Climbing with kids is such a great activity but have you ever thought of trying to climb with your preschooler? At 3 years old kids have the ability to start climbing while attached to a rope. They have the cognitive understanding to listen well to safety and rules and the physical capability to climb. Climbing with preschoolers can be alot of fun for the whole family. Get started climbing with your little one with these tips.
Note: These tips come from being a kids climbing instructor when I was younger, a teacher and our experience going with our daughter at aged 3.
Climbing with Preschoolers
Pre-Climb: Educate Yourself
Typically you cannot put a 3 year old in a climbing class until they are a few years older. This means that you need to know all the skills yourself. Make sure that you know how to properly belay and climb before taking your 3 year old in the gym. Want to get learn how to indoor climb? Take a 2 hour belay class and then practice climbing a few sessions with a friend/family member before taking your 3 year old to the gym. Outdoor climbing is a little more complicated so I suggest sticking to indoor climbing unless you know some friends that can take you outdoors.
Please note: Some climbing gyms won’t even let your little one climb until they are 4 years old or older so check before you go to avoid disappointment.
Climbing shoes are recommended but not necessary. Unfortunately most climbing gyms DO NOT have small enough climbing shoes for rent which means that you will have to buy them. We have been using the La Sportiva Stickit Kid’s Rock Climbing Shoe, Green, 34/35 M US for our 3 year old daughter.
Use a full body harness on your little ones like the Beal Bambi II or the Edelridfraggle II Harness. It is recommended that you use a full body harness until the age of 5. Climbing gyms probably will not have one of these for rent. When we climbed at the gym we used their smallest youth size one that was not a full body harness and it still worked.
Remember… After you put the harness on your little one do a triple check to make sure it is secure especially if you are the only one around to check them. I actually had the staff do a double check the first time I went just to add one extra check.
Use a GriGri instead of an ATC. This gives you a little bit more security while your little one is climbing especially if you find yourself right at the wall helping them figure out which route to take.
Wear Tight Pants/Shorts
This may seem like an odd suggestion but our daughter’s pants kept getting stuck on the climbing holds when she was being lowered. This was because of the slant of the wall which makes it hard to push off with your feet when repelling.
Climbing with Preschooler Tips
Let’s talk about the actual climbing experience. What to teach them and how to get them comfortable on the wall. Here are my top 4 tips to get started.
Teach them Communication
Teach them to say “Climb” and then have them wait for you to say “Climb On”. Once they have heard you say climb on then tell them to say “Climbing”.
Why is it important to teach your preschooler climbing communication at a young age? Besides the fact that they can actually learn the proper communication, your preschooler will want to either jump on the wall or they will be nervous when they start climbing. Either way, teaching them the proper climbing communication will either help give them more confidence or slow them down to make sure you are ready to belay them. Other communication like “Take” and “Down” can be taught as your little one gets used to climbing.
Have them start on a slanted wall if the climbing gym has one. It also usually happens to be the kid’s wall at the gym with fun holds for them to grab onto. Note that repelling down from a slanted wall is a challenge and we only saw our daughter use proper repelling form when she repelled from a straight wall.
The straight wall is where your little one will be able to excelt at proper repelling technics. Give them 3 pointers: Hold onto rope in front with 2 hands, put your feet straight on the wall and walk/bounce down the wall.
Note: Once you start using a straight wall then you may have to give them a couple of “boosts” to help them go up if they need it throughout their climb because it will be significantly more challenging.
Start your little one by going up the wall only a couple of feet and then lower them. That way you can teach them to hold onto the rope when they are being lowered and stick their feet against the wall. This also helps them gain confidence if they are nervous. Our daughter was a little scared and started by going up a foot and then coming down. Then she went up 2 feet and then 4 until she made it to the top and we could not stop her from climbing until she literally pumped out.
Give them a Goal
If they are struggling to go higher because they are scared then give them a goal. Choose a climbing hold only a couple of moves ahead where they are struggling and tell them to try to get to that hold. Not only does it help them forget that they are struggling but also gives them some success when they do reach the hold.
These simple tips will help get you start climbing with your preschooler. Remember to have fun and just enjoy the overall experience as a family. Any other tips???
Check out these other great posts on climbing with kid!
5 Tips for Climbing with Kids : Off Road Discovery
Rock Climbing with Babies and Toddlers: Off Road Discovery
Kids Climbing Gear: Off Road Discovery
A Beginner’s Guide to Rock Climbing with Kids : Backwood Mama
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