Guest post by: Jess Spate
Kids as young as five can participate in the activities on offer at indoor climbing centers. Most places- and there are hundreds of them springing up all around the country- are more than happy to accommodate children and families. They’ll provide everything you need to get started and, most important of all, a qualified and experienced instructor.
There is no upper age limit and no reason not to go as a family. Even the most jaded and cynical teenager has to admit that rock climbing is pretty cool and little kids often love it, just like they love climbing trees. The smallest member of the group is often the least afraid and the keenest to get to the top. The grown-ups, on the other hand, are almost always the most nervous!
Indoor rock climbing is very, very safe. There is almost no way you or your kids will get more than a tiny scrape or a very minor bump and even that is unlikely. There’s certainly no chance of a significant fall. If it’s your first time then an instructor will be with you every step of the way.
Getting kids of different ages to interact and work together is one of the things rock climbing does best. An older sibling who usually has other things on their mind will almost certainly have their eyes glued on the little brother or sister making their way up towards the roof. They’ll be waiting for their turn, keyed up and excited, and it doesn’t take much to get any kid to cheer for a family member. It’s a wonderful bonding exercise. Kids can help belay (hold the rope that keeps the climber safe) for one another, so there is also a trust-building element too.
Reaching the top brings a wonderful sense of achievement for kids and adults alike. If the whole family is climbing in the same group they will have shared the challenge, shared the fear, and will get to share the joy and relief of a successful climb. For shyer children in particular, the achievement is an excellent way of building self-esteem. Not only do they get to feel that they’ve conquered a big, scary climbing wall, they’ll also have experienced what it’s like to have the whole family cheering them on, keeping them safe, and reassuring them.
There are two distinct emotions mixing under these circumstances. One is the sense of personal achievement. After all, each climber must get to the top on their own (although the instructor can give the kids a discreet helping hand). The second comes from receiving such obvious love and support from the whole family. Those elements make a powerful, positive combination!
Longer term lessons are usually available. If your kids really enjoy their first climbing experience, enrolling them a weekly class or a regular climbing club is a great way to keep them fit and active. As they climb they’ll keep achieving and keep getting that self-esteem boost. They’ll develop strength, focus, and make new friends. Just make sure you come and watch sometimes even if you don’t keep climbing yourself, just to keep that family factor.
Jess Spate is a former climbing instructor and editor of Outdoor Equipment Online, a UK price comparison website for outdoor gear. You can find climbing harnesses and other climbing equipment there- but go to your local indoor center and try it out first!