At first, rock climbing may not feel like a safe sport but it really is- at least at beginner level. These days most climbers start off at an indoor climbing gym, in the care of an experienced and qualified instructor. Kids are welcome at most rock climbing centers from about age five and up. Some are a little frightened at first but many take to it like ducks to water. Like being on a roller coaster, the fear quickly becomes more of a thrill, and there are obvious benefits- climbing gets kids active and even if they start off indoors, it gets them excited about being outside (far away from the TV and the computer). It builds physical strength and flexibility, but there are other, more compelling reasons to encourage kids to start climbing.
- Self-esteem. Climbing teaches kids (or adults, for that matter) that they can do far more than they first thought they could. The first time a climber tries a route it may seem far too hard but a week later they’ll go straight to the top. A tremendous sense of achievement will come with that.
- Fosters cooperation between siblings. Even the most bored, cynical teenager will find the excitement of watching their 10 year old brother climb up his first route hard to ignore. It usually doesn’t take long for kids to start offering advice to one another and start shouting encouragement while they wait for their turn.
- Builds mutual respect and real love. There is a kind of bonding that only comes with a shared challenge. If a brother and sister try rock climbing together they’ll feel the same nervousness and encounter the same difficulties. They’ll both feel supported by the encouragement of the other and they’ll both see each other failing, but really trying to reach the next handhold. The experience breeds mutual respect and real love.
That’s why mom and dad should give it a try too! It’s ok to be scared- almost everyone is when they first start out. Letting children see their parents dealing with situations that obviously challenge them is valuable. It shows that parents feel just the same fears as kids do. Anyone who keeps trying, learns from their mistakes, laughs when they fall off, and eventually conquers their fears gives kids a great example to follow.
About the Author
Jess Spate is a former climbing instructor who now works for Appalachian Outdoors, one of America’s best online sources for kids outdoor gear – when not on a rock somewhere!