Kids love to move around, and a lot of times they have more energy than their parents. Yes, you should definitely take your kids rock climbing and/or bouldering. It’s great for developing general fitness, good balance and teaches them life values such as resiliency, confidence and how to think on their own. It’s also a great and safe adventure, and like a Outdoor and Nature 101 class for them.
And despite of its reputation as a sport for adrenaline junkies, rock climbing for kids is actually a great sport for kids and teenagers. It keeps them fit, agile and teaches them valuable life lessons and skills.
And you can nowadays find a bouldering gym or kid-friendly walls near you pretty easily, so bringing toddlers, wifey and everything else is not a problem. Not convinced yet? Let me give you some more details.
Kids need to learn to solve problems and make their own decisions
Climbing is a sport that needs brainpower. You cannot just go up a route, especially if you have a relatively light body as kids do. So you have to start planning, look at the route and figure out the best way. It’s almost like a puzzle for kids – with moving parts (pun intended).
And for every move they make they need to employ a certain strategy and approach to follow. Sometimes you are not sure where to go next, and when you’re outside in the sun on the rock, wind up your hair and you feel your arms getting tired from holding too long, oh boy, consequences of hesitating are all too real.
I think rock climbing for kids is the perfect way to train them in reacting to and solving problems in a smart, energy saving way by making quick decisions. That’s something you cannot put a price on and the earlier they learn it the better.
It will teach your little ones to be brave and adapt to difficulty – that’s called resilience
Fear is normal and can help you to achieve greatness because it helps you bring out the best in you. But only if you have learned to overcome it you can use it to boost your motivation and success. Rock climbing challenges kids with lots of different types of fear: Fear of failing, fear of the unknown and of course the fear to fall. And they learn to be bold, overcome the fear and adapt. When they start leaving their comfort zone they will come out as stronger, and more resilient human beings.
Climbing teaches your kids to make good and healthy choices and builds confidence
Climbers are rarely fat or chain smokers. Despite some of my friends being individualists and of course roll their own cigarettes when outside, most climbers i know are actually quite healthy. When you climb, your body transforms, you become lean, flexible and muscular. And not the type of bloated mess you get from working out too much, but efficient, enduring muscles which will help you to stay active and agile in your daily life. I know zero climbers who are obese, lazy or weak.
In fact, most older climbers i know are way beyond their age cut in terms of mental alertness, fitness, and agility. And most of them are actively pursuing other sports such as hiking, mountain biking, surfing or yoga, and dancing. Eat well, eat fresh, drink a ton of water and get ripped and strong. It will help you become better at climbing too, and when your kids are following these choices they have a solid foundation when they grow up.
Another thing is confidence – there is something about being able to climb stuff, move in terrain where 90% of the average population is too afraid or not even able to move in. And it will help your kids to grow up into confident adults.
Climbing is a controlled adventure – with relatively low risk
Climbing can be extreme, that’s for sure. Watch Alex Honnold climb free solo and you will get sweaty palms just from sitting in front of your TV. But that’s an extreme example of the world elite climbers – most climbing actually takes place in a controlled environment. Climbing is a safe sport – despite its bad reputation. Beginners climb top rope, meaning the rope is running through the anchor first. This means kids won’t even actually fall if they fail on a route, because there is just no real slack rope when they fall – except for the few millimeters due to the elasticity of the dynamic rope.
And in a bouldering gym, you have thick shock absorbing mats to minimize the risk of injury. If you fall on a bike or get washed hard when surfing that’s actually more dangerous. And it happens more often too. When you become an advanced climber, leading routes etc, falls are longer but then you have some experience too.
No one becomes a good climber without focus and discipline
In a world where media, apps etc. draw your attention it can be a very good skill to be able to focus on one thing. Great minds usually have discipline and focus and climbing is a perfect sport to learn the basics of discipline and focus. If you’re up on a slab, trying to carefully balance every move to not slip you WON’T multitask.
You will be all in the present, focusing on your task. I love this aspect of climbing especially because I have a hard time shutting out stuff in other sports. Climbing forces me to focus on one single task, while at the same time being very existential and it does not feel forced. It’s just natural, and it comes with a rush of adrenaline
Outdoor skills like knots, routes and rappelling are good for other sports too
No matter if you go and sail a boat or backpack through the wilderness of Canada – most of the skills learned in rock climbing can be used in other outdoor activities. By teaching your kids to handle ropes, tie safe knots, be able to rappel down a vertical rock face from a tree and finding their way through rough terrain you will not just give them the basics for climbing. You will also prepare them to camp outside, build shelters and basic navigation. No matter if they go kayaking or skiing – they will have some skills and the right mindset to be ready if they are ever in a life-threatening escape situation. And these skills can be useful for the rest of their lives.
Climbing is cheap
Climbing doesn’t cost a lot, you get four harnesses, a rope and belay device plus some quickdraws for under 500$ if you buy it on a discount. And you can use it for many years. No monthly fees, no costly new acquisitions each new season (looking at you mountain biking). Of course, no one stops you from going stir-crazy and spend a lot of money on climbing vacations and top of the line gear, but that’s the same in any sport. If you just want a low-cost start, climbing is perfect and suited for bigger families as well.
Humility builder and frustration tolerance booster
Like all parents i tend to shower my daughter with attention and positivity- But sometimes kids need character building, they need to fall on their a***es sometimes. Climbing lets them experience failure: They won’t make every route on sight, they will fall and they will need to find solutions to shortcomings they have.
It’s also a great way to let them stay in touch with nature – just remember how you felt when you were exposed on a 30 feet pitch the first time, wind on your skin, all sweaty from working your way up and then the look down, so scary high. How good it felt to be back on the feet after rappelling down, knowing you gave everything. It makes you very humble very quick, and learning to stand up after you failed will teach them a good amount of frustration tolerance which they can use for school and life.
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Take your kids outside, with you when you climb. You can start when they are toddlers, just let them try out some low hanging holds and footholds for fun. They will love it, it combines very well with their natural tendency to jump and climb around outside. And as shown above, a lot of the skills and traits for good character building come with climbing too. And in the end, it’s just super fun to be outside on a sunny Saturday afternoon with the people you love the most, having a good time. Is there anything better?!
Make sure to check out my article on climbing shoes if you buy shoes for your kiddos!