// Climbing with Kids: Tips and Tricks to Get the Most Out of Indoor and Outdoor Sessions
Calling all climbing parents, parents who want to climb more, parents who want to meet other climbing parents and parents looking to foster their kids’ passions for climbing: Your job isn’t easy. Trying to balance meeting your own climbing goals with supporting your family can be tough. BUT there’s good news:
1) You’re not alone. We’re parents too, so we get it. We’ve had to adapt our climbing schedules to accommodate soccer games, play dates and birthday parties. Some seasons we get outside a lot and others we focus on family fun time away from rocks. We don’t always get the balance right, but that’s okay.
2) You CAN find a balance that works well for you most of the time. It will take time. It will not be perfect. But it is possible.
So how does one find said magical balance between family time and family climbing time? Here are some tips and tricks for climbing with kids from climber mom Kate Beezley and EVO Owner and father of two Clint Dillard:
Tips + Tricks for Climbing Outside with Kids
- Make friends with other climber parents and their families. Other parents understand the struggles of taking kids to the crag and are often better equipped than your bachelor friends to balance watching the kiddos with trying hard. It’s also easier to keep everyone’s kids entertained when they have other kiddos their age to keep them company.
- Climb in a group of three+ adults whenever possible, so one person can climb, one can belay or spot, and one can keep an eye on the kiddos. This way everyone gets the climb time, breaks, and peace of mind needed for a productive outdoor session.
- Bring your kids’ favorite snacks to the crag. Better yet, make it the only time they get their top 3 favorite snacks. They’ll instantly love cragging.
- Also bring special toys climbing. Again, they’ll go from ‘why do I have to walk in the woods’ to ‘yay climbing!’ when they see their favorite stuffed dog go into their pack. If you can, leave the screens at home and encourage your kiddos to play outside in nature as much as possible.
- Have your kids help pack and carry their own packs as soon as they’re old enough to do so. It helps them take ownership of their day outside and gets them invested in the outdoor climbing experience.
- Dress your kiddos in the brightest clothes you can find at your local thrift store to make them easy to spot.
- Implement a ‘Last call’ before someone starts to climb. This is your kiddos’ last call for help opening a snack, getting a toy and/or using the ‘outdoor facilities’. It’s also a great way to teach them that once you are belaying or climbing you are not available until the climber reaches the ground. This likely won’t work every time, but it’s good to work toward.
- Practice ‘forest peeing’ and going ‘number 2’ in the woods. More often than not, your kiddo will have to go poop the second you are on the wall and/or belaying. Always pack a wag bag, or, worst case scenario, a dog poop bag to pick poo up with. Whether your kid is in diapers or fully potty-trained, ALWAYS bring extra underwear and old grocery or chip bags and/or ziplock bags for poopy clothes and diapers. Designate a pocket of your pack to holding this kind of trash…just don’t forget it’s there 🙂 You can also bring your child’s training potty to remain consistent with toilet training at home.
- The challenges of taking kids outside change as they age. Non-mobile babies need to eat frequently, but they stay put in their carrier. Toddlers are more self-sufficient with feeding, but you need an adult to watch them constantly (insert 3+ adult climbing party here). See age-specific climbing tips below for more on this.
- Switch off climbing days with your spouse/partner. For example, you climb outside with your friends on Saturdays while your significant other watches the kid(s), and then (s)he gets to climb outside Sundays while you take a rest day to chill with the fam.
- Engage your kids in climbing–if they’re interested. Find small boulders that they can send, let them try easy routes on top rope, or set up a ‘rope swing’ after you lower down from your project as a special treat. The more you can engage your kids in your climbing day, the more they’ll enjoy the process. That said, if your highly responsible 8-year-old and 10-year-old just want to sit in the van in Rifle and read, that’s okay too.
- Stick to single-pitch sport climbing or bouldering on days you take the kids outside and save multi-pitch and technical trad for days you have someone else to watch them.
