This month we’ve been telling everyone how positive we are about climbing with toddlers and under 5’s. They love it, families love it, there are loads of benefits for the children and there are loads of benefits for climbing!
So, apart from our first “Do” which is of course – Do take your child climbing, what are the other “Do’s and Don’ts” for climbing with your young child if you’ve decided to give it a try for the first time.
- Do check out our directory to find one of the over 120 climbing walls in the UK that welcome children under 5. More walls than ever are welcoming young children but remember not all are set up for it, so first of all do check to find a local one to you who is. Filter the venue directory for “Welcome Under 5’s”.
- Do consider taking them to a climbing facility specifically set up for young kids. They’ve considered some of the issues of climbing with under 5’s for you, so there may be especially child friendly areas or routes set for children. Read more about the things you can expect in our article Climbing Walls For Young Children written by Boulder Hut founder, Samantha Oxford. To find one filter the venue directory for “Child Friendly Route Setting” or “Children’s Climbing Area”.
- Do double check with the wall before turning up for the first time, just to avoid a child’s disappointment of not being able to climb immediately. Some walls told us they only welcome young children to attend specific sessions, other had different rules. Although they may welcome under 5’s, most walls will still require an adult to show that they are ‘competent’ before allowing them to supervise a child. If you are a regular climber, this might just be demonstrating this to a staff member but for a new climber it may require an induction/course. At a very minimum, you’ll have to sign some paperwork. Better to give them a quick call first.
- Do join a a toddler climbing class or parent and toddler climbing group if you’re not confident to teach them yourself. Classes are brilliant for letting parents and children learn new skills, make friends and build confidence. Many walls have them, over 60 are listed in our directory. Filter for “Pre-School Climbing Groups” and check out our articles Born to Climb and 12 Reasons Parents Take Their Toddlers Climbing to find out more
- Do enquire directly even if your local wall doesn’t show as having a class – If your local wall welcomes under 5’s but doesn’t have a group, they may still be able to give one-to-one coaching to help a parent feel more confident taking their child on their own.
- Do talk to staff if you have any questions – staff in climbing centres are some of the nicest people you will ever meet and they are incredibly enthusiastic about climbing! I’ve never found one who didn’t want a) to be the most helpful they could be and b) for you to love climbing as much as they do. Want advice – just ask them.
- Do remember that when supervising a child you are responsible for your, their and other people’s safety. There are times when parents need eyes in the back of their head and that is definitely the case at a climbing wall, when dangers may be in every direction including up! If you are with a particularly excitable child, think about the type of facilities that may suit them best – maybe an enclosed climbing area or a child only session may be most suitable.
- Do encourage them! Climbing can be a frustrating hobby for an adult, when they’ve spent weeks trying to complete one route. Toddlers are still getting to grips with grip, balance, fears and resilience in the real world so it may be extra tough for them on a climbing wall. Celebrate every little success – they struggled but managed to get both feet off the ground, high fives all round!!
- Don’t worry – you don’t need to be an experienced climber to take a young child climbing. Many families only become climbing families because their child started climbing. In Michelle’s article, 12 Reasons Parents Take Their Toddlers Climbing, we heard that one of the reasons many parents take their toddler to a climbing class is because secretly it’s something they’ve always wanted to do to!
- Don’t feel you need to buy the kit. Most walls will provide essential safety equipment or rent it for a small fee. At least at first, they can make their first climbing steps in trainers. If they get the bug and you are wanting to then move on to get them some kit of their own, take a look at Rebecca’s great advice on Kitting Young Children out for Climbing. Plus there’s the accessories and chalk bags made for kids that are just so adorable that they’re hard to resist!
- Don’t assume children’s climbing areas are just soft play areas. There will still be the same risks as in a regular climbing area such as falls – either theirs or people falling on them from above. Children are aware of very little except the one thing they are focussed on, so they should be actively watched even whilst being allowed a bit of freedom to explore more independently.
- Don’t disregard the safety information – we may all be a little guilty of not paying 100% attention to a safety briefing on a flight, but there’s no excuse at a climbing wall. The risks are very real, so it’s important to ensure you fully understand all of it as you are totally responsible for keeping both you and your child safe.
- Don’t just turn up at a local climbing gym and expect to climb with your child. Although we’re repeating the advice from above and in “Do double check with the wall before turning up for the first time” this is because it’s really important. Not all walls welcome children and some have rules about who can supervise a climber under 18. Climbing is classed as a dangerous sport so they’re just trying to keep everyone safe and we know that not all toddlers understand being told no or having to wait!
So, do take your child climbing and do tell us how you get on. We’d love to hear!