Introducing your kids to Climbing is a wonderful adventure. Kids who climb tend to have more confidence in other activities, become great problem solvers, and have a better sense of outcome in certain situations. But when it comes to bouldering with children, there are more precautions that need to be taken for their safety. Being able to boulder with your kids becomes a great bonding experience, but introducing some kids to bouldering needs to be a delicate process.

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1. Safety, Safety, Safety

Whether your child is in a group bouldering class or with their adult, safety needs to be everyone’s number one priority. Teaching your kids to be safe on the wall, when falling, and also just being around others who boulder can save them and others from injuries.

While in a gym, make sure your child knows where to place their mat if the gym requires or uses them. Placing a mat is a skill not only used in a gym but also used outside. Knowing the best places to put a mat under your climb will help add extra protection between the climber and the floor surface.

Teaching your children to find the finish on a climb, where the crux is, and where they are most likely to fall will help them see the whole picture from start to finish. This skill takes a lot of planning and practical thinking that even some adult climbers have missed the mark on.

2. Falling, With Style

The next step in teaching your kids how to climb on a boulder wall, is actually teaching them how to fall. Falling is inevitable in climbing and doing it right is an important safety skill. Teach your kids not to put their hands behind themselves to brace a fall, but to cross them or keep them in front, forcing them to fall on their behind or back. This reduces the risk of breaking an arm or wrist. When falling on a mat, try to encourage your child to roll from their legs onto their back, keeping their hands firmly in front of them.

If falling is intentional, teach your kids to control their fall: Land with their knees bent and place their closed fist onto the mat in a frog-like stance. Keeping your fists closed and making contact with your knuckles will also reduce the risk of a wrist or arm injury. Beginning to make these efforts second nature will help your children keep safety in mind when they are climbing and falling.

Courtesy: Mohammad Hossein Taaghi

3. Gear Up!

Gear is minimal in bouldering, but teaching your kid how their gear should work and what advantages great gear bring to their climbing with help them trust in their gear, increasing their confidence.

When it comes to bouldering, a great pair of climbing shoes makes all the difference. Kid climbers tend to be less picky when it comes to their shoes. Most coaches will tell you that your shoes need to fit like a tight sock. You should be tight in the shoe but not so uncomfortable that you don’t want to use them. Finding good-fitting shoes for kids becomes difficult because kids grow so rapidly. Get your kids a flat climbing shoe that fits decently snug with socks on. This will give your kid climber a small amount of room to grow into the shoe once they are able to take their socks of. Avoid having your child climb in their sneakers. This will stress the feet and the toes as they try to compensate for the pressures of climbing. Climbing in sneakers also does not give support to the arch of the foot or the heel, which could make it hard to climb more challenging walls.

4. Confidence is Key

For most new climbers, confidence comes with some amount of success. Kid climbers’ fall into a similar pattern, but they also tend to face more challenges than adult climbers.

Kid climbers tend to fall into two categories: fearful or fearless. Both pose a risk to a kid climber, no matter their skill level. Those who become fearless tend to take unnecessary risk to prove their skills and abilities, especially those that are naturally athletic or naturally good at climbing. This can make a great climber, and one that is willing to make a hard move, but it also poses the risk that a child could get in over their head. Giving your kid climber the confidence to make smart decision but also take calculated risk will help them have growth in their climbing and also give them confidence in themselves.

5. Take a Step Back

Climbers of all ages get frustrated with climbing. For adults, that frustration often encourages them to try harder. For kid climbers’ though, frustration is more often a dead end. Keeping a kid climber interested in climbing tents to be difficult, especially when bouldering. Kids will grow, and gain different muscles at different times. They will be good at something one week and change their mind the next. Skill levels constantly go up and down with kid climbers and the coach or adult leading them should be aware of these challenges. Making it fun for them and having them understand that they are building a personal relationship with themselves and their goals is important to keeping them motivated. When a child is frustrated with their climbing, don’t push them to the point of no return. Having a kid climber walk away from a frustrating climb can help to ease their mental strain.

Showing them positive motivation is another great way to keep them engaged. Climbing with family or friends can help them to see that everyone struggles in their climbs. Allowing them to help other climbers can also encourage them to seek help themselves. When kid climbers can climb together, they tend to motivate each other and build each other up, sharing advice and strategies only other kids can help with.

Courtesy: Mohammad Hossein Taaghi

6. Be a Good Climbing Citizen

Maybe one of the most important climbing skills you can teach your kid is how to have proper climbing etiquette. Teaching your kids how to behave in a gym or outdoor setting while bouldering will keep them and other climbers safe. It will also teach your kids how to be respectful of others while utilizing the same space.

Teaching though example is a great skill. When you are bouldering with your kid climber, showing them to move away from the common space when not utilizing it will teach them to not stand in the way and put themselves in a dangerous situation. When it is their turn to be on the wall, making sure they are spatially aware of others around them, as well as having them use their voices to indicate that they are going to be climbing, will help other climbers get out of their space so they can climb safely as well.

We all want our children to succeed at something they are good at, especially if we can have that thing in common. Having climbing as a family activity builds foundations for more open communication with your child and your family.