Bouldering for Kids

Family Travel

Bouldering for Kids

Team Outdoorsy
by Team Outdoorsy
Posted October 29, 2020

Many people think that when they have a family, their outdoor adventures will come to a screeching halt. Traveling and exploring all of the neat places that this world has to offer with your family is one of the greatest adventures you’ll embark on in life. Active adults don’t have to avoid their favorite outdoor activities just because the entire family can’t participate. While you probably won’t be able to climb Mount Everest with a handful of tots, that doesn’t mean you can’t do other climbing-related activities like bouldering. Kids’ bouldering can be a great outdoor activity to add to your family routine.

Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking of climbing some big rocks with your kiddos.

What is bouldering?

As the name suggests, bouldering is a form of rock climbing. While some types of rock climbing involve scaling tall sheer cliffs and tall mountains, bouldering covers smaller rock formations. Typically, the climbs get no more than 20 feet off the ground. While you can certainly boulder outdoors, it’s often taught indoors.

Today bouldering is both a popular competitive and recreational sport, but it started as a training method for mountaineering and rope climbs. It allowed folks to practice specific movements close to the ground without fear of getting critically injured from falls. Bouldering is traditionally done without the use of ropes or harnesses, although you can harness your kiddo up if you’re at an indoor facility.

Check out this video from The Boardroom Climbing for an intro to indoor bouldering, as well as some basic terms to know.

Is kids’ bouldering safe?

You may be thinking, “Isn’t that a little dangerous for a child?” Of course, any type of sport has its downfalls. There are inherent risks with most outdoor activities. The cool thing about bouldering is that you only have to do what you’re comfortable with, and there are a number of measures that you can take to ensure your little one’s safety!

But kids are natural scramblers. Bouldering appeals to their sense of adventure while helping them to burn off that excess energy that all-too-often turns adult brains to mush. You may find that they have a natural knack for it. You can ensure that everyone stays safe by following the tips in the next section.

Indoor Bouldering in San Francisco. Photo by Michael Skrzypek.
This is actually top roping, though it was taken at a place called Dogpatch Boulders. Photo by Michael Skrzypek.


Tips and Safety Measures for Kids’ Bouldering

Here are some things to keep in mind while hitting the rocks with kids.

Tip #1: Keep things fun.

Fun is the keyword here. Bouldering should be a part of family or group fun time, free of harsh goals and expectations. Grab the sunscreen and bug repellent. Bring a cooler with snacks and water. Dress in weather-appropriate clothing, and introduce the little ones to a mellow grade rock face. Let them touch it, play at the base, chase each other a bit, and explore the local area before jumping in.

Tip #2: Discuss rules and protocol beforehand.

Make sure your kiddos know the basics of bouldering and rock climbing before setting out. The fun immediately stops when someone gets hurt.

Talk about rules such as:

  • Don’t walk under those climbing
  • If you are old enough, help out with spotting if you aren’t climbing
  • Respect the environment, don’t leave trash behind, and general trail etiquette

Activities are always more fun when done in a group setting, but rock climbing at any level can be dangerous if egos overtake sensibility. Discuss the importance of respecting other climbers and the consequences of playing at the expense of others or showing off on the climb.

You’ll also want to be sure that you have permission to climb the rocks that you are at. Some parks have specific areas designated for the activity.

bouldering for kids
Bouldering in Yosemite. Photo by Michael Skrzypek.

Tip #3: Bring the right gear.

Just because you don’t have to use equipment doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be available. Your packing list should include:

  • Bouldering pads to cushion any falls
  • Chalk
  • Helmet
  • Water
  • Snacks

Especially for new climbers, it’s important to have this gear on-hand. Once the kids see the rock, they might feel like they need the support. Pushing them to free climb at that stage will only cause fear and lead to stress all around.


kids bouldering crash pad
A kids bouldering crash pad can prevent injuries from falls. Image source: Mountain Method

Tip #4: Bring other entertainment.

Chances are the adults will outlast the kiddos here, especially if they’re experienced climbers. Fifteen minutes into the activity might be nothing to you, but suddenly the kids are bored, tired, thirsty, or have to go to the bathroom for the fourth time. In any other activity, this might be easily redirected, but not in rock climbing. An effective workaround: Bring other forms of entertainment. Coloring books, board games, mad libs, even dump trucks and beach pails will help ensure everyone gets the most out of their bouldering experience.

Don’t Forget to Make Memories

And perhaps most importantly, don’t forget to make memories. Road trips, camping, and activities like bouldering are fun activities that will stick with your child for decades to come. Make it a positive experience for them, and you’ll be golden.

Team Outdoorsy


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