- Prioritize making time for yourself–the put your oxygen mask on first idea. A parent who takes care of her/himself emotionally and physically is more present, focused and there for her/his kiddos than one that is burned out and frustrated.
- Beware of dogs! Ask dog owners if their dogs are good with kids, and then teach your child how to introduce him or herself to pups in a non-threatening way and with your permission/supervision.
Age-Specific Climbing Tips
Climbing with your baby:
- Remember that your newborn needs time to build their immune system up BEFORE you carry them to the crag. Start with walks around the neighborhood before you take them into the woods.
- Non-mobile babies are relatively easy to climb with besides the extra weight of carrying them on the approach. Have one parent carry the baby and the other carry the extra baby gear.
- Pack a folding camp chair and mosquito net to make mid-session feeding breaks as comfortable as possible. Just make sure to set up your camp away from rockfall and possible precipitation.
- Pro baby tip: Packing a tarp can be a rainy-day savior.
- And don’t forget to pack yourselves a nice lunch to boost moral and make the day that much more enjoyable.
Note: If you are a mom with a new born, it’s important you don’t rush back into your old climbing/fitness routine. Your body has been through a lot, and it’s important to consult a professional about what level of exercise that is right for body.
Climbing with your toddler:
Just when you nailed climbing with a baby, your baby decided to start crawling and trying to eat every rock at the crag. The toddler years are some of the most difficult, but it won’t last forever. Here’s how to make the best of things:
- Carry as many of your kiddos’ favorite snacks and toys as you have room for.
- Hire a sitter for the days you really want to get outside without distractions. Doing so does NOT make you a bad parent. It IS OKAY if your kiddo cries their eyes out in childcare. You should NOT feel guilty about taking time for self-care. Taking said time for yourself WILL make you a happier, kinder, more understanding parent.
- Accept that you’ll find yourself climbing inside on bluebird days and occasionally getting zero pitches in on outdoor days due to temper tantrums etc. This is okay. You’ll be climbing more soon.
- Pro toddler tip: Hang their kid carrier in a tree, tie a sling to their carrier, then clip the sling to your harness while you belay. This way you can swing them as you walk back and forth belaying your partner.
Climbing with your preschooler:
Climbing with your kiddo just became 400% more fun!
- This is the time to invest in little climbing shoes and a harness, so you can set up mini top ropes and rope swings to further introduce your child to climbing.
- Experiment with leaving more toys at home. Play games and explore cracks and mini caves on the approach to engage them in the nature experience.
- Pro pre-school tip: Pack a hammock for your kiddo to swing in and for you to power nap in.
Climbing with your Kindergartner:
Ah, climbing is (almost) back to normal. Further engage your kiddo(s) in the sport by having them carry their own gear, put their own harness and shoes on (with supervision) and pick climbs. You can also sign them up for indoor climbing classes and camps, so you’re not the sole person teaching them to climb.
Kid-Friendly Climbing Areas
- Bouldering areas with short approaches: Horsepens 40 (AL), Buttermilk Boulders (CA), Joshua Tree (CA), Carter Lake (CO), Flagstaff (CO), Guanella Pass (CO), Horsetooth Reservoir (CO), Lincoln Woods (RI), Hueco (TX), Joe’s Valley (UT) and Smuggler’s Notch (VT) to name just a few.
- Sport climbing areas with fixed anchors and semi-flat belay areas: Castle Rock and Nip and Tuck crags in Boulder Canyon (CO), Rifle (CO), Shelf Road (CO), Table Mountain (CO), City of Rocks (ID) Ten Sleep (WY), and many of the crags at Joshua Tree (CA), the Red River Gorge (KY), Rumney (NH), The Gunks (NY), Mount Rushmore (SD), Spearfish Canyon (SD) and New River Gorge (WV) to name a few more.
Tips and Tricks for Climbing Inside with Kids
Many of the outdoor tips and tricks can be applied to climbing indoors as well. Here’s how:
- Climb in a group of three parents, so two people can climb/belay and one person can watch the kids climb.
