by Morgan Cvetkovic-Jones - kid’s climbing coach.
Do you think your kid would love to start climbing? Well, we think they should too – climbing is the perfect sport for kids, it’s tonnes of fun, allows them to explore and develop friendships whilst boosting their confidence and skill. Not sure how to get them started? Not to worry, here’s our guide to everything kids climbing including our suggestions for kit, classes and games.
The best place to kickstart your kid’s climbing journey, especially if you aren’t a climber yourself, will be at one of your local indoor climbing walls. Most indoor walls will have a youth climbing programme offering a range of classes which, depending on the wall, will focus on bouldering and/or roped climbing. Here’s how the two will differ:
Roped climbing wall - Roped wall classes will prioritise teaching your child to rope climb safely. This will involve your child learning to put a harness on, tie into a top rope system and belay their friends whilst developing climbing skills and confidence at height. Some walls offering roped tuition for children will follow the National Indoor Climbing Achievement Scheme (NICAS), a levelled improvement scheme that will take your child from beginner to experienced roped climber.
Bouldering wall – Bouldering wall classes will focus on teaching your child climbing technique. Aside from the basic safety and etiquette of a bouldering wall, the main emphasis of the classes will be developing your child’s climbing ability. Similar to roped climbing tuition, some bouldering walls will follow a bouldering specific NICAS programme.
Walls with an established youth curriculum will run an academy programme where the more advanced climbers will be given specific tuition to prepare for things like climbing competitions.
With a parent
A great way to get your kid climbing is to climb with them yourself. To supervise or climb with your kid, most walls will require that you become a signed off member of the wall by passing a competency test. At a bouldering wall, this will involve previous experience and safety knowledge whilst a roped facility will ask you to show your belaying and rope tying skills. If you’re completely new to climbing, then we’d advise attending an induction or a beginner’s course at your local wall – instructors can tailor these sessions towards climbing with a child and keeping them safe at the wall with information about things like spotting a child whilst bouldering and fitting a child’s harness.
If you have the choice, then we’d recommend going bouldering with your child. Thanks to its low-level setting, bouldering will let you spend more time interacting and climbing with your kids. Bouldering walls and the matting underneath the climbs are brilliant spaces for children to have fun, especially if you know a few climbing themed games to play with them, here are a few of our favourites:
- Floor is lava – An incredibly popular game for climbing kids. To play, the kids should be running in circles on the mats, as soon as an adult shouts ‘floor is lava’, the children must run and jump on the wall as fast as they can. Last one on the wall is out. This game is easily developed by adding in particular coloured holds or hold types that the kids can use to escape the lava.
- Cat and mouse – A great game to improve your kid’s dynamic climbing technique. To play, the first player must start traversing (climbing sideways along the wall) and at timed intervals, the cat or the chaser(s) is unleashed to try and catch the first player. If there are more than two players, then the game will evolve with multiple cat and mouse situations.
- Tig – Just like normal tig but on a climbing wall, ace!
- Add on – One player starts the game by selecting the starting holds and making a single move to another hold. Player 2 repeats this opening move and then adds a hold onto the sequence. Player 1 (or 3 etc.) repeats the sequence again and adds another hold on and so forth until a player is no longer able to complete the sequence.
What to avoid?
Climbing is absolutely safe for kids, especially if they’re attending classes with a trained instructor or an experienced adult/parent. But, you might be wondering what to watch out for or avoid at the wall. The number one draw for children has to be training equipment like fingerboards (wall mounted finger training devices). It’s advised that kids don’t use climbing training equipment until they’re 18 in case the excessive strain caused by these devices hinders your child’s growth or physical development. Aside from this, remind your children to watch out for climbers above!
Kid’s climbing kit
If your youngster is keen on their climbing, then you might be wondering which pieces of kit will help them to progress or enjoy themselves even more. Here are our suggestions:
Climbing shoes - Although these can be hired at your local climbing gym, having their own pair of shoes will definitely give your child the confidence to excel on the wall and save you money in the long run. Check out our dedicated range of kids climbing shoes. Our suggestion for younger children (under 8) would be the Scarpa Piki whilst we’d recommend the Scarpa Reflex V or La Sportiva Tarantula JR for older kids and younger teenagers.
Chalk bag – Children are obsessed with chalk bags and the chalk which helps climbers grip the wall more effectively. Considering a chalk bag isn’t fitted like shoes or clothes, this might be one of the better options for your growing child. Take a look at our kids chalk bags, we think the 8BPlus chalk bags are fantastic options for kids with their fluffy, funky designs.
Harness – If you’re rope climbing frequently with your kid then having their own harness is a must. Have a look at our range of kids climbing harnesses. Children weighing under 40kg or under the age of 6 should be wearing a full body harness like the Edelrid Fraggle whilst older and heavier children will need a more conventional kid’s harness like the Edelrid Finn III.
For more information
- For climbing class information – check out your local wall and give them a call.
- Check out our website for the full range of kids climbing kit.
- Contact us.