Mother Crushers

Adventures in Climbing and Parenthood

My name is Megan, and I am an avid (if recreational) rock climber.  I am also the proud mom of two climbing kiddos.  I have an eight-year-old daughter who climbs competitively and an almost six-year-old son who climbs recreationally right now.  I began climbing about five and a half years ago, not long after my son was born.  My awesome husband suggested that I find some activity to get out of the house and enjoy some adult conversation.  At the time, we lived in a small town, so I decided to check out what the local YMCA catalogue had to offer.  I was soon hooked – I’d say immediately, but it did take a bit of effort to work through my fear of heights.  I’ve been climbing ever since, and both my children are following suit.  We even convinced Dad to join the rock climbing fun too.  I’d love to share some of the (many) reasons that I am happy that my whole family (and especially my kids) climb.

5 Reasons My Kids Rock Climb

Reason 1 – They Want To! (AKA It’s FUN!)

Honestly, the most important reason that my kids climb is because they want to…but we all know that just because a child wants to do something, doesn’t mean that they should.  I’ve seen how my children (and the children I’ve coached) have grown through climbing, and I am very happy to support them in their climbing adventures.

When I began climbing, I never thought much about my kids climbing (my son was still a baby and my daughter was two and a half).  Sure, I realized that kids do rock climb – I had seen them at the YMCA – but most were older, and it didn’t cross my mind that my own kids might want to try it out.  When my daughter was four, she began asking to come to my women’s climbing class.  (I apparently had been touting how awesome climbing was for long enough that her curiosity had been piqued.)  The class was for grown-ups!  It started at bedtime!  We didn’t have itty-bitty climbing shoes!  These were minor inconveniences for my determined daughter.  Eventually she accompanied me (my instructor was happy to accommodate) and we got her on the gym walls.  She loved it, and soon after she began climbing outside.  She loved the harness, she loved the shoes, and she loved the challenge of it all.

Of course, just as no two rock climbing routes are the same, neither are any two children – and the same is true for my own.  Even though my daughter approached climbing head-on, my son’s journey has been different.  At the age of two, I would say he was intrigued with rock climbing.  My daughter and I loved it, so we got him in a harness and on the wall, and…it was not really love at first climb. The gym was also busy and noisy (he is introverted), and perhaps it was too overwhelming for him.  I assumed that rock climbing was not his “thing” and he’d try something else when he was older.  That changed when we moved to Columbus and experienced the VA Training Center.  As we hung out during my daughter’s climbing classes, I often found my now three-year-old son peering through the plexiglass walls into the Monkey Room watching the pre-school climbers.  It was colorful…they had holds shaped like animals…it was a small space with low walls…it was quiet… I asked him if he wanted to maybe be in that class.  The answer was a definite yes, and he’s been climbing ever since – and having a great time!

Reason 2 – Physical Challenge

Rock climbing is great exercise, and I wholeheartedly support my kiddos being active.  Many children are drawn to climbing at a young age – the stairs, trees, the furniture…making the transition to the sport of rock climbing just might come naturally!  As an adult, I had to be taught proper technique and body movement to help me up the wall, but for younger climbers it seems to come more naturally.  I’m continually amazed how children can acquire body awareness, control, and balance on the wall so easily.  Through climbing, children learn how to navigate a unique three-dimensional space.  And the physical challenge is always evolving too, with changing gym routes and spaces, in addition to an almost endless number of outdoor spaces to explore.  I love watching my children gain confidence, strength, and physical ability as they climb.

Reason 3 – Mental Challenge

Another reason I am drawn to climbing is for the mental stimulation and stress relief. I am excited that my kids can also participate in a sport that offers a high degree of mental challenge. Though my kiddos might not be aware of this benefit, I think subconsciously it is one of the reasons that they are drawn to it.

Every time you get on the rock wall (indoors or out), you are essentially solving a problem – and I think that is a great thing for a developing brain to process! How can you reach the top of the wall? How must I move my hands or feet to reach the next hold? How can I position my body to maintain balance? I think climbing teaches a child to think about cause and effect, consequences of their (physical) actions, and problem solving. And when you figure out how to finish the route, you get a real sense of accomplishment. After practices, I’m often met with choruses of “check out this climb I did!!”

In addition to problem solving, I think climbing offers other mental benefits. Climbing can help a child to overcome obstacles – such as the fear of heights or the challenge of trying something new. One of the things that I personally like about youth rock climbing is that it is a great outlet to be competitive with oneself – especially if traditional team sports aren’t for you. I know that for me personally, rock climbing is great for stress relief. When I’m on the wall, I can’t help but be in my “happy place,” and I want my children to be able to experience that too.

Reason 4 – Love and Stewardship for Nature

Both my husband and I grew up spending a lot of time outdoors, so it’s probably no surprise that we have encouraged our kids to get outside as much as possible.  Rock climbing is definitely a great way to spend more time outdoors.  Sure, gym climbing is fantastic, but climbing on real rock is incredible, and we like to do it as much as we can as a family.  Whether bouldering or climbing the big walls, the landscapes are truly beautiful – hearing my son utter “oh wow” around every corner as we explore the crag makes me happy!

Since both my children love to climb outdoors, I feel like they have an incentive to protect the natural environment so that they may continue to enjoy it for generations to come.  I find that climbers tend to be a very eco-conscious group of people – leaving no trace as they participate in their sport.  I hope that my children will continue that trend of protecting and enjoying nature.

Reason 5 – Spending Time with Amazing People

Finally, one of my favorite reasons for my kids’ climbing is the time we get to spend together as a family, and the life-long friendships we’ve made through the sport.  There just seems to be something special about the people who rock climb!  It has been such an inclusive and fun group of people to interact with.  I love how climbers from every background imaginable come together to socialize and enjoy time together.

From a youth sport perspective, I couldn’t be more pleased with the athletic environment.  Through the competitive team and the club classes my kids have made what I feel will be life-long friendships.  They can’t wait to see their friends at practice – and truthfully, I can’t wait to see all our fellow parent-friends and climb too!  We climb together in the gym, take outdoor trips, and camp together.  And when it comes time to compete, both parents and kids are cheering on teammates and climbers from other teams as well.  It is an amazingly supportive environment that builds kids up while they challenge themselves. 

Climbing has also been a wonderful bonding experience for our family.  It is an activity that we all love and can participate in equally.  Rock walls can be a great equalizer – and it’s awesome how, although we are all different ages, have different strengths, and have been climbing for varying amounts of time, we can all work on the same problems together.  I can’t think of a better fall afternoon than having the family together at a rock wall in the great outdoors.  My daughter and son have always been very close – and I think climbing has brought them even closer, sharing beta and cheering each other on.  I’m so excited to see what my kids and their climbing friends tackle in the future!

— Megan has lived in Dublin for 2 and a half years with her husband, daughter, and son.  She previously spent 5 years working as a civil engineer designing bridges, and now balances family life with climbing, coaching, sewing, and especially hiking.