5 Tips for Epic Outdoor Rock Climbing with Little Kids

I knew nothing about rock climbing when my tiny kids started showing an interest. I wanted to find an outdoor spot for them to try it out for the first time. Thankfully, we found Adventure Explorations in Pennsylvania, and their team gave my kids a fantastic first outdoor rock climbing experience. Here’s what this newbie mom learned.

Preschooler rock climbing wearing a helmet and harness

Don’t try it on your own unless you’re an experienced climber.

I decided we wouldn’t take the kids climbing until we could go with certified guides that provided safe instruction, gear and a fun experience overall. I quickly learned that list is a tall order. Adventure Explorations offered us my must-haves and so much more. Their safety standards are excellent, and they’re happy to explain everything they do to keep your kiddos safe throughout the climbing experience. They provided full harnesses, climbing shoes in multiples sizes, helmets and ropes. They even grilled up an excellent locally-sourced lunch, with eco-friendly products, for us at the end of the day. We didn’t have to prep or bring anything. 

Manage Your Expectations

My son was all about it from the first minute we arrived. He climbed twice and asked to go up to a more challenging climb. He also “scrambled” up to Chickie’s Rock Overlook almost entirely by himself. I was blown away and happy he had such a great time. My youngest climbed once, and for a 3-year-old, she stayed focused and tried hard to do what they told her to do. After she came down, she was perfectly happy to dig in the dirt. One run is all we got. My oldest daughter freaked out when we asked if she wanted to go and that was that. There was no talking her into it. It made me sad that she didn’t get to try, but I chose to respect her decision (and legitimate fear). I had a perfect day in mind, and it was pretty close, actually, but I’m glad I didn’t get caught up in my own expectations. I just let the kids be kids and have fun. 

Bring back up

Adventure Explorations brought a two-person team for our family climb, and they not only taught us to climb, but they also helped wrangle my kids. It is not a one-person job, especially if you have more than one kid. I had to jump in and help my son understand some instructions while my husband took the girls across the trail to run around. At one point, my son scrambled up a few rocks while everyone else was focused on my youngest daughter. We quickly decided to divide and conquer so everyone could enjoy their turn on the crag. I also got to rappel while we were there, and my husband needed to watch all three kids. 

Pack all the snacks and toys

I feel like I give this advice for every single thing we do. (I probably do!). But I’m glad I followed my own advice during our climbing adventure. Rock climbing isn’t a fast sport, and the people waiting on the ground get bored sometimes. Bring lots of bribes, er, I mean, snacks and some fun dirt-friendly toys. Also, remember that you and your kids will burn a ton of calories climbing, and they’ll get hungrier faster than usual. I kept high protein options available throughout the day, just in case. No one wants a hangry episode on the side of a cliff. 

Go with your gut

As I said, we were lucky to find a highly trained team of professionals to climb with our kids. The guides have bachelor’s degrees in Adventure Education and are certified instructors. The owner, Cody, is also a parent. Otherwise, I doubt we’d be a climbing family, at this point. I love adventure, but I also love and require safe experiences, period. Ask lots of questions, so you feel safe trusting your kids with the guides. And, if at any point, you don’t. Stop. I’m so grateful for our guides, Cody and Jonathan, at Adventure Explorations. I felt safe the entire day.    

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