries. Moreover, your kid will conquer his or her fear of heights.

7. Social skills

One might be inclined to think that rock climbing is really individualistic. This is partly true, since in rock climbing, one only really competes with oneself. Nevertheless, climbers usually organize in groups and are always dependant on having a partner when belaying is involved.

In the climbing gym, your kid will discuss the best way to climb a wall with the other kids around. From my experience, climbing is one of the most social activities you can engage in. It is also one of the easiest ways to meet new people and make lifelong friends.

8. Self reliance

For kids, climbing is one of the easiest ways to become self reliant. Climbing a lot will boost your kids confidence in his or her own judgement and power. Kids quickly learn how to assess climbing problems and they will be able to transfer that confidence to other areas of their lives.

Is rock climbing safe for kids?

I’ve noticed that many parents are concerned about whether rock climbing for kids is really safe. I understand their concern. The sport may indeed sound a little rough. Nothing can be further from the truth, however.

Climbers obsess over safety, because safety measures are the only way the sport can thrive. The same can’t be said about every other sports. Climbing, for example, is not a contact sport, like football or martial arts. Any climbing instructor will make sure kids won’t begin to climb before they know everything they need to know about safety.

Lots of climbing gyms have facilities for kids to join in on the climbing fun. These are areas that are less extreme and the perfect environment for kids to start to learn how to climb.

Climbing zone for kids

Moreover, climbing gyms are scattered with thick fall breaking pads. In any professional climbing gym the equipment is regularly tested for safety.

Is rock climbing for kids affordable?

Yes, rock climbing for kids can and should be affordable. Depending on the area that you live in and the prices of real estate there (climbing gyms are usually quite large), prices may vary.

Most gyms I know have a significant discount for kids that want to climb as a sport.

On the equipment side, for indoors rock climbing a one time investment in good beginner climbing shoes for your kid should be sufficient. For outdoors rock climbing, it’s good practise and usually mandatory to purchase a helmet in addition to the climbing shoes.

Lessons can be taken in groups, which means this shouldn’t be too expensive at most gyms either.

Given the discount for kids in climbing gyms and the lack of needed equipment apart from shoes, having your kids climb as a sport should be affordable for most people.

What different kinds of climbing can children learn?

There are different kinds of rock climbing, most popular of which are rock climbing and bouldering.

Rock climbing is the art of climbing that involves the use of belaying equipment. Climbers are constantly secured by a safety rope as they climb to the top of the climbing wall.

Bouldering, on the other hand, does not involve any kind of belaying. Below the bouldering wall a thick pad is placed that serves as a cushion for safety. Bouldering usually involves more complicated moves than regular rock climbing: like jumps and thin edges on which to balance. Bouldering overall looks more acrobatic than regular climbing.

Both forms of climbing can be taught to kids starting at a young age. Usually climbing gyms have facilities for both styles of climbing, so your child will be able to see to which style he naturally gravitates.

Can my toddlers start climbing too?

Perhaps the question should be: why do toddlers climb so much? Toddlers naturally start climbing almost everything they see! This is deep-wired into humans and should, within all margins of safety, be allowed because it’s natural to us.

When it comes to rock climbing, however, it may be still a little too early. You should wait at least until they are three years of age before they can learn the ropes of the real deal. We’ve found some exceptions on the internet, but we like to be on the safe side of things when it comes to the safety of your child.  

If you are absolutely enthusiastic about teaching your youngest ones how to climb, then there are some at-home climbing solutions for toddlers that you may be interested in, or you’ll have to wait until your kids are 3 years old.

Climbing Blogger

Zealous boulderer, gear geek and editor. Typically has more flappers than fingers on his hands. Occasionally enjoys the feeling of being scared of heights. Mostly prevents looking down too much, though, and cheers at the invention of climbing chalk.

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