How to teach children climbing
Teaching climbing to children is not a big problem indeed, it is perhaps they who could teach it to adults! Climbing is indeed an innate gesture in all children. We begin by stepping over the bars of the couch and then, just bigger, climbing on the walls, on the trees or even on the stones that decorate the gardens of some restaurant. Generally in the first years of life the child demonstrates a great confidence in the vertical world such as to frighten in some cases couples of more apprehensive parents.
In recent years there has been a real boom in baby climbers. If in the 80s a boy of 15-17 years was considered an enfant prodige, in the last ten years it is almost normal to meet 7-10 year old children who climb like “dragons”. Indeed I will tell you more: it seems that the top positions regarding the maximum difficulties in sport climbing and bouldering are occupied by younger and younger kids.
Two examples are enough for everyone of the one and the other sex: Adam Ondra, perhaps the strongest climber in the world at the age of nine had already made his first 8a; the American climber Ashima Shiraishi 9a + at the age of 13 … Extraterrestrials able to make the performance of the various Manolo, Gullich, Raboutou, Glowacz, Mariacher and company, with their great charisma and their own feats dominated the first-hour sport climbing scene.
Phenomena aside, there are still many illustrious unknown teen-agers who today climb streets at the highest world levels.
It must be said that in the last few years children are approached to sport climbing as in any other sport without first going for mountaineering or hiking: they start earlier, have prepared sports instructors, artificial structures and the possibility of participate immediately in competitions also at local level. Not to mention the numerous indoor facilities available in the main cities and the hundreds of climbing cliffs scattered almost everywhere.
These baby climbers, when they reach adolescence, already have an enormous wealth of practice and experience behind them. Maybe they can still improve the mental and mental component of climbing but in some cases they will have already reached a very high level unthinkable until a few years ago.
However, what I want to stress most is that beyond the level reached climbing, especially at an early age, must remain a game and not a haunting and stressful search at the highest level. Climbing also means being in the midst of nature, joking with friends, confronting yourself with others and with your own limits, all things that can temper the kids who are forming their own character.
Climbing as a game on indoor structure.
Teach climbing to children: equipment, when and where
Children should be introduced to this sport with some precautions, both technical and learning.
Climbing equipment for children
Let’s start with the equipment. How is security guaranteed? While there are practically no differences with respect to adult equipment as far as ropes, quickdraws and insurance devices are concerned, the situation changes for harnesses.
It is essential for children to use a harness suited to their physical structure and their state of growth. The harnesses for children are divided into two categories: harnesses for children under 40 kg and harnesses above this threshold. The first are harnesses with shoulder straps, suitable for children up to 7/8 years of age, by virtue of the greater weight of the head in relation to the rest of the body which could unbalance them. Above this age range, we pass to the so-called junior or xxs harnesses, harnesses in all respects equal to those of adults, except for the extremely small size.
Even more than that for adults the helmet must never be missing on the child’s head!
When to start climbing the child and with whom
It is advisable to start them at the sport before the age of 5. It is important, in fact, that the baby’s bone structure is properly formed and able to withstand muscle tension and different stresses. If the parents do not practice climbing directly or if they do not consider themselves experts enough, my advice is to entrust the baby climber to a good Alpine Guide. Only this professional (recognized by national law 6/89) is able to ensure maximum safety when speaking To climbing. If then there is a middle child even more so!
Where to start climbing the child
Place? In Italy we are lucky because, in addition to the numerous indoor structures inside the various buildings, the natural cliffs with low grade routes certainly do not lack. Of all the regions, Trentino boasts many well-equipped, child-friendly cliffs. Here are some specially selected destinations that I would recommend:
Arco di Trento (TN) a visit with your children certainly deserves the Belvedere crag of Nago-Torbole (TN): easy grades, very short bolted paths, sun exposure to the south and a panoramic view of Lake Garda (don’t mind not even to adults). Also in Arco and more precisely in San Martino, the first family crag has been recently inaugurated, designed specifically for families.
teach children climbing
The crag of Nago: easy road accessible to all on excellent rock with breathtaking views of Lake Garda
Comano Terme and Val Lomasone. Over 110 routes specially equipped for children with theme parks (Roccia dei Folletti and Parco degli Scoiattoli) and climbing lessons held by certified Alpine Guides.
Surely not to be missed for all the new spiders who want to get closer to climbing is the wonderful initiative scheduled from July 21st to 24th “Manolo Camp Adventur” held by the great climber-climber Maurizio Zanolla aka Manolo in San Martino di Castrozza (TN).
Arco is also the site of a famous international climbing meeting: the Rock Master. Since 1987 (the year of the first Rock Master) this famous event brings together and compares the best sport climbing and bouldering athletes in the world every year in September. But there is more: from 2 to 4 September 2016 the Rock Master Junior is back for children aged 5 to 13 years.
For a baby climber, attending the Rock Master is a bit like a baby soccer player attending a soccer world cup final! Believe me!