Many climbing centres will offer a wide range of options for children who want to try climbing for the first time or want to learn to climb. What will meet your needs will depend on the stage your climber is at. We’re trying to build a searchable menu in our venues section to help you identify which centres offer which of these facilities and services.
Visiting climbing centres with children
For very young children many centres have a dedicated children’s area, usually consisting of low climbing areas, easy routes and some have play areas with equipment such as slides. These may or may not have age restrictions. Young children won’t recognise the risks, such as being below a falling climber, so active supervision by an adult will be required. These are a great way of developing a child’s confidence, strength, balance and just having fun whilst climbing.
A recent addition to traditional climbing centres have been the fun centres appearing in shopping centres or leisure centres. These look very different to traditional climbing walls with their colourful structures and auto belays, which allow children to clip onto a safety rope before climbing a stacking block or taking a leap of faith. These are aimed at families and children as a fun, healthy activity with lots of excitement. They don’t require specific clothing (such as climbing shoes) or equipment.
Auto-belays can also be found at many traditional climbing walls and allow a climber to climb a high route safely, without a partner to belay (hold the rope in case of a fall). They will require a short induction on how to use them and children will need to be supervised throughout. For more information on visiting climbing walls and what to expect, see our article about visiting a climbing centre for the first time.
climbing lessons for children
Children can have one-to-one sessions booked with instructors at climbing centres or they can also be booked as a small group where wanting to learn together as a family.
From about the age of 7 or 8, children can join a junior climbing club at a local wall. These will usually run as weekly sessions during term time much like other children’s after school clubs and activities, although how they work at different centres will differ. Coaches from the climbing centre or club will work with the children, usually in small, age or skill appropriate groups, to give them a full grounding in safety, techniques and help build their confidence on the wall. The aim is to give them the skills they’ll need and foster a love of climbing as a hobby for life.
Some centres offer school holiday clubs. These may also offer the opportunity to work towards climbing qualifications (see below) or opportunities to take part in outdoor climbing trips as part of a supervised group.
If children want to progress from climbing just for fun to climbing in competitions, many climbing centres also have junior climbing squads. Entry may be by application, open try-out days or invitation. These squads will offer additional coaching to achieve a much higher level of climbing skills, advice on competition technique, training methods and more intensive fitness training. There is usually the expectation that the team will attend competitions together and support each other, fostering a real team spirit.
Climbing qualifications for children
There are 2 widely available and well recognised qualifications for indoor climbing, available to children from the age of 7. They both work in a similar way and are suitable from those just starting to learn all the way through to the very experienced, as you work through the programme in stages. They focus on the two main types of indoor climbing, roped climbing or bouldering, and can be taken independently from each other; you can do one or the other, or both.
NICAS (National Indoor Climbing Award Scheme)
NIBAS (National Indoor Bouldering Scheme)
The full details of the qualifications, lists of accredited centres, the commitment required and how they work can be found on the NICAS website.