/ Boudering with a toddler

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L PPC_Emma 19 Jun 2019

Hi everyone, 

Myself and my husband have been climbing for a few years but now we have a 2 year old. Up until a few months ago we would walk into the gym with her in the sling and no one would mind, but as she grew more we first got a warning that she should never be anywhere on the mats (even if held in our arms as she was) and last time we attended with her we were asked to leave as she is not allowed in the gym at all. We are not 'regulars', so the owners don't know us by name or anything, and we mostly go together when someone can babysit our daughter so it's not like we'd brought her in countless times. I totally get it, they might have insurance issues if anything goes wrong and why trust us 100% - even if they knew us, given the potential complications of an accident they are justified not wanting to risk it.

But it's an activity that was suiting us perfect as a family, we were thinking it will be nice for our little one as well having this exposure and hopefully in future we can all enjoy it together. 

I have read other posts about climbing with kids here so I take it they're allowed in other gyms? Any advice on how we could carry on climbing as a family? I was thinking maybe get our own insurance so they don't have legal concerns?

Any help will be welcome!

Thanks!

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Si Witcher 19 Jun 2019
In reply to PPC_Emma:

Bouldering outside as a family might be simpler while the weather's nice, but with regard to indoor centres, policies vary so it's worth checking with all the centres within reach of you. My 2 local walls have dedicated children's bouldering areas (open to any age) and also other areas where both adults and children can boulder (open to 7yrs and up). Ultimately, the rules are the rules in any given centre.

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marsbar 19 Jun 2019
In reply to PPC_Emma:

You might want to search previous threads.  Personally I don't want 2 year olds in a climbing centre.  4 year old and above who are properly supervised and actually climbing, fine.  2 year olds are too young.  

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john arran 19 Jun 2019
In reply to PPC_Emma:

When our daughter was 2 we took her with us to the Climbing Works occasionally during the day when it was quite quiet. It was ok most of the time and we all enjoyed it, but once in a while she would simply run off and I can see how an incident could occur if she were to run off in exactly the wrong direction at exactly the wrong moment. I wouldn't be offended to have a 'no toddlers on the matting' rule or some such, meaning you need to take turns bouldering, with the other one looking after the little one from the cafe or similar.

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marsbar 19 Jun 2019
In reply to john arran:

I injured myself landing awkwardly to avoid falling on an unsupervised small child. 

It's natural for 2 and 3 year olds to want to run around and it's not fair to expect them to do otherwise.  I just don't think it's a safe or suitable place for them.   Cafe is fine if it's separate and safe.  

Post edited at 18:46
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Dave Todd 20 Jun 2019
In reply to PPC_Emma:

Hi Emma

There was a very long (and quite heated, IIRC) thread recently (https://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/rocktalk/babies_at_climbing_walls-703935)  Although it began as a question about babies at climbing walls (so not specifically answering your questions about 2 years olds) it might have some useful stuff buried in there!

Good luck!  Also, heartily recommend The Mini Works in Sheffield - in case you're anywhere near.

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Monk 20 Jun 2019
In reply to PPC_Emma:

I've climbed with my kids since they were very small. It's not always easy though. Some walls won't let them in, some will. Best to ring first to work out what the rules are. When there, you just can't leave them unsupervised (ever) when they are small. If there's two of you, one always needs to be looking after the child. If on your own, just accept that you won't get much/ any climbing done and it's all about the kid. Walls can be great places for kids, but there are very real risks that can't be overlooked. 

Outdoors is more relaxed (at the right venue) so definitely worth exploring. Close supervision is still pretty vital though, especially if your child is adventurous! I have to admit there's a bit of pride mixed with the usual terror when I spot my kids jumping over chasms or climbing way higher than they should when I've taken my eye off them for slightly too long!

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tom84 21 Jun 2019
In reply to PPC_Emma:

most walls will have a minimum age for entry, if the child is younger than this they have every right to ask you not to be in there. I see from your post you understand the complications of insurance etc, so maybe don't put the owners/staff at the wall in a difficult position by bringing a child who you know is too young. I've seen some pretty close calls with toddlers at bouldering walls, a falling climber could pretty easily kill a toddler.

