Benefits of Rock Climbing for Pediatric OT Practice

child uses rings on a climbing wall in a pediatric occupational therapy office

At Eldorado, we know that climbing can change lives. We figured that it wouldnt hurt to hear that from an expert, too! Kaitlin Cruickshank, a Pediatric Occupational Therapist at Children Matter, tells us about bringing a climbing wall to her facility. Pediatric occupational therapist’s help their clients live their day to day lives as independently, and functionally as possible. This is often accomplished through play and building a strong connection between therapist and client.

“We have a huge gym that has equipment like swings, and a ball pit, and a climbing ladder. All of the equipment is used to work on gross motor skills (coordination, motor planning, balance) and all of those skills are really important to be able to do our daily activities. Theres a lot of research that kids gain skills through play faster than just in a classroom setting. Our philosophy here is that all of the learning is child led and play based.

‘Im an adaptive climber and have seen what climbing has done for my body and mental health. Ive also seen how accomplished kids feel when they climb, and I can see how impactful climbing can be on the skills that were working on. I wanted to bring that climbing aspect to the clinic, even if at a much smaller scale.

‘My boss had been talking about adding a climbing wall for a long time, but she didnt really know how to go about it – how to build it, how to anchor it. Since I was the climber, I took over planning it. Eldorado made it easy. I wanted the wall to be a dark color and the holds colorful, because having that contrast is really important for folks who have visual impairment or difficulty with visual attention in general. We want to use colors of holds to give directions, too. I had a vision of what I wanted in my mind, and Eldo was able to bring it to life for me.

‘Equipment is so expensive, but the climbing wall will be there forever and wont wear down, and compared to other equipment is fairly affordable. Even when we had it installed, we made sure that both tall and small kids could climb. Traversing is important for us too, its not just up and down movement.

‘Skills the climbing wall helps me work on are gross and fine motor skills, sensory integration, body awareness, activities for daily living, and more. To the kid, it all just appears as fun and not work. Even for kids who have no interest in climbing on the wall, we have colored rings and they hook them on the matching colored holds. Some kids even just love the way the holds feel, as a tactile experience. Its been cool to see the kids find ways to do it that we didnt even think of.

‘One of the first kids we had use the wall after it was installed had just received a pretty devastating diagnosis, but to have her reach the top and feel accomplished despite her new physical limitations was just so impactful. She had trouble walking, but could still climb, and that idea that anyone can climb is kind of why we all do it in the first place.

‘Every kids OT office needs a climbing wall. It can work in any space, and Eldorado has walls for all budgets.





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