kids at the crag
By: Kaitlin Baker
kids at the crag
When it comes to opting outdoors, many families face the challenge of deciding whether or not to bring their kids. The addition of kids to a crag adds a whole new set of variables. Parents may find it difficult to concentrate on a climb, for example, with a child whining, screaming, crying, or even talking below. With the right mind-set and planning, however, bringing kids to the crag can be a rewarding experience for all parties.
I’ve had my fair share of experience climbing with kids. I spent the last three years as a childrens climbing coach / instructor. With this job, I motivated, kept safe, and encouraged children ages 4-13 to opt outside their comfort zones on the wall. Additionally, I’ve seen the ‘not so pretty’ side of the parent-child climbing algorithm. I hope to empower parents to facilitate positive family crag experiences. Listed below are a few of my tips, ideas, and tricks.
1. Mind Your Expectations
You love to climb. In fact you thrive off it! So why doesn’t your child enjoy scaling granite the same way? Does that child screaming as soon as his/her feet leave the ground really belong to you?
In my years of coaching, I observed numerous parents project their love of climbing onto their children, even if the child was not ready. Often, these incidents ended with a flustered parent insisting a screaming child keep climbing. Whether climbing in a gym or outdoors, be aware of your own expectations and goals. It my not happen this season, but given proper nurturing, and encouragement, your child may very soon may develop the same passion for climbing as you.
2. Make It Fun!
It is no secret children love prizes and games. How else would arcades and Chuck E. Cheese stay in business? So why not make climbing fun in the same way? Here are some ideas to keep children engaged and goal-oriented at the crag:
● Animal Rescue: cut a quarter sized hole through the belly of some cheap stuffed animals. Then, thread your draw through the animal bellies and clip them to bolts on a route. As the child top ropes, he/she can “rescue” the animal by unhooking them from the bolts and onto their harness.
● Rainbow Badges: Place a colorful piece of tape (approximately 6”) on rock holds or bolts prior to your child’s climb. Place a red piece on the lowest bolt / hold, then orange, yellow, green, blue, and finally purple on the top of the route. As the child climbs, encourage him/her to take the tape and stick it to his/her harness. When he/she comes down, he/she will have all the colors of the rainbow!
● Monster Climbing (gym climbing): Find an area of wall with plenty of feet and juggy holds. Encourage your child to begin traversing the wall while you lay down and “sleep like a monster”. If you hear the child hit his/her feet against the wall in poor technique, wake up and attack! This activity is best for younger kids (ages 4-6).
● Climbing Sharks & Minnows (gym climbing for multiple kids): Have the children begin traversing across the wall while you play the role of shark. They are safe if they are climbing, however, if they stand still too long or touch the ground, they can be tagged and turned into a shark alongside you. Last child on the wall wins.
● Coin Detectives: Prior to your child’s climb, hide candy or coins in the extra juggy holds. As they climb, they can collect the candy/coins. See if they find them all!
3. Keep Them Busy!
There will inevitably be down-time at the crag. Your child likely will not climb the entirety of the trip. Prepare accordingly with plenty of toys/items to keep your child busy and happy. If your child is a reader, books are a great options to have on-hand. Maybe your little one does best laying in some shade with an ipad. There is no shame in downloading a 30 minute TV show for your child to watch while you hop on your project! Better yet, if the area permits, allow your child to explore with a buddy (friend, sibling….etc.). However, make sure to set ground rules for exploration and ensure safety.
4. Treats Treats Treats!
When I mention treats, I am not condoning bribery as means to convince your child to climb. That said, growing up, my parents always bought me ice cream after little league softball games. It was a treat I looked forward to and created space for quality family time. Don’t be afraid to make your day at the crag extra special by incorporating new family traditions the kids look forward to. It serves as leverage for good behavior and correlates climbing with pleasure.
5. Invite Other Kid-Friendly People
Next time you opt outdoors, it might be a good idea to invite other parents and their children. Having at least one non-climber/belayer watching the kids ensures safety. Additionally, your child will have buddy who might just bring out their competitive edge.