If a question you have is “where should I take my little one climbing?”, then Boulder Hut founder, Samantha Oxford, tells us what to look for in a great climbing facility for kids.
Climbing is a fantastic sport for children. Kids are generally more flexible and less risk adverse than adults, and many are naturally inclined to climb; sofas, trees, and at the park.
When babies are born, they’re able to hold their own body weight with their fingers (throwback to our ancestors) and after the birth of our son, who’s now nearly 4, we were keen to harness this ability along with his enthusiasm. It wasn’t long until we realised that local climbing walls didn’t cater for under 5s and although he was able to climb problems set for him on the wall in our garage, the problems were too spaced out at local walls.
Fast-forward to July 2018, and we opened Boulder Hut in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire, which is a bouldering gym with a dedicated kids’ wall and toddler climbing area, as well as a huge bouldering space for us big kids.
We were really keen for the kids’ wall, which we call the Boulder Zoo (a place to practice skills and build up strength before being introduced into the wild of the main area), to mimic the adults wall, as kids tend to want to be little grown-ups. This has also meant that we can use the space for adult beginner classes, so that they can get used to some basic techniques and the feel of climbing before being too high up.
So, what should you be looking for from a climbing facility for taking your little ones to?
• Good range of problems set for kids.
Is there progression in the range of kids’ problems, or are the holds just scattergun?
• Short distance between holds.
This is essential for toddlers, because even with the most advanced technique, they have tiny limbs and need to be able to reach the holds. Routes are also tempered towards low joint impact, with secure feet and easy hand holds so children feel safe and get good grip.
• Low tops.
Boulder blocs which don’t go higher than a parent can reach in case a young child gets scared or needs to be lifted down and so a parent can spot safely in case their child falls.
• Separation from adult climbers
Mainly this is for really little ones who may have a tendency to just run without looking, is there no cross-over with the potential for adults falling on them.
Always a good incentive for kids to climb up to (we love the slide so much, we put one in the adult’s area to get down from the top out!)
• Climbing clubs/classes
Kids’ clubs and classes help to develop techniques and kids benefit from the peer encouragement. We start our classes from 1.5 years old.
• Play area
Is there a play area for some time away from the wall? In our Boulder Play room, there is a tunnel and kitchen area for make believe play to give their arms a rest.
• Ancillary facilities
Are there good changing facilities, changing tables, and high chairs?
One of the things we love most since opening Boulder Hut is seeing kids come to climb with us, and then their families start to take up the sport too. Climbing is such a great family sport. Where else can you be in the same place doing things at your level, in your own time and space, but being together?
Samantha Oxford, Boulder Hut Director
For more information about climbing at Boulder Hut see their website.
If Boulder Hut isn’t local to you, then to find a list of local venues with climbing facilities aimed at children, use our great venue search and filters.