As a parent or carer you might be a climber yourself, or you might have no climbing experience. Either way you'll wish to make sure your child is happy, safe and inspired: that's exactly what we do! Some key Q&As for parents and carers are below with more general FAQs here. Have a look at some of our climber success stories too.

We have two schemes: NICAS and NIBAS. NICAS (Climbing) is for those with a head for heights and an eye for knots and NIBAS (Bouldering) for those who like to complete punchy low-level climbing moves without the need for all that fiddly equipment. They're two halves of the same skill of climbing: we offer two Schemes because not all centres have roped climbing and not all centres have bouldering.

Most of the young people who start our schemes will go on to learn and love the sport of climbing. Some will be happy to learn the basics, most will become competent in their chosen scheme, and others will go on to fully complete the scheme - in some cases the skills learnt (both climbing and life skills) will take them all over the world. Have a read of our guide to where climbing can lead you. There is also lots of useful advice in our useful links section on this page.
Where can my child climb?Group of Climbers (source: Sport England)We have a handy postcode searcher which will find the climbing centre nearest you which offers one of our schemes. It might be an option for your child to climb with their school, scout group, with other youth groups and as part of their Duke of Edinburgh awards. Speak to these groups directly to see if they have existing links to climbing, we can also help you if you contact us.

Our NICAS and NIBAS schemes are designed for candidates aged 7 and above (7 being the minimum age to take part). For younger children, it is worth enquiring at your local climbing wall as many offer tots sessions where toddlers and pre-schoolers can learn some of the movements, coordination and flexibility that will set them on the pathway to being a climber. For 4/5/6 year olds again there are many courses and club sessions at climbing walls for this age group. We are actively looking at extending our schemes to this younger age category, more details will appear on our website as this work develops.

What equipment will they need? To start with - nothing - this can all be hired to you by the climbing centre for a few pounds. Over time you may want to invest in some of the basic kit for example rock climbing shoes and a chalk bag, with a harness for NICAS. Have a look at this article from the British Mountaineering Council which tells you more. Clothing wise, it is a good idea to ensure your child wears comfortable clothing such as tracksuit trousers or shorts and a t-shirt. Clothing should allow them to move freely but not be so baggy that it could get caught on anything. Ensure that any jewellery is removed and long hair is tied back; again this is to avoid it being caught during a climb. Short fingernails are advised for climbing.

Climbing shoes (c) Iain McKenzie
How much will it cost? Climbing is competitively priced compared with many other sports. To start with, you don't need to buy any special kit though you may wish to over time.

NICAS badges smallThe cost of one of our NICAS or NIBAS logbooks, for Levels 1 to 3, is £7.50. Logbooks are exempt from VAT and the price includes the cost of certificates as each level is passed. It’s a requirement of NICAS and NIBAS that everyone has their own logbook.

Some centres ask for the climber to buy the logbook as a separate cost, and some include it within a course of lessons or instruction. The cost of sessions will be set by your own centre, not by us, and may cover your entry fees, coaching costs, and use of equipment like climbing shoes or harnesses. Costs for courses vary around the country so ask your centre for details.

When you have passed the first three levels you will be given the opportunity to buy a separate logbook for the next two Levels – 4 and 5. This costs £7.50. You don’t need to buy this second logbook when you first start climbing or bouldering though.

Your centre might give you the opportunity to buy badges as you pass each level – ask your centre if they stock them, and the cost. Typically they shouldn’t be more than £2 each.
How safe is climbing? Climbing (from a non-climbers point of view) could be viewed as risky. There are risks, as in any sport, however these can be managed and minimised: this is fundamental to the principles of our schemes. We teach risk awareness and risk management from the very beginning of the Schemes and specifically focus on injury prevention as part of the syllabus at higher levels.

Teacher with students (source: Sport England)Climbing, specifically climbing and bouldering on artificial walls, has relatively few accidents each year compared with other popular activities such as football, rugby and hockey.

German researchers found that climbing had a lower injury incidence than many mainstream sports. Indoor climbing had the fewest injuries per 1,000 hours of participation compared with all the sports studied in the 2010 study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine. (Source: NHS). We, the ABC Training Trust, promote a safe climbing environment by only allowing qualified coaches to deliver our nationally recognised and accredited schemes. We check our accredited centres to ensure that everyone running our schemes continues to meet our requirements.

We are very aware of the potential impact of intenstive training on young bodies and for that reason we expect coaches to be very experienced at managing these specific issues.
How long will NICAS or NIBAS take? There are no maximums for either NICAS or NIBAS, and every child can have as many goes as they want or need to meet the syllabus and assessment requirements at each level.

Climbing is a very individual but life-long skill, so every child will progress at their own pace. We have guidance about the minimum number of hours each level might take, but these really are minimums and our experience shows that most children take about half as long again at each level.

To make a comparison to another sport, a child learning to swim must demonstrate that they can swim a certain length, in order to move on to the next distance award. A 10m swimming badge wouldn't be awarded to a child who is unable to achieve this distance safely. With our NICAS and NIBAS awards, the same measures apply - climbing coaches will not award a pass until the relevant skills can be demonstrated.