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In reply to PPC_Emma:

Awesome walls in Sheffield has a kiddy play area.  Its right next to the auto belays so my wife and I take turns on the auto belay while the other plays with the kids.   

Totally agree that children too young to understand the danger they might pose to themselves/others shouldn't be on the matting.  Even in an adults arms at busy times.

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MeMeMe 21 Jun 2019
In reply to PPC_Emma:

> I have read other posts about climbing with kids here so I take it they're allowed in other gyms? Any advice on how we could carry on climbing as a family? I was thinking maybe get our own insurance so they don't have legal concerns?

It really depends the wall and their rules, it's there place after all and they may not have any flexibility due to insurance/legal issues. I doubt very much the wall would have any kind of different view if you had your own insurance but I guess you can always talk to them.

We've had mixed success taking ours climbing. I can't state this forcefully enough but you've got to be supervising them 100% at all times and frankly at that age they have a limited attention span for climbing so your wall trip might not be as productive as you might hope.

We did bouldering rather than anything with ropes as you can't really supervise them appropriately when climbing with ropes. As they get older it does become feasible, we get our five year old to stay in one spot and second the rope and she does that responsibly. I wouldn't do this with all five year olds, it really depends on the kid and it also depends on how they are behaving at the time, you are the best person to make that assessment but if it's not working then it's not working, be prepared to change plans.

With bouldering if there's two of you then you can tag team them and have one person dealing exclusively with your toddler then swap about after a bit, a bit like climbing with a baby which it sounds like you've done a bit of. This works to some extent but it losing the whole family climbing vibe as you're not all climbing together. Also my partner struggled to concentrate on her climbing when there was a needy toddler about, although I managed fine!

Climbing outside is a good option but again don't expect to have a productive climbing session, I've found the best approach is to think of it as a picnic where if you are lucky you might get some climbing done. They don't need much of a challenge at that age, you need to be somewhere where there are just some rocks rather than proper routes of problems, often they just can't reach between holds on normal routes.

As it happens our local wall is fine with young children, they do kids clubs from 3 years old which is really the earliest they can really do much. I'm not sure if they have a minimum age, they've never approached us to say we couldn't climb with such a young child so I don't think they do. Like all walls though I'm sure they'd have a problem if we weren't supervising our kid appropriately but we've always had a good handle on that, we don't want our child crushed and we don't want to spoil someone else's climbing session.

In summary it's possible, you need to find the right place and don't expect to get a lot of climbing in yourself. If you can find a kids climbing club it's great because you can do a bit of family climbing followed by 30 minutes of something more geared towards yourself while they are in the club followed by a bit of family climbing until you realise it's time to go!

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Kieran_John 25 Jun 2019
In reply to PPC_Emma:

Really depends where you're based. I pop my head in to Rock Over Climbing in Manchester when I'm over that way, and they have a great little Soft Play area for kids. Just a case of taking turns with your partner sitting in there. A lot of the more 'modern' walls are doing that nowadays.

I've been taking my daughter in Leeds since she was about 3, but at first I wouldn't actually do any climbing (just me and her), I'd keep an eye on her and let her give it a shot, encourage her up the wall if she wanted to and then go before she got bored. I've always been very mindful that just because I enjoy it, it doesn't mean she will. I generally waited until she asked if she could give it a go.

Now she's older (6) she's nice and safe in climbing walls and I can generally have a pretty good session indoors with her in attendance. I'll keep an eye on her, but she knows what to do and what not to do.

Basically have a ring around the area and see what centres are around, short of going outside that's the best you can do.

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L PPC_Emma 11 Jul 2019
In reply to Kieran_John:

Thanks very much, that's very helpful.

I also emailed our gym asking whether they'd be interested in running a survey to see if there's any interest in running a toddler group like in Manchester. 

Thanks for your time everyone, really helpful comments.

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