I really love rock climbing, but after trying for several years to get my boyfriend/husband to like it, I finally gave up and accepted it as an activity that I do solely with friends. It is great insofar as I get to spend time with other people, but I am a twinge envious of the family climbing trips that a lot of my friends go on. The tide may be turning though as my daughter is proving to be a much less reluctant climbing partner than my husband. I have actually been taking her with me to the climbing gym and to some outdoor bouldering spots since she was an infant. Initially she just lolled around or played on a blanket while I bouldered, but now if she comes along she does as much climbing as I do. Granted, "climbing" is a strong word for what she does, but if the goal is to try something new, gain some strength and experience, and above all have a good time, then by those metrics she is excelling.
by the President's Council on Children's Health was the need for, "major emphasis [on] lifetime physical fitness activities for the development of strength, endurance and flexibility... " The report went on to suggest recreational climbing as an ideal pursuit for children to develop these crucial skills... [and that] If you enjoy climbing then it follows that you should climb with your children. It's a great skill to teach them because, aside from the emphasis on strength and coordination, it's something they can take advantage of long after the team-sport days of their youth are gone.
My experience of incorporating my daughter into my climbing is by no means unique among my climbing friends. In fact, many go much farther in terms of taking their young children climbing outside on a very regular basis, enrolling them in climbing camps or on teams, and otherwise exposing them to the sport. Below is a snapshot of these aforementioned kids rock climbing, and a short synopsis of how my friends feel about climbing with their kids:
Former Supermodel Turned Supermom and Potential Guide Book Author:
|The Princess and the Problem|
The Neuroscientist and Her "Crag Baby":
|Man of Stone|
The Yosemite Homesteader and Silicon Valley Exec:
|A Wee One Rockstar|
Some tips to get your kids into climbing are summarized below and in this article, and most of them are generally applicable to other sports. The key seems to be to make the experience light, easy, fun and rewarding - something the kids want to do, not have to do. Climbing can be enjoyed as a lifelong sport, so you don't want to have them burn out at an early age, and as in everything else, if the kids aren't having fun, then no one is having fun.
Depending on body size, coordination, strength and interest, children can be introduced to roped climbing by the age of four or five. Whether or not they're ready for climbing will be obvious once you get to the rock or artificial wall. If they like it, they'll do it cheerfully. If they aren't interested, or are scared, don't push them. If your child is timid about heights, let him or her bounce around on the end of the rope. Eventually, he or she will begin to watch other people climb and want to do it himself/herself.
For a perspective on what climbing at your own pace looks like when you are barely five and generally very cautious, here is my daughter during our climbing session today: