Well, there’s no definite answer on that, there are a lot of variables to consider. If the child wants to climb and your local gym allows it (and is set-up to meet kids’ climbing needs,) you can let them give it a try!
Some people claim that their 18-month-olds have taken to bouldering, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your toddler is ready to scale a wall. They may be physically able to climb once they can walk and grab the holds, but they also have to want to climb the wall.
Eric Hörst, a climbing expert based in Pennsylvania, recommends children start rock climbing between ages 4 and 7 years old. By this age, most kids will be able to use their problem solving skills to get through bouldering routes.
One way to get a definite age to start is to ask your local gym. Most gyms have a minimum age for climbers; it may have been set by their insurance provider, so it’s not worth arguing over if your child is just shy of the age. You’ll also need to know if the gym can accommodate children.
Since they have smaller hands, they will benefits from kids’ areas with smaller holds for them to grab. Texas Rock Gym has a children’s bouldering area where kids can tackle the problems. You should also ask if the gym has a harness and climbing shoes small enough for your child for when he or she is ready to try out a top-rope wall.
So if you have a gym that allows for your child’s age group to climb and they have a children’s area, how do you get started? Most children start on a bouldering wall. It doesn’t require a harness and rope, making it less intimidating.
Many children have a natural urge to climb (how many times have you turned around only to find that a kid was up on a piece of furniture?) If you just let a child go on a bouldering wall, they can take their innate climbing skills and just hop on the wall.
Some kids, especially very young kids, may only grab a few holds before coming back down. This is normal and they shouldn’t be expected to climb up a whole wall on their first day. Bouldering walls have the added bonus of having padding on the floor, which kids may get a kick out of if they fall (or intentionally fall to try out the padding.)
So if your gym is ready to welcome kids to climbing and your child wants to give it a try, go ahead and bring that kid to a bouldering problem! In time, they’ll build the skills they need for climbing and will be moving up to more and more complex top-rope walls. Soon you’ll be ready to get a family pass to your climbing gym so you can all climb together!