Bouldering with Kids | The ultimate parent survival GUIDE
Like most rock climbing or bouldering families, there was probably a time in your life that you spent countless hours hanging from a rope or sending your next project. So why does that suddenly change or stop when we have kids? All too often, parents are reluctant to pick up or start the sports they once loved, out of fear of the unknown, complexity in just making it happen, or lack of sleep (all parents can relate here).
Well, as a mother of two and family of 6 (that includes 2 bat S*#@ crazy dogs), I’m here to share some tips/tricks in how we continued to boulder with our kids since a very young age. I’m not saying it’s easy, but with a few ‘FUNDAMENTALS’, you will ‘ROCK IT’ once again.
- In this ‘ULTIMATE PARENT SURVIVAL GUIDE: Bouldering with Kids’, you will find…
- What is bouldering
- Benefits of bouldering with kids
5 steps to getting started
- Know the fundamentals
- Putting together a game plan
- Gearing up
- Make it fun damit. Because it is!
- Fostering the vision
What is BOULDERING?
Bouldering is a form of rock climbing where enthusiasts scale small to mid-size rocks ranging in size from a few feet to 10-15 in height. Getting from the ground to the top are considered ‘lines’ or ‘problems’. Problems can range in difficulty from ‘scale in sneakers’ to ‘super darn hard’. Whatever the difficulty you are comfortable with, boulder within you limits, set those for your kids and know the basics before you step a foot off the dirt! That’s my rock-climbing disclaimer for the day.
The benefits of bouldering with kids
Like any sport you were introduced to as kid, they set a foundation of commitment, clarity, focus, and health orientated fitness. Getting your kids to step outside, interact with nature, learn something about their abilities and limits; sets a foundation of mental strength that caries them well into adult hood. I can remember countless lessons learned about life, from clearing all distractions, focusing on the boulder problem at hand and applying every ounce of myself to be present in that exact moment. Take your kids bouldering and you’ll be surprised by the exploration and personal level of confidence that follows.
5 STEP GUIDE - Getting started:
Step 1 – Ensure you know the fundamentals
- While bouldering with kids is super Awesome-sauce, climbing and bouldering is a dangerous sport and you need to ask and research the basics that include:
- Scouting problems within your kids’ range (start at V0 and less). Learn more about Bouldering grades at 99 Boulders
- Ensuring safe landings with bouldering pads
- Teach your kids about top out fundamentals
- Make sure people are present and understand proper spotting
Proper climbing etiquette
- For the sake of others, make sure to follow these few climbing etiquette tips when bouldering outside
- No music – ‘Baby Shark’ still sounds like crap outdoors
- Pick up your tape and trash – Let’s all be a bit more sustainable
- Brush off excess chalk – That includes the chalk drawings your kids will probably make
- Keep the yelling to a minimum – Hard at times, but super crag recommended
Proper spotting technique
- While I won’t go into a full description into how to properly spot your little climber, I would recommend conducting searches at Climbing Magazine for spotting articles
- Bouldering pad placement is key – Research some articles and learn the right techniques to stacking, pitching, and padding odd objects
Step 2 – Put together a game plan
Knowing their limits for them
- Start at V0 or lower
- Start with problems under 5-6 feet
- Pick problems with very flat landings
- Check out the top out – find big holds!
- Start off with a good conversation around what you expect from them when bouldering
- No walking under people when bouldering
- If you are not climbing, your spotting (depending upon age)
- Do some ‘trust problems’ - Have them fall and you spot them down to the bouldering pad. It’s sorrta like those trust exercises in Corporate America back in the 90s
Set and Forget it – Save your sanity
- If you want to go bouldering with your kids more – pack your ‘Bouldering survival pack’ and keep it replenished
- We always keep all our gear, extra clothes, water, etc., packed which makes for quick trips outdoors
TIP – get the right sort of pack. We started Mountain Method from a need to better pack and organize our gear when rock-climbing and bouldering with kids. Which is why we created the ‘Boulder Caddy’
Build a timeline, extend if smiles continue
- Rule of thumb – 60 minutes
- Don’t overdo it – we found 45 to 60 minutes sessions to be a great starting point
- Feed them!
- Learn from our mistakes. Give them plenty to eat before heading out
- Snack break
- We found a snack break at mid-point was awesome for extending our climbing or bouldering sessions
- Something sweet
- Totally up to you, but putting a few treats in a plastic bag and placing them at the top of problems was a sure ‘send’ motivator
- Don’t push it
- Limits or time allotment. Keep it safe and keep a monitor on your time
- Make it about them
- Be present
- Stop thinking about work!
- Focus on making it fun – you’ll get a spotter for life
Step 3 – Gearing up
- Spend the money, many kid shoes are adjustable. We recommend using socks with our kids shoes to start. Socks help to extend the size and gets their feet adjusted to new pressure points
- Lots of great kid themed chalk bags out there
- Totally optional – but worth checking out for peace of mind
Food and water
- Nuts, fruits, good healthy carbs and a little sugar rocks!
Sweet treats in a bag
- I said it earlier. Sweet treats in a bag make for great sending motivation to get to the top
- Pre-pack some extras, it will save you in the long run
- Backpacks or The Boulder Caddy
Poo bag & toilet paper
- Yup S*%@ happens. Let’s keep nature natural. We use CleanWaste bags which have ‘Poo Powder’ and can be found at REI. Pack it in – Pack it out
Charged cellphone with movie
- If you want to extend your own bouldering session, bring a charged phone and play a quick movie while they sit on their bouldering pads. Not the best interaction with nature, but you get more time on the rock and they’ll love it
Set of toys and a blanket
- Pick a few small toys and a blanket for a personal play area when they get tired
Step 4 – Focusing on FUN
Create wilderness game
- Learn 6 species of trees and leaves – search and seek game
- Bouldering pad games
- Chalk face paint
- Small fairy fort – please don’t break sticks and disperse when finished
Success treats for sends
- Sweet treats in a plastic bag for extra sending motivation
Hide and go seek
- No brainer here, just keep it safe…
Sit and share
- Share memories with your kids, your adventures, and tell stories about the outdoors. Trust me, they’ll remember these!
Step 5 – Foster the vision & let them create
Starting off…it’s about them
- Be present
- Focus on capturing every moment, even if it’s tiring at times
Talk about why you love bouldering
- Infuse your love and passion – it’ll rub off. Promise
Let them create
- Let them climb as much and what they want. Don’t push to hard, let them explore and fall in love with bouldering and nature
Bouldering with kids is a sport, hobby, passion, and memory that you will carry for a lifetime. Lessons learned sitting on a crash pad, to stories told wandering through the forest, adds so much richness and laughter to one’s life. It’s about exploration, adventure and connection. It’s more than just bouldering. It’s a way of life | a way to be present | a way to connect.
So, get out there and start exploring. IT’S NEVER TO LATE!
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