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April 26, 2016 by
Jay Medley
Who would have thought that kids could get an etiquette lesson from climbing walls? You know that rock climbing can teach a child (or anyone of any age) to focus and to gain confidence in their abilities, but did you know about all of the social and etiquette lessons it can also teach?

Waiting turns, listening to instructions, communicating, working as a team, and giving encouragement are all parts of rock climbing. This can be a great activity for homeschooled children to reinforce all of the lessons you have been teaching them while they interact with instructors and new potential friends.

At any climbing gym, kids will have to take a safety course and may be belayed by gym staff (unless you or another responsible adult have been trained to belay.) This will give kids a chance to interact with and listen to another adult. They will learn to take instruction from this new person with their own teaching style, helping the children to learn to adapt.

Waiting for your turn is crucial in rock climbing – it’s a matter of safety. If one climber starts to climb directly below another climber on the same route, it can create a dangerous situation. Kids will quickly understand that waiting your turn isn’t just a matter of politeness, it is important for many reasons. Rock climbing is a social sport and climbers often talk about routes, share suggestions, and offer encouragement.

Your kids can meet others with similar interests, especially if your local gym offers special, exclusive events or times for children in general or homeschoolers. Look for summer camps for when schools are out, or for times during weekday mornings when the gym is typically quiet except for homeschooled families.

Your kids can make new friends and learn to work in a team environment where they help and encourage other climbers. Still, it’s a different kind of social situation than many team sports.

Different children prefer different types of social situations, and this one might be most comfortable for your child.

Young climbers will also learn about trust. They will fall at some point – they might slip or miss a hold, or they’ll just need to get back down the wall after reaching the top. They need to put their trust in their belayer, knowing that the belayer will pick up the slack in the rope and keep them from falling to the ground. It’s like a trust fall, but more fun.

Speaking of the belayer, climbers have to learn proper communication. They’ll need to use signal terms that are kind of a combination of asking permission, making intentions known, and asking if the other person is ready. For example, a climber will ask “On belay?” to ask if the belayer is ready for action; the belayer will respond with “belay on” if they’re ready.

When it’s time to start climbing, the climber will say, “Climbing,” to which the belayer will respond, “Climb.” Kids will learn how important it is to make sure that everyone is on the same page and knows what is going on.

There are so many great benefits to rock climbing: physical, mental, and social. Don’t discount rock climbing as a social skill-building activity, especially because it might be exactly the kind of interactions and lessons that will benefit your unique child.

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