FAMILY FUN: Are your kids climbing the walls?

Laura Churchill Duke
Published on April 1, 2014

Nicholas Hennigar has fun climbing at his brother's birthday party. - Submitted


Bouldering - climbing at lower heights without a rope - has become a popular sport activity for both adults and kids alike.

Bouldering is an incredibly beneficial activity.

“It’s about acceptance and accomplishment,” says Adam Conner, who runs the Annapolis Valley Climbing Club.

Bouldering is a very individualized sport and it allows people to feel they are accomplishing things they set out to do. Conner says it also allows youth who don't fit in with the traditional or team-based sports to feel like they have a place where they belong and are making progress.

Climbing is also great exercise. Eight-year-old Dominic Sherrard of  Centreville says, “you need to use all your upper body."

Bouldering includes muscular endurance, flexibility, along with problem solving on the fly, for a full-body workout says Jon Foster, owner of the Adventure Climbing Gym in Greenwich.

Because of this, bouldering is best suited for children aged five or six and up.

“Trust your child. They know their comfort level,” advises Dominic’s mom, Danielle DeGraaf.

Foster explains that there are lots of safety measures in place at the climbing walls. At the Adventure Gym, the floor is covered in over 14 inches of thick foam and there are other movable mats for extra padding. Staff supervise climbers and explain safety rules upon arrival and provide tips.

There are a few places in the Valley where your family can try out bouldering. Annapolis Royal, West Kings and Northeast Kings schools all have climbing walls and offer afterschool programs for students of those schools.

There is also the Annapolis Valley Climbing Club (AVCC) which runs on Sundays and uses both the West Kings and NKEC walls. The AVCC is open to non-students of the schools. According to Conner, there has also been some discussion about starting a few community bouldering nights. Roo’s Playhouse in the Greenwood Mall has a mini wall for smaller children to try out when supervised, or head to the Adventure Climbing Gym with older children.

Lia Glover celebrated her son Nicholas Hennigar’s seventh birthday at the Adventure Climbing Gym.

"I really liked having my birthday there because I got to climb high," said Nicholas. With 15-foot walls with bridges and challenges, it was a great place to keep the children active.

Staff members start by explaining the house rules - the most important one being no walking under climbers!

“As parents, we managed all other aspects of the party such as preparing food and drinks and helping to supervise the climbers,” says Glover. “You have to be hands-on and alert all the time.” 

Glover suggests keeping the size of the party down to eight kids or less and a minimum age of six.

“Kids can’t recall some of the house rules and it would definitely make it harder to manage many younger children.”

Foster invites you to come in and have a look, see the facility and ask questions. Parents can climb with their kids, or there is also a spot for them to hang out and relax.

“Plan to have your kids want to come back again,” says Foster.

It’s true. As Daniel Hennigar, nine, says, "I liked trying to get to the top and I want to go back and try again."

 Laura Churchill Duke (, inspired by writing this article, took her boys bouldering at the Adventure Gym and even managed to get herself off the ground! She’ll definitely be going back with the kids. Lots.