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How To Get Your Kid Into Rock Climbing

Sometimes it's tough to get kids into outdoor activities. Some of them are not age appropriate, while others require skills, patience, and a long learning curve.

That's why rock climbing might be a great fit for kids, especially young ones 5-8 year old. Kids like to climb in general, and indoor rock climbing is a structured and disciplined way to teach them how to move and control their entire body: it's a very brainy versus brawny sport,

Kids tend to be natural climbers. They have a high strength-to-weight ratio — which means they have less body weight to haul up the wall than adults do — and their bodies are more flexible. They’re also not fearful ( but if they are, that’s normal, too ), and they have fewer personal limits than adults do. Adults tend to think they know what their body can and can’t do. Kids are less likely to limit themselves this way.

Kids acquire all kinds of positive skills. Problem solving is a  key component of climbing. Because climbing requires a combination of creative thinking and physical output, less athletic kids often shine, surprising even themselves. Kids also learn problem solving. Climbing is a puzzle to unlock, sometimes requiring the ability to back off, look at the route anew, and start again.

Additionally, kids learn to focus, concentrate and persevere, essential for getting to the top. Along the way, they gain confidence, competence, strength and body awareness.

Unlike a popular belief, rock climbing is not an extreme sport. If done correctly, it’s one of the safest outdoor sports around. If you go with an expert, rock climbing is actually a very controlled sport.

But the first key to introducing any child to climbing is to ensure they will have fun !

Many local indoor climbing gyms offer "climbing parties", either at their location, or they can even bring a portable climbing wall to your place/party. Many summer camps nowadays offer rock climbing asa popular outdoor activity. The first place my son had a chance to try top rope climbing was at a local state fair at age 5.

Another option is to start with bouldering. Many kids playgrounds have little climbing walls where they can have fun, and hone their skills. And free outdoor climbing areas with both, top rope walls, and boulders, are gaining popularity in places where rock climbing is especially poplar ( like Washington state ! ).

Make it fun, but don't push your kid too much, and let your kids climb only as high as they like. If your kid displays a fear of heights, don’t push him/her to keep going. Scaring them can turn them off the sport. If you have more than one child, or can bring friends with you, they’ll push each other on. That’s more friendlier than you pushing them and they’ll enjoy it more.

To make it safe, and enjoyable, I recommend learn from a professional. If possible, request an instructor experienced with kids. Ages 5 to 7 are good times to start, but don’t be surprised if your child isn’t interested until later. Younger children will benefit from starting indoors, where outdoor distractions aren’t a factor. Choose a climbing gym with kids’ programs or instructors with plenty of experience working with kids. 

But the most import advice I give to all parents regardless of the sport/outdoor activity - "Monkey see, monkey do". Kids are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate !

If you've never climbed, consider taking an introductory class yourself to learn the fundamentals. Your kids are more likely to follow your example when they see you do it with them. 

Rock climbing with your kids is a great activity for a family. Rock climbing with your kids is a great way to build on that parent child relationship that lasts a lifetime. As a family activity, indoor rock climbing is in a league of its own. There are few sports where every member of the family can participate in at the same time. Children and parents get a sense of excitement and accomplishment from their very first climb! Unlike many active sports, there's no "learning hump" to cross before it really becomes fun. No experience is necessary and everyone can climb at their own pace.

And finally, one of the biggest advantages of rock climbing for kids is that it inspires participants to spend time outside. Once your kids feels safe, and comfortable in a climbing gym, if he/she likes it, eventually, they'll want to try rock climbing outdoors. And rock climbing cold be a great addition to your family camping, hiking or other outdoor trips and adventures ! Everyone gets outside—whether it is to climb, or, for non-climbing family members, hike around and enjoy the scenery. But eventually, everyone who watches wants to give it a try.

If you find yourself in Seattle, Wa, one of the best places to try indoor rock climbing is in Seattle's REI. 

At 65 feet high, downtown Seattle's REI Pinnacle is the third tallest indoor climbing structure in the world ! Pinnacle climbers are treated to spectacular views of the Seattle skyline as well as peek-a-boo view of the surrounding mountains on a clear day.

No experience is necessary, and all the gear, and instructions provided. Read more here...

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