The key to conveying climbing is the game.

Keeping your balance: the origins

Climbing is the resumption of a basic motor skill, it is very instinctive and it comes from the same instinct that has made us two legged; it is demonstrated as a characteristic activity in the first years of life. A child who uses the upper limbs to move from all fours to a standing position, climbs on chairs and cupboards, this is mirrored in adults who always climb higher and higher to enjoy wider horizons and subsequently discover the pleasure of the act of climbing.

Young children, in fact, learn how to control their own bodies and how to manage their balance in new situations, experimenting with ways of movement and conduct, carefully evaluating their capabilities and their limitations.

From the age of three years old “climbing” is innate and is asserted with time, the sensory and motor abilities relate relatively to the time, they are processes that develop and consolidate in their definitive expression when the child is about 10 years old. With a playful approach to the force of gravity and to the fundamental laws of physics, the children are trying out a form of entertainment when moving vertically on the climbing wall, thereby enhancing their motor skills and their athletic abilities. Children meet their natural needs for movement and develop sensory perception through games of balance, climbing, sliding, swinging and suspending themselves. Through these actions they are learning about the laws of motion and become conscious of their own movements experimenting with the force of gravity against their own body.


The key to conveying climbing is the game. Playing with the force of gravity has always been a lot of fun, especially if you acquire this ability with some mastery; it then enables these talented little “monkeys” to perform “masterpieces” almost to circus standards. What is fascinating is also FUN for children; however, it is not only about being able to acquire these skills, but to enjoy the experience of movement in seeing “the world hurtle alongside you”. To see the world upside down when abseiling or to feel completely muddled up after a series of movements, rotations and pendulums on the rope, literally suspended in the air. Thus, to like to have fun and enable the child to discover the vertical world. Children develop motor skills through play.


To put my clothes on again for climbing, as a former athlete in competitions, and a coach is not easy because you have to know how to convey your passion in a constructive way, leaving room for self-discovery, and at the same time, be able to support the development of these children in the search for the future “talent”.

The key is to KNOW HOW TO EDUCATE the practise of climbing through your own experience.

For example, in the climbing gym where I teach, we designed a program dedicated to children aged from 4 to 8 years old to get closer to climbing defined as: CLIMBING-GAME, featuring various levels of play where different skills are developed such as: agility, balance and coordination etc. It starts with children from the age of 4 years old and is based on several levels in order to follow the progress of the team sport itself up to 18 years old. The goal is to always propose new motor programmes that goes hand in hand with the growth. Training is the last step of the educational process that is “knowing how to develop” children, applying from an early age, an educational method based on the game and then finalized with climbing.

THE CLIMBING GAME Balance – Climbing – Trust

The activities prosed in the CLIMBING GAME are primarily aimed to develop the self-confidence and the self-esteem of the children. Through games and challenges that even allow the smaller ones to form their own identity through the exploration of the space around them; they are always faced with new situations of instability, such as routes set out in a “gymkhana” style. As the children grow up, the various activities are increased and new concepts are introduced that are orientated around climbing and more specifically the concepts of safety are introduced (knots, belaying, etc.) Almost all children are able to help and learn to belay if they are given precise instructions while maintaining a high level of attention and thus developing a sense of responsibility towards one another.


From the game of climbing, the children that are more motivated are then directed towards the world of competitions that is experienced in a juvenile context as an important time of aggregation. The competitions are a great way to give the children concrete objectives. From the climbing game, it passes to a TEAM SPORT where one of the objectives that I pursue is the importance of “being a team”, motivating and stimulating themselves and their peers.

The basic exercises are completed with specific and technical means of training, placing the upmost attention on the loads and the characteristics of each individual athlete. Combining talent, passion and dedication to good methods of training, the children are always reaching higher levels of climbing at a very young age. The “added value” from the perspective of being the educator-coach in this case is that you stimulate the children without pushing them too much, without setting goals that are not achievable for the individual athlete. The children must have fun, and at the same time be able to accept a moment of disappointment, maintaining a balance between the intensity of the proposed stimulus and the work needed to achieve that goal.


I don’t believe in the magic training schedules, or the miraculous and decisive formula. The training for the team sports is a process of important and delicate growth between the student and the coach, which includes many factors of development:

  • The conditional factor (strength, speed and endurance)
  • The technical factor
  • The tactical factor
  • And last but not least the psychological factor

From my personal experience I believe that most of the training courses proposed for children and teenagers by the various centres such as climbing gyms should not only have training as its primary objective but the education of sport climbing in all its forms. Educating the practical side starting with the game, then to the education and then the physical training, without neglecting the psychological aspect.

Elena Chiappa

Cover picture: Alberto Orlandi

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