Shop for Black Diamond
Shop for Butora
Shop for Camp USA
Shop for Climbing Addicts
Shop for Climbing Technology
Shop for CMI
Shop for DMM
Shop for Edelrid
Shop for Evolv
Shop for Five Ten
Shop for Fixe Hardware
Shop for Friction Labs
Shop for La Sportiva
Shop for Maxim
Shop for Metolius
Shop for Misty Mountain Threadworks
Shop for Petzl
Shop for Red Chili
Shop for Rock Exotica
Shop for Scarpa
Shop for So iLL
Shop for Static Climbing
Shop for Sterling Rope
Shop for Trango

When Is the Right Time to Teach Your Kids to Belay?


By: Aaron Wilcox

If you're one of those brave souls who attempt a day at the crag with kids in tow, then you're probably looking forward to the day when you can get more than 2 pitches in before retreating back to home base.

A great way to get in more climbs is to teach your kids how to belay each other. There are many things to consider before teaching a youngling to belay. I’m not going to explain how to teach belay techniques in this article. Instead I’m going to give you some important questions to discuss with your partner before deciding when the time is right to pop the question: “Do you want to learn how to belay?”

How long can the candidate focus?

Think about school work. Can your kid do homework, read, or even draw for 20 minutes before losing focus? Belaying can be boring, so it's important to be able to focus long enough for the climber to finish the climb. If your young climber can crush v10 but not sit still for 10 minutes, they might not be ready. You might have climbed with an adult that has a problem focusing while on belay!

Does the little belayer understand consequences?

This is hard to measure, but if you have a good relationship with your kids you will know when the time is right. My oldest daughter started belaying this year after turning 10. She is a great reader who can focus on the task at hand, but before letting her belay we talked very bluntly about what will happen to her little sister if she dropped her. We aren't morbid—just honest. We wanted her to know there are very real consequences to her actions. As parents, this is just a judgment call. When I teach the high school climbing team belaying, this is the biggest area of focus.

How responsible is the belayer?

Go google Responsibility. Look at the definition but think about excuses. Making excuses is the opposite of taking responsibility. If your climber makes excuses for every mistake, then responsibility might not be a strong point for them. Belaying is a great way to teach responsibility, but they will need some base level of it before starting to take someone’s life in their hands.

Is the belayer physically able?

Assisted belay devices are awesome for top rope safety. Weight is the biggest consideration here. If your kid is mentally ready to belay, give 'em a Petzl Grigri and go practice in a safe spot where they can focus. The Edelrid OHM is a great device when lead belay comes into the picture. I outweigh my wife by 60 pounds, and we use it a lot. They work extremely well at slowing a fall.

All in all, this is your call as a parent. Having more belayers has made our days at the crag more enjoyable and makes my daughter feel included as a climber. Take it slow, don’t push them if they are uncomfortable, and have fun!

Aaron Wilcox is a ClimbStuff Ambassador and a climbing coach at Montrose High School in Colorado. You can read more about his climbing life with family and coaching at his blog Road, River, and Rock and follow him on Instagram.

News Archive