More climbing walls are opening and more parents than ever are taking younger children climbing, but why? Parents are often told they’re being over-protective but surely climbing is dangerous? Why would they let their child do this? Well, for lots of reasons it’s actually a great activity for young children to have a go at.
Firstly – Because children really want to do it!
Do you like climbing? “YES!!!!”
- Often, even with outside influence, toddlers are climbing on everything at home! Climbing is a is a gross motor skill that’s a developmental milestone from 2 years onwards. Before they can even walk they’re pulling themselves up and by 30 months toddlers usually are able to climb a wall with support. It is an innate skill that they will intuitively want to learn and develop, which provides a great starting point to harness and cultivate into motor skills.
- Children are adventurous and parents want them to explore safely and confidently. Parents have often brought their 2 and 3 years olds to climbing classes saying that they are bold and adventurous; climbing over banisters, white goods, stair gates, curtains, getting stuck up trees, on top of animals….things that can scare parent and carers who want to manage their adventurous nature, without quashing their spirit.
- Parents can see a potential climber in their child. All small people pop out differently and it is not uncommon for parents to say they see a natural climbing ability in their little one and seek to harness the potential they see in them. It is a sport which is increasingly appealing to younger people with its different disciplines. Bouldering, which lends itself to dynamic movement, is ideal for younger bodies and gives opportunities for competition and fun elements all round.
“I used to climb and her older sister climbs too. It builds strength and co-ordination. She likes adventure; to climb, get dirty and build.”
Dad to Darcie (3)
Secondly – Because it helps children develop new skills
“He’s really progressed. He spent lots of time watching but now enjoys having a go.”
Mum to Ethan (3)
- They develop physically. Many parents have been shocked at the upper body and core strength, as well as the: endurance, balance, control and co-ordination that toddlers develop through regular climbing sessions. When compared to siblings who haven’t been exposed to climbing classes, parents have been amazed at the overall advantage their climbing child has in all physical spheres and how these new skills transfer well to other sports, and more importantly everyday life skills. Moreover, a toddler needs to master the gross motor skills of their body to enable them to move on to refining smaller movements, this is very relevant in a climbing context but more so when looking at the overall development of a child.
- Children like problem solving. It is recognised that climbing develops focus and problem solving skills. The act of choosing a route to climb and striving to get up it, whilst avoiding the consequence of falling, naturally focuses the brain on the task. Colour and size recognition are also key developmental skills for age 2 onwards which are integrated into wall climbing through proximity when learning to climb. These skills are transferrable and are great tools of learning as well as in all areas of life.
- It builds confidence and self-awareness. Climbing provides a great tool for building confidence. The challenge of a child not believing they can climb something to being able to, demonstrates a clear building of belief in themselves and increase in the awareness of their own ability. Many parents bring their little ones climbing at this age as they recognise a lack of confidence in movement and physical activities. The nature of climbing is very individual based enabling toddlers to progress at their own pace.
- It exposes children to different activities. There is no doubt, when speaking to parents, that most of them want to expose their little ones to as many activities as possible and seek climbing as another sport that their child could enjoy physically, mentally and socially.
“She likes climbing, she’s very energetic. She’s been coming here for about a month and is really progressing. She does a lot of things but this is her favourite!”
Grandparent to Skye (4)
Finally – Families can have fun together
“We climbed before we had kids and it would be nice to all climb together”
Mum to Peter (3)
- Parents like the idea of climbing themselves. Parents often see the appeal of climbing, but have only had the opportunity whilst on school trips or occasional adventure days growing up themselves. The idea of giving their child the opportunity to pursue something that they can see as appealing and beneficial is natural for all parents. Moreover, many parents have taken up climbing after their children have started and pursue climbing together.
- Family and friends are climbers. Sharing a sport that you love is something that most parents, family and friends will logically do with people they care about. Little ones that grow up observing people climbing around them, seen regularly when babies are in slings whilst parents are spotting older toddler siblings, seem to develop the ability to climb a lot quicker than those who are exposed to it for the first time, and often demonstrate intuitive movement on walls.
- Great family sport. It is a common sight to see a father or mother at a bouldering gym, climbing wall or a crag with their child or children, of all ages, enjoying climbing, exercising, working out problems, setting each other challenges and developing in the sport together. There are very few sports where all family members can co-operate together whilst working at their best and still all feel satisfied that they’ve got the best from it.
- Encourages an outdoor physical family lifestyle. Climbing encourages families to get out and be adventurous, whether it be, in a quest to find; boulders to play on, trees to climb up, mountains to scramble up, rock faces or cliffs to climb up. Families that are already outdoors lovers often see climbing as an exciting way to be outdoors. Whilst others see climbing as an activity that would encourage them to get out more and provide a focus for some or all of the family.
- Climbing is an individual sport that people do together. Climbing can appeal to parents for their toddlers as 2 and 3 year olds usually play alongside each other rather than cooperative play which usually comes at the age of +4. Subsequently the sport lends itself to being suitable for this age group in a social development capacity.
We’d like to climb as a family. His sister likes to climb and we want to climb too.
Mum to Ethan (3)
There is a progressive move towards encouraging children to climb younger and parents recognising the benefits in physical and mental development, having an altered perception of risk and the value of the sport holistically for the family.
Written by Michelle Baker, Climbing TOTS Director www.climbingtots.co.uk
Climbing TOTS offers classes for 2 – 5 year olds in Southampton and Fareham, establishing strong climbing foundations using fun and play to engage and stimulate.