Sunday, January 24, 2010

How To Climb With Kids

Kids are wonderful and climbing is wonderful, but they often go together like orange juice and toothpaste. Most climbers who have kids disappear from the climbing world for long periods, emerging only when they are able to find childcare. Ashley and I seem to be part of a very small minority who take their kids out climbing on a frequent basis.

This post isn't about teaching kids to climb. It's about how to take your kids out to the rocks, and still manage to have a good day of climbing yourself. Ashley and I have managed to keep climbing while bringing our kids with us for over six years now.

Here are what I believe are the secrets to our relative success.
1. Routine- We've scheduled a climbing day every weekend of our daughters' lives, so they're used to it.
2. Toys - We put a small backpack together of toys that they only get to use when we go climbing. Sand toys, a bug jar, squirt guns... this keeps them occupied, and they still like the toys because they don't always get to play with them.
3. Many Small Snacks- A yogurt tube can stop an approaching meltdown.
4. Positive Reinforcement- Tell them when they’re hiking or playing well.
5. Bribery- If we know a hike will be hard for the girls, we tell them they will get ice cream at the end of the day if they are good hikers. If they aren't hiking well, we threaten that they won't get ice cream. It feels wrong to make junk food a reward, but it works so well.
6. Plan Modification- We do our best to pick areas, and good weather days that will work for the kids. Sometimes that means revising our workout/rest day schedule, bouldering when we feel like roped climbing, or visiting areas that aren’t at the top of our preference list. For a while, we left home early, and stopped bouldering early so our youngest daughter (2 years old at the time) could sleep while we drove home during her nap time.
7. Two kids are better than one. Either have two kids close enough in age that they can play together, like we did, or invite one of their friends.

I hope these ideas can be of use to those of you who have kids, or will have them soon. Though the kids might not always be excited to go out climbing, I think it's great to get them outdoors and for them to know that grown-ups get to have fun too.

I wrote the kids and climbing post thinking that I wouldn't get to climb outside this weekend. But the weather looked nice this morning, and we decided to try despite the cloudy and cold forecast. It was a little cold, but the sun was out all day, and we had a great time working on "Hardware." I'm blaming my failure to get the redpoint on numb fingers.

Steve climbing "Mo"

Sierra's photo of me on "Hardware."

Ashley and I both got clean toprope ascents though, and hope to return soon for redpoint efforts. The session was a wonderful surprise. Sometimes it's good when internet forecasts are wrong.

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