Chicks Tech Tip: Climbing with Kids

Everyone one of us was born a natural climber. This is obvious when we observe young children. Each child has the natural curiosity to climb. Many of us grew up without the opportunity to rock climb. Instead we climbed on furniture, jungle gyms and trees. At some point parents stop this natural exploratory process by scolding the child and saying “get down, you are going to get hurt.” Kids will be kids, and they will continue to climb. When the child falls, the parent quickly scolds the child again and says “see, this is what happens when you climb on things”. Now many years later, most of us can reflect back and relate to being scolded by a parent for climbing. How many of us wish we could of started climbing at a younger age? With young kids, we should facilitate the learning process, instead of stifling the kids climbing tendency.I have worked with many kids of different ages and maturity levels over the years. Boys and girls both love to climb. However, anytime you work with kids climbing you can hit major roadblocks. Here are a few tips to help you have fun at the crag with kids.

Rope Swings

A child can start climbing as soon as they can wear a harness. Most major brands make a full body harness for very small kids. If the kids are completely new to the rope system, just have them move high enough off of the ground to swing and bounce on the ropes. Repeat the mantra “no matter how high you go, the rope and harness will always catch you the same”. The goal is to instill confidence with the rope systems and have fun swinging.
climbing kids

Indigo doing her “gnar wall unicorn dance”

It’s not about the top

Many kids are intimidated by the overall size of an objective. Break down the climb into more tangible steps. Encourage kids to set a smaller goal before leaving the ground. For example, If the goal is to get to “the Third bolt” just focus on getting to the high point with as many hangs and in as much time as it takes. Let the child hang and bounce on the rope whenever needed. The idea is to get comfortable with being off the ground and focusing on a task. If they don’t make it to the goal, that’s okay too. Make it a project and try again next time.

Chalk bag treats

A great way to help kids climbing on the wall is to fill a chalk bag with treats. Skittles,jellybeans and popcorn work well because they will not melt in the bag. As the child climbs, they can have a chalkbag treat when they get scared or if they just need to hang on the rope. This will encourage the kids to stop, relax and re-evaluate the situation when feeling distressed. It’s like a time out, but with reward.
Orion stopping for a chalkbag treat.

Orion stopping for a chalk bag treat.

Responsibility

Climbing is not rocket science. Many of the skills we do, are not mentally challenging. However, the skills and techniques we use have real consequences. Kids often want to take on some of the responsibilities when climbing. It’s okay to let kids belay if the are being closely supervised. This helps the kids engage with climbing on a different level and allows them to have more ownership in the experience. Sometimes after they get comfortable with the techniques and the process, kids like belaying  more than the climbing.
Kids at the voyager youth camp call the ATC the old fashion belay device.

Kids at the voyager youth camp call the ATC the old fashion belay device.

You are never too old or too young to start climbing. No matter your age, the goal is to have fun and enjoy the outing. Perhaps some of the tips can work on adults as well.

ClimbingwithKidsDawn

Dawn Glanc is a guide and Co-owner of Chicks. She works with kids and loves every minute of it.