Sure, kids love to climb, but is it really that important? After all, they love staring at screens, too, and the jury is still out on whether that’s good for them. Turns out, young growing bodies are made to pull, grasp and leap and spending enough time on these activities is crucial to their development in all areas of their life, including physical health, academic performance and character building.
In a time when preventing childhood obesity is on everyone’s mind, climbing is an activity that increases endurance and strength — not only in the upper body, but also in the core and leg muscles. Unlike some exercise programs for kids, climbing structures naturally entice children to scale them, so no incentive programs or cheerleading is necessary to get them using it. Because the whole body has to work together to scale a rock wall or wobbly web of rope, climbing builds coordination, a skill which will come in handy when kids want to pursue a sport.
The benefits of climbing extend far beyond the physical realm. Grasping rope, bars or rock-climbing holds develops the muscles that kids need for writing, something that tapping on a screen cannot do. In addition, mastering a tricky climbing maneuver requires intense concentration and honing this type of focus can help a child attend to their academic work at school. Similarly, successful climbing requires problem solving — “This part is too steep, I’ll try over there. My right hand can’t quite reach, maybe I need to adjust my foot position first” — another crucial skill for classroom learning.
Beyond the valuable physical and academic aspects of scaling a rock wall or wobbly ladder, these kinds of activities also help children with the personal character traits that are so crucial to living up to their full potential. Climbing develops perseverance, especially since you can’t really quit halfway up; you’ve gotta climb either up or down to get to solid ground! In addition, climbing builds confidence, as you’ll know by looking at the beaming face of a child who’s just made it to the top for the first time. Finally, climbing combines three great stress-relievers for kids: being outside, physical activity, and mental focus. And let’s face it, kids need a break from the demands of modern childhood to recharge.
Whether at the local park or in their own backyard, let your kids go wild on the climbing structures and they’ll reap more benefits than you’d think. Meanwhile, you can take a moment to sit down with a latte and enjoy the sunshine.
For more information on the benefits of climbing: