Introducing Your Kids to Indoor Rock Climbing

Introducing Your Kids to Indoor Rock Climbing

Discover the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of rock climbing for every child.

By: Leah Maxwell

We all want our kids to be active, fit, and healthy, but it isn’t always as simple as signing them up for Saturday-morning soccer. For kids who aren’t into the typical team sports, indoor rock climbing can be a revelation, opening up a whole new way of thinking about fun and fitness and personal achievement.

From a purely physical standpoint, rock climbing is a great way for kids to condition their bodies, and for some, adding this type of strength training to healthy eating and traditional aerobic exercise might help lower a child’s risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems, according to a recent study out of Baylor University.

According to Lyn Barraza, the general manager of Berkeley Ironworks, a climbing gym in California, indoor climbing not only cultivates full-body strength, awareness, and coordination (Barraza compares it to dancing), but it also builds self-esteem and confidence, teaches self-motivation and personal responsibility, helps kids develop problem-solving and goal-setting skills, and encourages them to push beyond fear and preconceptions of what they can achieve. Since traditional climbing is done in pairs or groups, children also learn what it means to be responsible for another person’s safety, and how to trust someone responsible for theirs. (Also: It’s really, really fun.)

One of the main advantages of introducing kids to an individual sport like rock climbing is that they can stop worrying about competing with peers and instead move at their own pace and concentrate on their unique strengths and weaknesses. Barraza says her staff has worked with kids of all abilities and from all backgrounds, and the benefits have been as varied as the children. She has seen autistic kids make noticeable improvements in their motor skills, underprivileged and at-risk kids build self-confidence, and girls surprise themselves with their natural abilities to navigate a wall. In his case study about the role of adventure therapy in treating juvenile offenders, Christophe Gruring cites evidence of the ways in which rock climbing helps adolescents open up emotionally, feel less isolated, and develop strong bonds with their belay partners and teachers.


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Some facilities also offer adaptive courses for kids (and adults) with special needs.

That said, for as much as rock climbing allows an individual to focus on his or her own skills, it can also be a very social sport. Kids can sign up for group lessons, camps, or teams, and many gyms host birthday parties. Teens especially enjoy the social aspect of climbing together, and Barraza jokes it can be the only way to get some of them to spend time with their parents.

If you’ve ever been to a climbing gym on Saturday morning, you’ve seen it with your own eyes: parents teaching and encouraging their kids, kids learning from and cheering on their parents, and everyone having a fun time bonding and enjoying benefits that will last long after they leave the gym.

Have you ever taken your kids indoor rock climbing?

Leah Maxwell is a book editor, freelance writer, cereal addict, wife, and mom to two young boys. She has been blogging at A Girl and a Boy since 2003.

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