Climbing is a great activity for kids: it builds self-esteem, improves strength and balance, and teaches them how to focus on a task. Plus, most kids are vertically curious, and it's better to have them safely tied in on a climbing route than at the top of a tree or on the garage roof.
If you have a child who's interested in climbing, indoor climbing gyms are the best place to start. Gyms have walls with natural-looking features and wall formations that are just as hard as outdoor crags, but generally closer to home. Gyms are safe, supportive environments with well-trained staff who are experienced climbers.
If you (or someone you know) are an experienced climber, you may decide to forego the gym, and teach your kids to climb outside. However, climbing with your kids is not the same thing as climbing with partners. Decide whether you're bringing your kids along while you climb, or if the objective is to teach them to climb. It will make a difference to the crag you choose.
Here are a few tips to make your trip a success:
Before you spend a lot of money on new gear for your child, rent first.
Harness: For younger kids, we strongly recommend an adjustable full body harness. A full body harness will keep them upright when they fall, eliminating the chance of them being flipped upside down. Full body harnesses also come in a huge size range. As your child grows, the harness can be adjusted to grow with them until they are big enough to wear a conventional seat harness.
Helmet: These are standard equipment in the outdoor climbing world. MEC stores and some outdoor groups will rent helmets. Lead by example: don't expect your child to wear a helmet if you do not.
Shoes: For their first few outside climbs, running shoes or hiking boots will be fine. You can also find used kids' climbing shoes at our Online Gear Swap, and some gyms sell second-hand shoes.