Climbing and bouldering are absolutely trendy for adults right now, but when it comes to climbing for children, parents regularly ask “Is it good for our child?” and “Isn’t it dangerous?”. This blog article is dedicated to the positive effects of climbing on children’s development. We also explain when a child is old enough to climb and what parents and educators should consider.
Table of contents
- Why climbing promotes a variety of skills for children
- Top 5 reasons why climbing is good for children
- At what age should children start climbing?
- Climbing for children: What parents and educators should consider
- Exercise that is fun
Why climbing promotes a variety of skills for children
When children climb, they usually do it all by themselves at a young age, without any encouragement of an adult. Often parents tend to forbid and prevent the child’s first climbing attempts for fear of injury. Others help their children to climb higher than they could manage on their own and give so much assistance that the child does not even get the chance to make its own experiences. Physiotherapist Franziska Schmidt explains in an interview why children should not be lifted up trees that they cannot climb on their own.
Top 5 reasons why climbing is good for children
Besides being a fun sporting activity, climbing can have many benefits for children and positive effects on their development. We have summarised the top 5 reasons why climbing is good for children in the following:
1. Climbing strengthens children’s self-perception & self-confidence
First and foremost, climbing leads to better self-awareness for children, both physically and mentally. When climbing, children overcome obstacles and learn that they can overcome hurdles through their own efforts. If the climbing attempt ends successfully, this sense of achievement can boost self-confidence. However, even if climbing is unsuccessful, children can learn a lesson from it.
2. Experience & assessment of own limits
Climbing encourages children in their abilities and at the same time shows them their limits. For example, it is not necessarily a bad thing if a child fails and falls while climbing (provided, of course, that the climbing frame has a suitable surface). After all, falling can also be educational: Falling down is not nice, you get a fright and in the worst case the child hurts himself. But every time a child falls down while climbing, it is also a useful experience! After all, it teaches them to assess heights, dangers and their own ability. Of course, you can explain this to a child as an adult with words, but it makes a difference whether you are told something or experience it “on your own body”.
Our appeal to all adults is this: Don’t be afraid to give children confidence! Because the little ones can also learn something from failures. You can read more about this topic in our blog article “Courage to take risks – promoting children’s self-awareness”.
3. Climbing improves children’s motor skills
Climbing is a fun way for children to learn new movements that help them improve their motor skills. On the one hand, climbing promotes gross motor skills, especially in young children – they learn how to keep their balance or how to step and push off. At the same time, many parts of the body, such as the arms, are trained. On the other hand, fine motor skills are also promoted. On the climbing wall, for example, a child has to grip the climbing holds very precisely with its fingers so that it doesn’t slip off. This requires every single finger and promotes the ability to grasp with precision. Climbing is therefore a real whole-body workout that is great fun and can also be used to prevent children from becoming overweight.
4. Being patient and persevering pays off – not only when climbing
Whether on a climbing wall, a tree or a climbing frame – the goal of climbing is always to get as high as possible (and then to get back down safely). But that doesn’t always work right away. Once the ambition is awakened, the child will try again and again until the goal is reached. And then, of course, the next higher goal is already waiting. In this way, children develop a certain frustration tolerance and learn that patience and perseverance are worthwhile!
5. Climbing for better teamwork and confidence
When children are a little older and still enjoy climbing, it can become more than just a child’s game. A trip to the climbing wall can help children discover climbing as a hobby.
As soon as it comes to securing each other independently while climbing, climbing also teaches a sense of responsibility, cooperation and teamwork. If you are not climbing yourself at the time, you belay a climbing buddy. The focus is less on individual successes and more on joint problem solving, motivation, pushing boundaries and trust.
From what age should children start climbing?
A general recommendation for climbing for children is hard to define, because the age of entry is very individual. Rather, you should observe the child’s behaviour: As soon as they feel like pulling themselves up or climbing somewhere on their own, the first climbing attempts can begin. For toddlers, a box, a play arch or a small ladder on which they can climb is sufficient. Low drop heights are the crucial point here.
Even at this young age, it is important that children have as varied movement experiences as possible. Only when a child can try out these activities can it learn to handle them safely. Climbing is just like everything else: You have to start small first!
For a first approach to “real” climbing, for example on a climbing wall, a safe positioning of hands and feet, body position and good hand-eye coordination are prerequisites. This is the case for most children from about 3 to 4 years of age. At first, the child should be allowed to climb in a familiar environment. A playful approach would be, for example, on a hill, a tree in the garden or on wall bars. These initial bigger challenges teach frustration tolerance without the hurdle being too challenging right away.
Climbing for children: What parents & teachers should consider
Climbing for children should always be a self-experience, with parents and teachers at most watching or giving good encouragement. Conversely, you should never lift a child onto something that they could not climb themselves. When children want to be lifted up trees or the like, it is always right to say: If you can’t do it on your own yet, maybe you are not old enough, but you will be able to do it when you are a bit bigger – and then move on to the next best alternative!
Tip: If parents are unsure about what they can and cannot expect of their child, they can use the so-called toddler filter as a guide. This is a component at the beginning of the climbing equipment – for example, a ladder whose first rung is over 40 cm high. If the child is able to overcome this first hurdle on its own, it is also fit enough for the rest of the equipment.
Exercise that is fun
Whether children want to climb, run, do gymnastics or ride a bike – the most important thing is that it is fun and that they get enough exercise every day, especially today when computers and tablets are often part of the norm for young children. You can find numerous tips on how to motivate children to exercise more in our blog article “Motivating children to exercise more – this is how”.