For most parents in 2020, memories of our school P.E. lessons will involve visions of running around a muddy field in the rain, playing football, netball, hockey – or in the warmer months, maybe tennis and cricket. Perhaps on an exciting day, we would get to play volleyball or rounders. But in most schools, climbing was not a regular fixture of the school curriculum.
Few schools are lucky enough to possess their own climbing facilities, and of those that do, even fewer happen to have teachers with Climbing Wall Instructor qualifications. However, as rock climbing has grown in popularity over the years, more and more schools are recognising the huge potential that climbing can have for their students’ development and wellbeing.
Here at Rock and Rapid Adventures, we’ve been observing the benefits of climbing for children for many years, whilst leading our school activity sessions, kids’ climbing clubs and school residentials in North Devon. So, whether you’re a parent looking for a well-rounded after school activity for your child, or a teacher searching for something a little bit different for this term’s P.E. lessons, keep reading to find out exactly how climbing can help a child’s development.
Climbing for child development: key facts
Check out our infographic to find out the key ways in which climbing benefits children, with some fascinating statistics from studies in schools!
5 Reasons why climbing is good for children
Now that you know the basics of why climbing is beneficial for children, allow us to tell you exactly why we think that rock climbing can be such a brilliant tool for child development.
The first thing you will notice when your child joins one of our kids’ climbing clubs in North Devon is just how quickly their confidence improves from session to session. The first time your child tries indoor climbing, they may initially be cautious – climbing slowly and hesitating to let go at the top of the wall. However, in the vast majority of cases, by the end of their climbing taster session, children are much more self-assured, full of excitement and eager to show you their newfound skills.
If you’re a climber, you will know exactly why this is. Overcoming the challenge of a climbing route and the apprehension that can come with being off the ground is a very rewarding experience even for an adult. But, for children, succeeding at something new, which they perhaps didn’t know they were capable of, is invaluable for building their sense of independence and self-efficacy.
This will give them more confidence in day-to-day life, motivating them to try new things and push themselves to achieve their full potential, whether in sports, academics or personal hobbies.
Developing social skills
Another important benefit of climbing for children is its capacity to enhance their social skills. Whilst climbing does indeed foster a sense of independent capability within a child, the sport is a fundamentally social activity. When being belayed up the wall by a friend, a child will learn the importance of trust – and in the same turn, the child who is doing the belaying will understand the importance of being a reliable friend.
Even whilst bouldering, children will be encouraged to spot each other to provide reassurance and another layer of safety. Learning to climb requires children to listen to their instructor and clearly communicate their movements and needs (for example, telling the belayer when they are at the top of the wall, or when they need a rest). This practice in cooperation can be carried over into the school environment and is a valuable quality for later life.
Besides the essential skills of communication and teamwork, climbing as a social activity also helps children to make new friends, as they all encourage each other on their climbs and have fun trying out new challenges. This is very important in preparing the younger children for school and is also valuable for widening children’s social circles as they get older.
Boosting physical development
We all know that it’s essential for children to be active throughout their youth in order to stay healthy. Any physical activity will benefit children’s development, but there is evidence to suggest that climbing, in particular, could enhance children’s gross and fine motor skills.
A study by PlayCore found that climbing at a young age can improve spatial and directional awareness, as well as enhancing essential physical skills including hand-eye coordination, agility and balance. All of these skills are essential all the way through from learning how to move safely as a toddler into developing more sophisticated skills as an older child, whether it be in sports, dance or other areas.
When we climb, we don’t just look at the wall and then haul ourselves up it without thinking. Climbing and bouldering are somewhat unique in that it is a physical sport and a tactical one at the same time. In order to successfully climb a route, a child must look at the wall, at the placement of the holds and consider how they will move their bodies effectively to reach the top. This problem-solving element is incredibly valuable for young children, as it prompts them to apply logic and consider different outcomes of a situation before jumping to action.
In fact, a 2015 study from the University of North Florida reported that “proprioceptively dynamic activities like climbing” can rapidly and significantly enhance children’s core brain functions such as working memory. After just two hours of climbing, the study’s participants had a fifty per cent increase in capacity for working memory!
Enhancing academic performance
With all of these mental, physical and social benefits of climbing for children, it’s no surprise that rock climbing can also improve kids’ performance at school. Regular climbing sessions can help children to fulfil their full academic potential, by improving their problem-solving skills, teamwork and focus.
However, various schools have also undertaken studies that show that including regular climbing in the school week can reduce disciplinary incidents and improve attendance. As you can see in our infographic, schools have even found that incorporating rock climbing into their curriculum significantly improved the academic results of students due to improved memory, concentration and mood!
So there are just a few ways that climbing can benefit children’s development – all whilst they are having fun experiencing a brand new activity! If you are reading this as a parent who would like their child to try out this brilliant activity, why not sign them up for one of our kids’ climbing clubs? We run progressive climbing sessions and youth climbing groups all the way from toddler sensory sessions through to our accredited NICAS (National Indoor Climbing Award Scheme) courses and our youth squad.
Alternatively, if you work in a school, why not see the benefits of climbing for school children for yourself by booking one of our school climbing sessions in Devon? We offer a range of bespoke instructed options, from class activity days to weekly group climbing sessions and much more!
Just give us a call on 01769 309 003 and we’ll help you to plan climbing activities that the kids will love – and learn from at the same time!