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Re: Young kids and climbing

My daughter is not quite 3 yet, but she is very tall and very strong for her age and loves to climb everything in her path.  We tried to take her to the climbing gym once when she was about 2.5, and while I had high hopes and figured she'd be a prodigy, she mostly just cared about bouncing around on the spongy floor mats.  Now that she is a bit older and has a (slightly) longer attention span, I'd like to try the climbing gym again but don't want to force anything that may turn her off to the idea.

How old were your kids when you first took them climbing? How did it go and any advice/tips for encouraging this at a young age?  (And by climbing I mean with a harness and top rope, not just scrambling on rocks or playgrounds, that part we have covered!)  Obviously I know not to push anything too hard and we all know that toddlers are crazy stubborn when they want to be.  Just looking for others' experiences!

2 Replies

Our experience is pretty similar to yours. Our 3yo daughter LOVES to climb actual rocks in parks and on hikes and being members of our local climbing gym we've taken her there a bunch of times and gotten her climbing shoes and and a harness. She has never cared enough to climb plastic holds. We've tied her into top rope and tried having her boulder but she just doesn't care to. The highest she's gotten on a route was probably only 6' high and that's with us more or less lifting her up that high and placing her foot and hands onto holds. She does enjoy the gym itself, running around and occasionally swinging from her harness (we tie her onto a route with an overhang, bump her up using a grigri, and let her hang/swing).

I've yet to see any kids her age climb at the gym, most of the kids i've seen are at least 5 so I'm thinking 3 is just too young at this point, but we still take her with us so at least it's all "normal" to her and she's not afraid of hanging from her harness.  

My oldest daughter (11) wasn’t really into climbing until pretty recently this year. My 6 year old has always wanted to do everything I did, but just wasn’t really ready until a month or so ago. The heights just got to her. 

FWIW, my suggestion is to throw a harness on and climb up next to her and get her used to coming off the wall.  I’d stop about 5 feet up and get her to come off the wall at the same time with you like a game. I did that with my daughter and it really helped to build her confidence and ease the fear everyone has of falling. It also helps them understand not to fight a fall. I really think that my oldest just didn’t get over that fear of falling for a long time, and now it’s just part of the fun of climbing for them.  They top out and get to ride down. It may even help to just belay her and not use an auto belay...the reassurance that dad has got this goes a long way.

Only other thing is I’d def use one of those chest harnesses to keep her upright.  My 6 year old sounds similar to your daughter, so she may not need it long. Mine never actually needed it because the harnesses just fit well once she actually started climbing. One big thing that got my kids super stoked to climb was buying them their own gear instead of renting all the time. My 6 year old got her own Petzl Macchu and chalk bag, and the oldest got to pick out her equipment as well.  Having their favorite color harness or silly chalk bag just makes it more fun.

Good luck!