The Importance of Climbing for Kids
Children begin climbing early in life to explore their environment. This can start as soon as a baby starts to crawl or pull up to stand. As a child ages, they may climb surfaces to copy other children or just to engage in play.
General Benefits of Climbing and Play
Climbing can be considered both natural play and risk- taking play that is important for optimal childhood development. “Play is essential because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth” (Ginsburg, 2007). Risky play allows a child to develop resilience, executive functioning skills, improve self confidence, and develop risk assessment skills. Natural play helps children use creativity while engaging with their natural environment (outdoors, play places, etc).
Climbing can help develop the following skills for children:
- Strength: climbing requires use of the whole body and is a great way to improve overall strength.
- Body awareness: Children have to develop body awareness as they begin climbing to effectively and safely climb. This is most notable when children learn to crawl up onto surfaces as infants and they require frequent supervision and assistance not to fall off as they are unaware of where their body is in space and the consequences of falling. As this skill is practiced children become better at navigating the surface they are climbing making them more efficient to get up and down and safer. They learn where their body is, how they can use their body on the surface to climb, and begin to learn ways to avoid falling.
- Critical Thinking and Risk Negotiation: As a child climbs more surfaces, they begin to understand what they can and can not safely climb. They begin to determine strategies on how to successfully accomplish a climb or determine if they need assistance.
- Self-Confidence: Allowing a child to practice climbing in a safe environment where they can experience falls safely helps improve confidence by giving the child the opportunity to practice, try, and achieve a goal without help which builds confidence.
- Resilience: Allowing a child to try and fail and encourage them to try again, to try and find a different way to achieve their goal.
Climbing can be as easy as climbing up couch cushions at home, climbing safe trees, or going to the park to climb on jungle gyms. If your children really enjoy climbing you can look into local rock climbing gyms. Happy Climbing!
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