It's raining and cold outside. My kids have been bouncing off my parents' furniture since the wee hours of the morning. We are visiting Milwaukee WI to see family and friends from my hometown. These trips are always fun but they also put my kids in a different environment which tends to make them a little crazier than usual.
My go-to activity is usually to walk to one of the nearby parks to blow off steam, but when the rain or cold hits I often feel like I'm trapped inside with monkeys.
This was especially true when we visited on a particularly cold and rainy weekend in October. We try to make time for each of their grandparents when we're in town and when one of their grandpas asked if we wanted to take the kids climbing my husband and I answered with an enthusiastic YES!
That is how we found ourselves with two five year olds at the new Adventure Rock location. It is situated on the cusp of the East Side of Milwaukee by North Avenue, which is convenient for anyone on that end of town. (The other location is on the west side of town about a half an hour away).
On the main floor are locker rooms, bathrooms, and a huge climbing room with impressive vaulted ceilings. There is a good mixture of course difficulties and space for climbing. Upstairs is also a long area for bouldering.
After gwaking a bit at the cheerfully colored walls, we were buckled into gear and given a brief, but thorough introduction to the gym and safety practices. Then off we went to climb as high as we could.
Most climbing gyms will make you go through some orientation. This will cover the basics (how to make sure you're securely attached, why to pay attention to where you are standing in the gym, no running, etc). You will want to repeat these safety rules several times with your child. Do this in a calm way, much like you would remind your child to put on their seat belt in the car or a helmet before riding a bike, rather than frightening them with the scary alternative. However it is important to do review these simple safety rules with your child before they start climbing.
Rock climbing is surprisingly exhausting if you haven't done it before. You will sweat and you will definitely get thirsty. Most gyms, like Adventure Rock, also have vending machines if you forget.
Personally I think Auto-Belaying is the way to go with kids. It makes it easier for you to supervise more than one kid at a time and gives them a little independence at the same time. You can read more about the auto-belays at Adventure Rock here.
If your child gets into climbing it will be good for them to learn how to belay, tie knots, etc but for first timers this is an easy way to get started.
The first trip you will want one child per adult. In fact, if you plan to do any actual climbing you will want an extra adult along and then you can take turns climbing and monitoring your little climbers.
Check with your gym to see what the rental policy is for their gym. Adventure Rock included everything we needed for the kids in the cost. Adults needed to rent or bring climbing shoes. If you plan to climb regularly I suggest getting at least your own shoes for comfort.
There is a thin line between supportive and pressure. Kids know their limits surprisingly well. If they think they can keep going, let them.
Remember, rock climbing is incredibly safe as long as you follow the rules. If they are nervous, let them stop or go slowly. This is supposed to be fun!
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