It should come as no surprise (especially to parents) that children love to climb. Whether it is on the playground, up a tree, over the furniture, or on top of their siblings, children can often be found climbing. But why? What motivates them to climb and is there any benefit?
The WHY of Climbing
Development: All healthy children are born to climb, it’s in their nature. Climbing behavior follows normal developmental processes. Soon after birth, children employ built in natural instincts to seek, see, explore, touch, and move objects and build mental and physical capabilities leading to initial climbing skills.
Fun: Children climb for fun. They climb to explore, to compete, to tap into their imagination and play make-believe, to chase their friends, and so much more. Simply put, climbing is fun!
Adrenaline: Young children love to push the boundaries of what they should do and climbing is another way for them to experience a “sense of danger”. Healthy development requires that children have many opportunities to take risks.
Learning: Children often climb to explore and gain new perspectives. Children are wired to learn and learning by climbing carries benefits in skill development, health, fitness, and injury prevention.
The BENEFITS of Climbing
Aside from being a natural step in the developmental process, climbing also has several other benefits. The most obvious is Exercise. According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), children should receive at least one hour of physical activity every day:
Toddlers: 30 minutes planned physical activity AND 60 minutes of free play.
Preschoolers: 60 minutes planned physical activity AND 60 minutes of free play.
School-Age: One hour broken up into bouts of 15 minutes or more.
Physical activity and sports, like climbing, are generally promoted for their positive effect on children’s physical health. However, this is just the beginning. Additional benefits include:
Reduces Stress: Exercise, like climbing, “has been shown to reduce stress by increasing levels of norepinephrine, a chemical that helps balance our brain’s response to stress,” writes Huffington Post reporter Abigail Wise.
Life Lessons: “From a mental standpoint, climbing is an amazing teacher, instilling focus, balance, determination and a whole host of valuable life skills,” says Cedar Wright, team climber with The North Face. Climbing is also a great way to build confidence and improve self esteem.
Problem Solving: Climbing is a great way for children to improve their natural problem solving skills. Every climb, every ascent, is a new problem that must be addressed head on. How do I get from Point A to Point B without falling? What is the most efficient way to get to the top?
Mental Health: There is also a growing body of literature suggesting that physical activity has beneficial effects on several mental health outcomes, including health-related quality of life, better mood states as well as enhancement of brain function and cognition; thereby, positively influencing academic performance.