- Enroll your kiddo(s) in an after school youth program or climb/team program (details below) and use those 90 minutes to get your climbing session and/or workout in.
- Boulder inside as a family. Teach your kiddo how to warm up and project. Spot them on a climb that’s hard for them, and then teach them to rest while you try a boulder that’s hard for you. Repeat. Note: This works best for kids who already love climbing and/or are comfortable behaving themselves in a crowded bouldering area.
- New parents: Find a gym that allows you to bring a stroller or car seat inside and top rope, lead, or boulder next to your baby–just make sure to keep them away from fall zones. If your schedule allows, try to do this during morning or early afternoon hours when the gym is less busy.
- Find a gym with in-house childcare.
- Snack and toy rewards work well for indoor climbing days too. Treat your kiddo(s) to their favorite snack for trying a hard boulder more than once, getting to a new high point on the wall, and/or being stellar in childcare.
Family-Friendly Offerings at EVO Louisville
- 4- and 12-week Youth Programs for kids ages 2+
- Youth Club + Team
- Indoor and Outdoor Summer Camps
- Birthday Parties + Special group climbing rates
- Kids’ Fun Days during BVSD days off
- On-site Childcare for ages 6 months to 6 years, M-F 9a – 1p and 3:30p – 7p, Sat + Sun 9a – 1p
- Special Unlimited Childcare + Climbing EFT memberships (with NO startup fee!) for kids 6- (this membership good for both EVO Louisville + EVO Kids)
- Discounted Family Membership Rates for 3+ people (2 adults and 1+ minor(s) residing at the same address)
- Special $10 drop-in rates for 9:15 am yoga and fitness classes, including our Strong Mamas fitness class designed specifically for prenatal and (any stage!) postpartum mamas (non-mobile babies welcome). Sign up here.
- Tuesday Moms’ Climbing Group: Join us after Strong Mamas for climbing, hanging out, swapping stories and chilling with babies. Join the Facebook Group for updates.
- Kiddo- and Family-Friendly climbing areas including a climbable fortress in the ‘Room of Doom’
NEW: EVO Kids!
That’s right, our brand new kid-specific climbing and ninja obstacle course gym built for kids by big kids is now open across from Sweet Cow in Downtown Louisville. Double bonus: Your EVO Louisville membership is good for EVO Kids. Triple Bonus: All EVO Lou day passes and punch passes are good for EVO kids too (and vice versa).
- EVO Kids Open Gym Hours:
- Fridays: 4p – 8p
- Saturday + Sundays: 10a – 5p
- Date Nights
- Birthday Parties
- 4-Week Intro Classes
- Answers to more of your burning questions here.
Kid-Friendly Offerings at EVO Concord
- Youth Programs for Kids Ages 3+; all ability levels welcome
- Club + Team openings for athletes Ages 6 – 19
- Indoor + Outdoor Summer Camps
- Kids’ Climbing Fun Days during teacher in-service days + no-school holidays
- Boy and Girl Scout overnights and merit badges
- School League
- Birthday Parties
- Team Building
- Special Group Climbing Rates
- Portable Climbing Wall Rental for off-site climbing fun
Kid-Friendly Offerings at EVO Portland
- Kid-specific climbing areas
- Youth Programs for kids ages 4+; all ability levels welcome
- Team EVO for athletes ages 7 – 19 wishing to compete in the USA Climbing Youth Circuit
- Indoor + Outdoor Summer Camps
- Kids’ Climbing Fun Days during teacher no-school holidays + teacher in-service days
- School League
- Birthday + Overnight Parties
- Team Building sessions
- Special Group Climbing Rates
- Portable Wall Rentals for off-site parties
Wow that was a lot of info. Throughout this entire process, remember that your kids are tiny humans with their own personalities. Climbing may not be their sport. And that’s okay.