Why Should You Get Your Kids Into Climbing?

Last years Hi-5 competition at Vertical Limit.  Image credit: Dave Brown/Vertical Limit

Last years Hi-5 competition at Vertical Limit. Image credit: Dave Brown/Vertical Limit

There are numerous psychological studies on the benefits of regular exercise for children, including improved fitness, better mental health and more opportunities to make friends.

If your child doesn’t seem interested in sports, consider the option that they might not have found the right sport for them. Children are not always inspired by the limited options offered in schools. Why not try taking them climbing?

Climbing offers something different to most other sports

Climbing is a self-led, self-motivated sport, which encourages children to work to their own goals at their own pace. There is always a new challenge in climbing, which allows children to come away from the session with a new personal achievement every time.

Not everyone likes team sports. Climbing is more of a community sport. Climbers encourage and help each other, and there are still lots of opportunities to make friends, but shy children won’t have the pressure of being part of a big group. Climbing is all about the individual.

Kid’s Club

Vertical Limit runs Kid’s Club every Saturday morning. Led by our fully-trained and friendly instructors, children are split into small groups so that there is plenty of time for climbing and personalised tuition. Parents are welcome to relax in our cosy cafe, or why not join your kids on the wall? For full details of how to book and minimum age requirements check our page, or speak to Dave Brown.

We’ve spoken to some of the parents who take their children to Kid’s Club every week and asked if they feel that climbing has had a positive impact on their children’s physical and mental health. Here are some of the benefits they have seen:

Being involved in a sport that focuses on the individual, such as climbing, can help to restore confidence in children who have experienced bullying

Unfortunately, bullying in schools is far more common than we would like to think. Helen told us that her daughter has gained “a lot more confidence” through climbing after being bullied in school. Her daughter is quite sporty and also swims but as climbing is a sport rarely offered in connection with schools, it has given her daughter a chance to “try something nobody else in her class has done” and to be around “a different set of kids”, offering her daughter the chance to meet new friends in a safe environment, under close supervision from our instructors who will not allow bullying. Helen says that her daughter “enjoys the small group she is with” in Kid’s Club and that climbing has “helped with the school situation”.

Often in team sports, kids who are being bullied are ignored by others in the group or pushed to the side-lines. As climbing is a sport that is self-led and focused on the individual, it gives kids who are more shy the opportunity to improve in the sport at their own pace without pressure from others. Climbing is a sport that offers regular achievements - this may be moving up the grades, or even completing one difficult move. Achieving on a regular basis can boost confidence and increase self-esteem.

Climbing can help to develop leadership skills

Mick’s 15-year-old daughter has been climbing at Vertical Limit for five years as part of Kid’s Club and is now coming in the evenings as well to boulder with friends. He is very proud of what his daughter has achieved and is pleased that she is gaining “strength” and “confidence” through climbing and appears to be “more comfortable in herself”. Mick believes “she has been taught well” by our instructors and was impressed by her skills after watching her climb outdoors on trips to Weymouth and Portland last summer. Mick describes his daughter as “quite quiet” but says she is beginning to come out of her shell and develop leadership skills. “[Climbing has] given her confidence in what she knows… she lets others take the lead but when it counts she’ll step up and do it.”

A lot of climbers who climb indoors want to climb outside as well. Climbing outside requires climbers to develop leadership skills, as they are then fully responsible for their own equipment, making decisions on risk levels, managing risks and have to have a plan in place to get out of any unexpected situation. Vertical Limit offers lessons on lead climbing, belaying and 1-2-1 climbing tuition. Please ask Dave Brown for more details and to book.

Climbing can help improve motivation and encourage an interest in teaching

Nik’s family are all into climbing. All three of her kids climb at Vertical Limit and they also have their own little climbing wall at home, with the holds bolted to one side of dad’s shed. They are also planning a family climbing trip later in the year.

Nik describes her son as a “typical 13-year-old”. He was doing the “bare minimum” at school but since he fell in love with climbing, Nik has struck a deal with her son - to get his school work done and he can carry on climbing as much as he likes. She says she has never had to stop her son from climbing and that climbing has “improved his motivation to get his school work done”. Nik says that her son has also “improved his general fitness, strength and flexibility through climbing”, has learnt “transferable skills” and is starting to show an interest in teaching. She had watched him teach his younger sister “different techniques” for body-boarding.

Climbing can be helpful for children with ADHD and children on the Autism spectrum

As a former support worker with experience in working with children on the Autism spectrum and children with ADHD, I am well aware of the excess energy and difficulties with concentration and focus in children with ADHD, and the frustration that they experience if they don’t have an outlet to manage their energy.

Nik is also familiar with these issues. She teaches and supports children “in crisis”. Some are on the Autism spectrum, some have ADHD, all have challenging mental health issues, have had a difficult time and sadly lack trust in adults because of past negative experiences.

She says that when some of these kids are “in crisis” they have “a need to climb”. They will climb on anything they can, in an attempt to put distance between them and the situation that is upsetting them as it makes them feel safer. Nik thinks the school should take them climbing more often, as it allows them to fill that need in a safe environment. They have taken the class climbing and staff are still remarking on the kids’ enjoyment of the trip today and the incredible benefits it gave them.

There was a “massive increase in confidence” for the whole class. Climbing also appeared to boost their “self-esteem and willingness to try anything”. Nik says that it was incredible “watching them climb to the tops of those walls and the smiles on their faces… seeing them succeed”. Going climbing helped the class to “trust adults to keep them safe”. Nik says that “building trust in someone” is a “huge” development for these kids as unfortunately “life experiences have shown them that they can’t trust”.

Every child needs an outlet, an opportunity to regularly achieve and to realise their own strengths, which may be different from others’ strengths. I believe that climbing is the perfect sport for children with ADHD. Lots of energy is great, and enviable, for climbing and the activity itself can also help to improve focus. I also think that climbing can be a very beneficial activity for children on the Autism spectrum as climbing has clear goals and the fact that climbing is focused on the individual could make it a good form of exercise for those who often experience sensory overload , as climbing is less noisy and chaotic than team sports.

Children’s Parties

Vertical Limit also hosts children’s parties, for a unique birthday that everyone is sure to remember. You are also welcome to use the party room after the climbing session and to bring your own food. Click here for full details. For more information or any inquiries about children’s parties or Kid’s Club, please speak to staff at Vertical Limit.