If you’re wondering whether to give rock climbing a try for your child then read on. Here I’ll detail everything you need to know about what regular climbing can do for your child physically, mentally and even socially.
Teaching healthy exercise habits
An inactive child is more likely to develop into an inactive adult. We’ve learnt so much about how crucial regular exercise is for our health including reducing our chances of developing heart disease, diabetes and cancer to name a few. At this point, a lack of information is not why there are so many overweight inactive kids out there. It’s really about the lifestyle and the habits these kids are growing up in.
So why is climbing such a great habit for your kid to develop? Well climbing actually involves a lot of diverse and complex movements that involve almost all of the body’s musculature. As climbers grip, pull and push themselves on different routes, not only are they strength training, they’re getting a great cardiovascular workout as well. The harder a climb is, the faster their heart will beat and the more calories they’ll burn.
And let’s not forget the most important thing about climbing – it’s fun. And a child is far more likely to stick to a form of exercise if it’s fun.
Climbing is particularly great for your kid’s brain
What you might not know is that every time your kid climbs a route, they need to figure out how to move their body to get to the top. They’re in effect solving a mental puzzle every time and every route is different (that’s why in bouldering, routes are called ‘problems’). Not only that, climbing involves them constantly practicing coordination, balance and spatial awareness without them ever realising it. Early studies indicate this may actually improve working memory along with other neurological benefits (source: http://time.com/3980498/tree-climbing-memory).
There’s another mental challenge involved in climbing: fear. Whether your kid is on a rope or bouldering, there will always be an element of fear to overcome to progress to harder climbs. It’s a natural reaction but learning to overcome that fear in a safe and supervised environment like rock climbing can be great for improving your child’s confidence and teaching them this valuable life skill.
Finally, researchers have found regular exercise actually aids in your child’s brain development and function, making them better learners at school (source: https://www.parentingscience.com/exercise-for-children.html). And rock climbing may just be the ultimate full body workout that doesn’t feel like a workout.
Climbing is a social activity
Most climbing centres will have a kids group that train and improve together. It’s a great place to make friends and compare notes on how to do a particular climb. Though climbing can be thought of as an individual sport where you’re really only competing with yourself, your kid can be part of a climbing team. Here they learn the importance of encouraging their fellow teammates , overcoming the butterflies of taking part in competitions and the ability to learn and become stronger from their failures.
Additionally if your child is taking part in roped climbing, they will also be learning additional safety skills including clear communication, focusing on their partner as they climb, double checking knots etc.
If you have a child that is struggling a bit socially, climbing can be a great springboard as it involves focused physical activity which takes some of the pressure off amidst all the social interaction.
Some frequently asked questions
How can my child start climbing?
The easiest way to start climbing is to look for your local climbing wall. Just google “indoor rock climbing ________” with where in the world you are. Most cities these days will have a climbing centre whether that’s top-roping (taller walls with ropes) or bouldering (lower walls with no ropes). Find out if they have any children’s groups that climb regularly and if you can enroll your child in any introductory session to get them started.
Is my child fit enough to start?
Don’t worry if your child isn’t very fit right now, they don’t need to be super fit to start climbing and if they continue to go regularly, they will become stronger, fitter and healthier very quickly. I’ve seen many a transformation from tubby to toned once people catch the climbing bug!
What if my child is scared of heights?
A very natural fear that doesn’t have to spell the end. In these cases, it’s just important to start things a little slower. Maybe traverse (climb sideways) only first. Let them climb up to whatever height they feel comfortable then climb back down. Keep doing this until they realise nothing bad is going to happen if they continue to climb that little bit higher. This may be a slow process, it may be a quick one. The important thing is not to rush or pressure them. Be supportive, encouraging and understanding if they just want to come back down. They will continue to progress and overcome their fear as long as they are enjoying themselves and are in control of pushing their own limits.
Hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know the great benefits rock climbing can have on your child, please leave and questions or comments down below.
By ANUKA TEGGART
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