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How to Get Your Kids Passionate About Rock Climbing

Bring Your Kids to the Climbing Crag

Talking with some other climbing moms, we agreed that one of the likely keys to getting our kids so passionate about climbing was including them all the time, as much as possible, when we went climbing outdoors. Sure, indoor gym climbing makes climbing more accessible than ever, but it doesn’t teach the lessons of loving the outdoors and respecting nature. 

Climbing outside wasn’t a sport that we did to get away from the kids, so we didn’t leave them home. We also said no to electronic devices. Let their imagination run wild. I took an escape the belay workshop for 2 hours and my kids were busy playing nearby with a ziploc bag, and a small puddle from a spring with big acorns floating in it. It became their fish pond and fish store. So, even if they didn’t climb and played with sticks, rocks or played house among the boulders, they were outside and enjoying themselves while we climbed. Having peers along with us always helped. They wanted to try the climb that their friends got up.

Kids playing on a climbing trip to Rumney, NH

Our climbing kids at Rumney decided mica was currency, and collected chips from the ground (what they called “mining”) in ziploc bags.

They saw parents, adults and other kids loving the sport and having fun. We shared the excitement and passion with them. They learned that this was a good way to have fun.

Big group of climbing parents and climbing kids cragging at the New River Gorge on a Spring Break trip.

Parents & kids climbing at the New River Gorge on a Spring Break trip.

Climb with Other Families

Other kids from climbing families joined us so my kids had peers to climb with. They loved to meet up with their friends when we went climbing. Climbing wasn’t something only their parents did. It became their lifestyle too.

Once they were old enough to belay each other, we would set up top ropes, and the kids would have their own posse of buddies to top rope with. They enjoyed climbing with their peers much more than hanging out with adults.

My kids and their climbing posse.

My kids with their favorite climbing friends.

Road trips were especially fun. For spring break, we would meet at a far-away crag and reserve a group campground. The kids could all share a big tent together, with lots of giggling and good times. We’d spend the whole week climbing with our friends and the kids had their own friends too.

Climbing families hiking down into the New River Gorge.

Hiking down to the crag on our big spring break trip to climb at the New River Gorge with 8 kids (from ages 10 to 17) & 7 parents.

On Belay Mommy!

Sure, it means sacrificing some opportunities to do multipitch with your buddies, but when those little kids get older, you’ll see it’s worth it. Doing a multipitch with just me and my kids, seeing how excited they were, hearing them tell me how awesome a mommy I am and how much they love me – will always be among some of the best moments of my life. You know how you bond with your favorite climbing partner? Multiply that by 100 when your favorite climbing partner is your child.

Climbing with my kids on Bear's Reach at Lover's Leap, CA.

Our first multi-pitch together, just me & my kids, on Bear’s Reach at Lover’s Leap, CA.

Recently, when my older daughter was in her early 20s, she faced a dilemma when about to do her first trad lead in the Gunks. It gets so crowded at the Gunks that it’s good practice to use your partner’s name when shouting to each other. When she got up to the ledge, should she call out “off belay Mommy”, or use my first name, which she normally doesn’t use? She couldn’t decide. When she got to the  ledge, she called out, “Off Belay Mommy!” When I met her on the ledge, she explained, “You’re Mommy, you’re always Mommy. It feels weird calling you anything else, although it’s kind of embarrassing now that I’m in my 20s.” I love it!

What Happens to Climbing Kids?

Some kids will really take to climbing, some may not. A climbing couple I know had a son with great potential but after the age of about 12, he’d rather play video games with his buddies. But because he was exposed to it as a kid, when he gets older, he may want to revisit it on his own. Even if he doesn’t, hopefully he will have learned a respect for nature and love of the outdoors.

I was fortunate. Both of my kids fell in love with climbing. When they fall in love with the sport you’re passionate about, it is so wonderful to be able to share that joy with them. My kids have grown, but still love to climb and be in the outdoors. They recently spent a month backpacking the John Muir Trail together. They also complete in the USA Climbing collegiate competitions and my older one has made it to nationals twice already (once to the finals!). They can climb harder grades than me, but they still need mom to do the trad leading when we climb at our home crag, the Gunks. Glad to know I’m good for something!

My oldest kid competing in the USA Climbing Collegiate National Championship Finals.

My daughter competing in the USA Climbing Collegiate National Championship Finals.

Go Climb!

So find a group, set up some super easy kid stuff, some moderate or hard top ropes, exchange climbs, take turns belaying, climbing and amusing the kids, and have a great time! 

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