Level 1 is reasonably straight-forward and a child who's climbed before, with the right attitude and aptitude, might pass it after 4-6 climbing sessions however this does vary greatly. In addition, every centre runs their courses slightly differently, so if your local centre runs Level 1 over a longer time, such as over a 10 week block, then trust in the process: they're making sure your child has the best possible foundation for moving on to the higher levels. Climbing is mentally and well as physically challenging, so completing many shorter sessions on a frequent basis may have a better learning outcome than fewer, but longer, sessions.

Climbing targets holistic skills: initially Agility, Balance and Co-ordination (physical literacy) - as well as a sense of responsibility, risk, and teamwork. It takes time to develop and hone these skills alongside the technical know-how of knots, holds, flexibility, strength and stamina. We want children to fall in love with climbing and make it a regular habit, and that means it can take years. The best climbers in the world say they're always learning.

Here are our guidelines for the minimum commitment at each level of the Schemes, but talk to your local centre to get a feel for what's right for your child:
Level NICAS - roped climbing NIBAS - bouldering
1 4 hours over at least two sessions (but many centres run over 4, 6, 8 or more weeks) 3 hours with a coach, and 3 hours on their own consolidating their learning (some centres may run this as a minimum of 6 hours with a coach instead, over 6+ weeks)
2 12 hours (usually at least 12 weeks of lessons) 6 hours with a coach, and 6 hours on their own consolidating their learning (some centres may run this as a minimum of 12 hours with a coach instead)
3 16 hours with a coach, with another 12 hours of climbing under light-touch supervision* 6 hours with a coach, and 14 hours on their own consolidating their learning
4 20 hours with a coach, with another 16 hours of climbing under light-touch supervision** 12 hours with a coach, and 18 hours on their own
5 One year of regular climbing 20 hours with a coach, and 100 additional hours over a period of a year
Each level's hours are stand-alone, for example Level 2 NICAS is an additional 12 hours (at least!) once they have graduated from Level 1. The higher levels of each Scheme require candidates to visit other centres and enter competitions, so at this stage you may be called on as a taxi service to take them farther afield to broaden their horizons.

* If your child has passed Level 3 of NICAS they might be able to go straight into NIBAS at Level 2: talk to your centre about this.
** Due to the higher risks of Lead Climbing, which is started at this Level, centres like to take a slow and steady approach to make sure candidates are genuinely ready. Some centres have a minimum age requirement for insurance and risk assessments, such as 14, so be prepared for gentler progress from here on. Centres will explain the higher risks to you before your child moves onto this level.Useful linksWhat are the benefits of climbing?Hazel Findlay climb (credit Stephen Ford Horne)Climbing and bouldering offer great health benefits, both physically and mentally. Our schemes also give candidates the opportunity to learn about safety, equipment, grades, belaying, warming up, training and progression as well as the many other positive aspects of becoming a climber. Combine this with life skills: trust, communication, team work, self-confidence, awareness, risk management and understanding limitations and it quickly becomes clear why climbing is an amazing sport. There is a huge amount of learning and development that takes place at the climbing wall.

A quote from our ambassador, professional climber Hazel Findlay:

"Climbing is good for the soul because it challenges both body and mind. It also brings the two together where you find perfect moments of clarity and flow. It opens up to you nature and the outdoors and helps you see the unimportance in the majority of the modern world. It brings you closer to the friends you already have and helps you bridge boundaries to people you've yet to meet."
Getting more involved Your child is learning to find their own path in climbing and will go as far as they choose, you can encourage your child to take advantage of the opportunities available on the scheme. Help them think about the benefits of learning and working in groups and undertaking activities that NICAS offers with likeminded individuals.

The amazing social benefits of climbing and bouldering mean that as parents you can also get involved and help, here are a few ideas to support your child:
  • Getting them to the wall on time: it seems simple but if they turn up late and flustered they are not in the right mind-set.
  • Practice knots: in the early stages of NICAS, knot tying is the biggest hurdle and takes the longest to learn. The main knot is the figure of eight - learn how to tie it. Most walls will hand out old lengths of rope for candidates to practice at home. Sophie Mitchell's book includes a piece of cord so knots can be practised.
  • Your child has a logbook so go through it with them and see how they are progressing.
  • Most walls will offer some form of ‘Learn to Belay’ or ‘Introduction to Bouldering’ course. If you take time to learn the basics it means that you can bring your child to the centre outside their NICAS or NIBAS sessions and allow them to practice and consolidate their skills.
  • We also recommend taking a basic coaching course. The FUNdamentals of Climbing workshops offered by the BMC and Mountaineering Scotland are a great place to start. FUNdas1 is aimed at basic movement and working with children so is ideal for a parent wanting to get more involved.

Parents who are more involved are more able to provide just the right balance not only to facilitate enjoyment, but also to challenge the child to continue to grow and develop their skills as they begin their pathway in climbing. Climbing may even become a family activity for years to come.
 
"NICAS gives the students confidence in not only themselves personally but in what they can do."
Katrina Rondel - Grands Vaux climbing centre
 





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