Rock climbing is a positive and satisfying past time for kids. Learning the right rock climbing moves and then practicing them will help kids get fit and strong. It’s not too difficult to find a local rock climbing wall and an instructor who gives lessons in a safe and controlled environment. Here's a review guide of some ideas for venues.
Rock climbing is a sport that you can practice safely with the right equipment. Once your little one has had their lessons and perfected the basics, they can take their skills and get outdoors. Not only that, it’s so much fun too! Here we suggest five entertaining games that you can play with your little one or that they can play in a lesson. Plus, four essential rock climbing skills that your kids will want to master.
Rock Climbing Games for Kids:
For some of these games, having more than one participant is essential, plus they are more fun when played in a group. But you can adapt them if it’s just you and your little one on the wall.
- Copy One, Add One
In this game, one person gets onto the wall, completes a move and gets down. The next person must do the same move as the first person and then add their own. This game is best played in a smaller group. In larger groups the last few kids will have quite a strenuous routine compared to the first few. In fact, the ideal scenario would be that you have a smaller group of around 4 kids who keep taking it in turns. So, once all four kids have had a go, the first kid goes again. They could try and continue the routine for as long as possible or start again after two or three rounds.
- Get Dressed
Place a few items of clothing, bracelets or sweatbands around the wall. The goal here is for the climber to collect and put on all the items before getting down. An extra component to the game would be to time the climber; they must collect all the items before time runs out. It’s advisable to use something that the climber can put on, otherwise they won't be able to use their hands if they are holding items. One variation of this game uses hats, gloves and scarves. You need to make sure that the items you’re asking them to put on are safe and won't get caught on the holds.
- Out of Time
This one gives some control over to the climber as they determine which moves and holds they use. Set a timer, say 20 seconds, and in that time, the kid has to get to as many holds as they can. You call time and as that kid gets down, the next one gets ready to go. The next person has to beat the previous person's number. The winner is the person who gets the most holds. In the next round, you could decrease the time limit.
- On the Wall I Used...
Hand total control over to your climbers in this game! One person stands at the bottom of the wall and calls out “On the wall I used…” and chooses a move which the climber has to complete. When that person has completed the chosen moves, they get to choose for the next person. Add a competitive edge with the rule that anyone who falls or can’t complete their move doesn’t get to choose for the next person. The game ends when everyone has had a turn climbing and calling out moves.
Like the classic game Twister, but played on a climbing wall! It’s more fun if you can get all or at least some of your kids onto the wall at the same time. Everyone must start on a similar section of the wall and the game works best on walls with lots of different color holds. The neat thing about this game is that you can use the actual spinner from a Twister set. If you don’t have one, you can make one by writing down colors and body parts on paper then pulling them out of a hat. As with Twister, players who fall or can’t complete the move are out. The last one standing (or hanging!) is the winner.
Essential Rock Climbing Skills for Kids to Learn
As well as playing fun games during rock climbing practice, it’s important to learn some basic skills. This will help to avoid injury and make kids better climbers.
Once they are confident and have these moves perfected, they can start climbing outdoors. With your supervision, of course!
It might seem straightforward to place your feet onto the climbing holds, but there is a special technique to it. Some of the holds on more advanced walls are very slim; they’re not like steps. Mastering their footwork will help kids to avoid slipping off the wall. Point the feet outwards, rather than facing forward as if you’re climbing stairs. Use your feet to move your body to the next position. Your kids shouldn’t be pulling themselves along the wall with their hands. Climber Guy has a simplified explanation for how to move your body while your feet are in a twisted position.
- Hands and Arms
It can be tempting to hold on for dear life, but you shouldn’t over-grip in rock climbing. This is a sure way to use up energy and tire out sooner. Think of it more like holding something than holding onto something. Three different holds to master are jugs, crimpers and open-hand holds. There are several more advanced hand positions but it’s best to get comfortable with the common ones to start with.
As for the arms, they shouldn’t be bent when holding on. A slight bend can be beneficial but having your arms at a 90° angle takes more energy and will tire you out. Think about doing a pull up, you’re already holding your entire body weight in your hands, which is difficult enough. But it gets even more difficult when trying to pull that weight upwards. That’s what happens when climbers bend their arms too much.
- Shifting Your Weight
Where you hold your weight in your body is important for how when moving across the wall. Rather than trying to haul their weight, have your kids learn to move their weight in the direction they want to go. To do that, shift your weight onto the foot you’re using to push yourself off the hold. Specifically, the part of the foot that’s planted on the hold. Get them into the habit of redistributing their weight before they move and soon it will become second nature.
- Three Points of Contact
One of the basic rules of rock climbing it the Three Points of Contact rule. This means that no fewer than three body parts should always be in touching the wall. That’s not to say that this rule applies all the time; sometimes it’s not possible. But for beginners to stay stable, it’s a useful rule to follow. Only take one hand or foot off of the wall at any time and use it to grab the next hold. There’s no need to take both feet off and drag your legs up. Likewise, you’re likely to lose balance if you move both hands at once.
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