Building mental, not just physical, strength

Boulder’s plethora of rock-climbing camps for kids

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Kids can learn both indoor and outdoor rock-climbing at after-school, spring break and summer camps around Boulder.
YMCA of Boulder Valley

There are a variety of kids’ rock-climbing camps in and around Boulder this summer for parents who want to get their kids both physically and mentally active. Climbing has health benefits beyond just getting children into shape.

“Climbing is also a lot of problem solving,” says Alyssa Countway of the Boulder Rock Club. “There’s a big mental aspect to climbing. Not only are you problem solving, but you also have to deal with fear, concentration, all of that. Overall, it’s a pretty holistic approach to health.”

Climbing teaches kids to approach climbing like a puzzle to be solved, Countway says. They learn to plan out routes ahead of time and know what they’re doing several moves in advance. Eventually, kids become able to plot out entire routes before they even get on the wall.

The Boulder Rock Club offers after-school camps for kids ages 6 to 8 on Mondays and Thursdays, starting March 28; ages 9 to 11 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, starting March 29; and 12 years and older on Fridays, starting April 1. They also have a spring break camp from March 21 through 25, where kids can climb anywhere from one to five days.

The Rock Club features an outdoor boulder in addition to indoor walls, and Countway says many kids who attend their camps end up joining their year-round climbing clubs.

WEB Sports_Courtesy of BRC
Courtesy of BRC

Other climbing gyms around Boulder offering youth camps include The Spot, which has a week-long day camp for kids ages 6 to 12 that runs every week from June 1 through Aug. 14. It also offers a year-round, after-school program every Wednesday and Friday.

Also, ABC Kids Climbing offers indoor, outdoor and hybrid camps. The indoor camp, for ages 4-and-a-half to 14, runs weekly from May 31 through Aug. 19. The outdoor camp is every Monday through Friday for ages 7 and up, and the hybrid indoor/outdoor camp is every Monday through Friday from May 31 through Aug. 19 for ages 6 to 14.

In addition to the mental and physical benefits, climbing also helps children with disabilities get physically active. Livestrong, the foundation started by Lance Armstrong, extols the virtues of climbing for autistic children, who can have different needs that prevent them from engaging in many physical activities. Climbing helps autistic kids develop their motor skills and body strength. It’s also easy for amputee children to get involved, climbing with a harness and the strength of their remaining limbs.

Dr. Rebecca Williams of Smart Climbing writes that the trial-and-error aspect of climbing teaches kids resilience and that it’s OK to fail if you keep trying: “Instead of thinking, ‘I fell off again,’ thinking, ‘falling off is good, it means I am trying hard’ might be more helpful,” she writes.

Climbing also teaches children good breathing techniques, and how to stay calm under pressure, Countway says.

“Just remembering to breathe while you climb. If you hold your breath, it’s gonna make it a lot harder. These techniques, they’re gonna help you grow. It’s mental, physical. It’s a lot more than just trying to get stronger.”