Indoor Rock Climbing with Kids
In search of thrifty ways to keep active with the hint of winter weather on it’s way, we decided to visit our local Recreation Center this week. In particular, we had never tried the bouldering wall with J. But through the many maneuvers and climbing of my furniture and self as of late, I thought it might be a hit.
Our local wall offers a Toonie Lunch Climb which we took advantage of. You can also rent shoes (starting at child size 9) for $4. We tried those but they are still a little too big for J’s feet.
To give you a sense of our wall, it’s in a converted racquetball court, so it is about 20 ft long and 10 feet wide. Three of the walls are converted to a plywood bouldering structure and it has over 1,100 different holds. There are routes of varying degrees of difficulty and ones aimed specifically at children that local climbers create quarterly. The height of the wall is currently 12′, and below each wall is matting that is at least 3′ thick.
Although I climbed in college, and have taught climbing classes, I have never taught anyone as young as J. Rock climbing with a two year old can be challenging but it’s still worthwhile. Rock climbing is a terrific activity that improves muscular strength, endurance, flexibility and body composition. Plus, it’s challenging and not competitive.
Here’s what we practiced:
- Warm-Up: Stretches (touch the sky, touch your toes, starburst finger stretches).
- Free Climbing: I supported J’s back with my front as he tried climbing. I got him to focus on keeping his feet on the wall and to keep moving his feet & hands up. Rock climbing is also a personal challenge by choice activity – so if your child says they are done then respect that decision. For some children this means they want to make it to the top, others just getting off the ground is a challenge.
- Activity: Falling Safely (this was the favourite): We practiced “falling” – feet first – onto the many mats throughout the space by jumping. It was just plain fun, helped us get comfortable in the space & it was active!
- Activity: Holds: We laid on the mats with our feet (or hands) on the wall and we practiced touching holds by moving our feet/hands from one hold to the next, and counted how many we could reach. We also practiced stretching to ones that were far away. I also appreciated knowing what type of distance he could cover in his wingspan/footspan so that I could help when we tried climbing again.
- Free Climbing: I did support him again but I challenged him to try to keep his feet on & keep his belly button closer to the wall. He manged to climb up much higher and also gained a little more confidence in climbing. Several times, I let him fall from the wall too so that he would get used to the sensation.
On our next trip we are going to try:
- Incentives: There are several kid-friendly holds like the fish seen in the above photo or an ice cream cone and add a special treat (m&m or marshmallow)
- Different Routes: Trying a different panel – we focused on one when we were there.
- Bring in the Experts: There is a drop-in a few nights a week you can sign up for with the local experts. We may go and try this to get some more ideas!