Before the dry season ends, harness your kids energy (literally) by introducing them to rock climbing.

Physically, climbing is a super sport. It combines flexibility, strength, and endurance, and teaches hand, foot, and eye coordination. It’s also a great way to reinforce children’s understanding of left and right, which can be applied in every sport. Climbing comes naturally to most children, and the earlier they start, the quicker they can progress. There are now many climbing competitions held around the world for children and young adults.

Climbing is not only physical exercise, but works the mind as well. Climbing a rock wall is like solving a life-size puzzle – each move takes patience, planning, and focus. And there’s no one telling you the answers: you are problem-solving on your own and learning through trial and error. As education experts point out, children’s attention spans are seemingly getting shorter each year. Climbing is a natural way to sharpen their concentration.

Rock climbing teaches children safety and communication skills. Climbers are required to check themselves and their equipment before each climb – harness, shoes, rope, belay, and sometimes a helmet are all utilised. Kids quickly learn to look out for other climbers, and to call out verbal cues to the people assisting them. Rock climbers take turns and cheer on others, which is an amazing example for children to see. It also teaches perseverance: so much of climbing is falling, falling, falling, and then choosing to get back up again. Conquering the wall or finishing a tricky route usually earns high praise and boosts children’s self esteem.

This isn’t a sport for the faint of heart. In my experience, rock climbing teaches bravery and overcoming obstacles better than almost any other activity designed for children. It also shows children the lifetime benefits of healthy living; to be a great climber, you have to eat well, drink a lot of water, and build muscles. There are excellent male and female role models in the climbing world, and the sport is not as tainted by celebrity scandals as many others.

Climbing can be especially beneficial to children with disabilities like autism. Autistic children often have more sensory needs and enjoy the tangible results of climbing. As it is a solo sport, there is less anxiety regarding teammates, although it’s always important to pay attention to a possible fear of heights. Some gyms have special equipment for climbers in wheelchairs or for those who have physical challenges.

Last but not least, it’s not an expensive hobby to start. Equipment lasts a long time if you take care of it, and most climbing gyms have affordable membership options for little ones or families. Try it out on a family Sunday at Outcast’s Push Climbing and see how they do!   

Shannon Brown works in international education in Ho Chi Minh City and has a background in social work, public heath, and early childhood education.