Our Top Tips for Climbing With Kids
How to Climb With and Encourage Kids to Climb
Is there anything more rewarding than sharing your passions with your kids? In the case of rock climbing, how can you continue to enjoy climbing when you have little ones to care for and how do you encourage your kids - when they are old enough - to join you in discovering their love of climbing?
I am neither the foremost child psychologist nor am I, or anyone else, all-knowing when it comes to parenting. In fact, if you have additional tips, we would love to hear from you on what you do to climb with kids.
Bring Your Kids to the Climbing Crag
We have all seen it, much too frequently, climbing partners that you have climbed with for years vanish when they have their first kid. Every time you call them on a nice, cool fall day to go climbing, you hear the broken record; "we can't, we have a kid now."
There is a tremendous amount amount of truth that life changes when that precious little boy or girl enters your world for the first time. Constant feedings, loss of sleep, time off work, financial considerations... the list goes on endlessly. Most new parents find out the hard way that the first few weeks or months is just about survival, but once you find your footing, get outside and go to the crag. Even if you don't feel like it, stop yourself from making excuses, just get outside and go climb.
The New Normal
My wife and I found that sport climbing with an infant just wasn't feasible if we didn't have other people to watch her while we climbed/belayed. However, bouldering with a kid on-board was fairly easy. The first time we went out, which was about one month after our little girl was born, my wife was still unable to climb and I only worked on one boulder problem - which is a far cry from our normal day outside. There was more downtime, more feedings, more diaper changes, and way less crimping and "sending."
Yes, it was harder and we had a few more things to carry than normal,but did we have a good time? Actually, at the end of the day we both agreed that we had even more fun than normal! Getting outside, after being mostly cooped up in survival mode, and enjoying a beautiful day was - exhilarating! It also gave us belief that we could, in fact, continue our lives doing the things we love with each other, and our new little companion.
That first day out was a huge win for us and gave us the confidence to continue to take her on hikes, climbs, and camping trips. Can we do things at the pace we did pre-baby? Nope, but we didn't expect to. Our new normal still involved doing the things we loved, just at a slower pace.
Talk to Parents That Are Doing it Already
We are lucky to know a few families that have continued climbing with their kids. What do they tell us? That is was hard for a long time, but that it is totally worth it as they get older and now they get just as much joy in seeing their kids climb as they do climbing themselves.
Will your kid have a breakdown at the crag? Yes. They have probably had breakdowns at the grocery store but that doesn't keep you from getting groceries. Most parents have shared with us that they look for less crowded areas for this reason alone. It isn't advisable to take a screaming toddler to a crowded sport climbing area, but you may find some of the lesser known areas to be the perfect place for your little one to grow accustomed to "crag life," and you may just find yourself falling in love with climbing areas you would have normally skipped.
Essential Gear for Climbing with Infants
- If you don't already have one, buy a hammock as quickly as possible. They are comfortable, light, easy to carry, and perfect for feedings.
- Child Swaddles/Carrier - Any wrap or chest harness for little ones makes hiking with your infant so much easier. Swaddle your baby to your chest, thrown on a backpack, and off you go.
- Battery operated fans. This is clutch for hot, summer days. Conversely, plenty of warm clothes and blankets for colder days.
Encouraging Your Kids to Climb Outside
Our little girl is still far too young to climb so I am relying on the advice of more advanced and much wiser parents here!
Whether we like it or not, it will not be our decision whether our kids enjoy climbing throughout their lives. However, we can set them up for gentle, friendly introductions to a sport that, let's admit it, can be intimidating and scary at times.
The first and most important thing is to make sure YOU are safe. You will be the primary teacher of safety to your kid, so if you don't know proper safety techniques, knots, or how to use equipment; you are setting your kid up for more of the same. If you think you could use a refresher, hire a guide! They are a great resource and a big part of their job is to teach - so ask questions and get the most out of your time and money.
Next, don't force your kids to climb. Being pushy and forcing them on a rope is going to lead to the inevitable breakdown. If they don't want to climb, don't make them. Let them enjoy their time in the outdoors. Or, give them modest expectations for climbing each day.
We have some friends that have adult kids now. I asked what their secret was since one of their kids now climbs 5.14+ and is a local phenom. He said that initially their kid hated climbing and all he wanted to do was catch frogs in the creek! So, they made him a deal, every time they went climbing, he just needed to climb two easy routes and then he could catch all the frogs he wants. Motivated by the prospect of unlimited frog catching, he would hop on a few routes (without complaining because he knew what the expectations were) and then run down to the creek. Fast forward a decade and a half and he now climbs 5.14 and V15's.
Build Your Kids a Climbing Wall
Unless you live in Yosemite, or some other mecca of rock climbing, chances are the easiest and most efficient way to climb is indoors. There are a ton of quality, fun climbing gyms throughout the country. However, you may not have a gym near you or you might not have the time to make it a weekly habit.
With a home climbing wall, you and your kids can enjoy it literally anytime you like. I find myself climbing either late in the evening or really early in the morning, times when a gym is normally closed.
How much does a home climbing wall cost?
Like anything, this will vary based on the size and complexity you want. Anywhere from $500 - $5,000 can get you in the ballpark. If you are building a climbing wall just for kids, you don't need a ton of space and it doesn't have to be that high! A 7-8 foot wall can be plenty for them to burn energy and keep them from climbing the furniture.
Are Climbing Wall Hard to Build?
We have an article dedicated to starting your journey on how to build a home climbing wall. We also build pre-finished climbing walls (pictured) and ship them to customers, Contact Us if you would like a quote!
Are climbing walls hard to build? If you want a big, complex wall with overhangs and features, yes. If you have the tools and knowledge, a vertical wall could be put up in a day and I wouldn't consider those to be all that difficult to build at all.
There is a lot to consider when building a wall and we are happy to help. The fun starts when you can start filling up the wall with holds and get to climbing! If you are looking for quick recommendations for climbing holds for kids, here is where I would start:
Top 5 Climbing Holds for Kids
Please don't take us as the expert in parenting and all parents have their own challenges and concerns. Only you know what is best for your family and these are only our own thoughts and recommendations. Be safe out there!