Around since the 1940s and originally used by the military as a means to train soldiers, ropes courses have since been adapted for private use and have gained widespread popularity. Also referred to as challenge courses, today these fun and exciting courses are popular amongst corporations looking for a creative team building solution, but are also growing in popularity amongst a younger crowd – youth sports teams, boys scouts and girl scouts, and school groups.
Today, approximately “ten thousand ropes courses exist in schools, camps, therapeutic institutions, and park districts in the United States with about 250 more being built every year,” according to authors Kathy Haras, Camille J. Bunting, and Peter A. Witt.
So what makes ropes courses so popular among children?
Children Love Climbing
According to Dr. Joe Frost, acknowledged as the contemporary father of play advocacy, children climb for many reasons. For starters, it’s a developmental instinct. “All healthy children are born to climb,” says Dr. Frost. It’s in their nature. “Soon after birth, children employ built in natural instincts to seek, see, explore, touch, and move objects and build mental and physical capabilities leading to initial climbing skills,” he says. It’s also one way in which young children learn about the world. “Children are wired to learn and learning by climbing carries benefits in skill development, health, fitness, and injury prevention,” says Dr. Frost. And, of course, there’s the recreational benefits! “Children climb for fun,” adds Dr. Frost. They climb to explore, to compete, to tap into their imagination and play make-believe, to chase their friends, and so much more.
“Direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults,” says child advocacy expert Richard Louv.
A 2010 study conducted by One Poll in the UK reported 85 percent of children ages 6-12 want more adventure in their lives – camping, biking, hiking, climbing! And 85 percent of parents agree, with 44 percent admitting that they played outside more as a child than their children do.
“Time spent in outdoor recreation leads to a range of benefits, from reduced obesity rates to strengthened family ties,” says Robert Manning, professor of recreation management at the University of Vermont.
Physical & Mental Fitness
According to the National Association for Sport and Physical Education (NASPE), children should receive at least one hour of physical activity every day:
- Toddlers: 30 minutes planned physical activity AND 60 minutes of free play.
- Preschoolers: 60 minutes planned physical activity AND 60 minutes of free play.
- School-Age: One hour broken up into bouts of 15 minutes or more.
“Physical activity and sports [like climbing] are generally promoted for their positive effect on children’s physical health,” says Dr. Amika Singh. “There is also a growing body of literature suggesting that physical activity has beneficial effects on several mental health outcomes, including health-related quality of life and better mood states,” as well as “enhancement of brain function and cognition, thereby positively influencing academic performance.”
The ropes course, and similar climbing activities have also been “shown to reduce stress by increasing levels of norepinephrine, a chemical that helps balance our brain’s response to stress,” writes Huffington Post reporter Abigail Wise.
Similar to large corporations and small businesses, youth organizations, such as scouts or sports teams, often turn to the challenge course as a team building tool.
“The course not only strengthens and stretches muscles, but also builds teamwork and enhances risk-taking and communication skills,” says Health Science major and University of South Florida track sprinter Shannon Gordon. “The course puts climbers in positions that cannot be worked through individually.”
A Ropes Course Designed FOR Children
Conveniently located in Howard County, Maryland, between Baltimore and Washington DC, Terrapin Adventures has a ropes course specifically designed for children ages 5-10 – our Terrapin Explorer kids’ course. With 22 different fun elements, the Terrapin Explorer lets kids walk, balance, swing, zip, and crawl as they get the physical activity they need.
Check out our Adventure packages for which package is right for your young adventurer.
Don’t worry! There’s plenty for parents to do as well! As the old saying goes, Lead by Example. It is important for parents to demonstrate the importance of physical activity to their children.
“Parents who exercise with their children are not only teaching them how to live a healthy lifestyle, they are also reinforcing the family bonds and creating wonderful family traditions,” says Pam Howard, certified health coach and mother of two.
If you have any questions, please call Terrapin Adventure at 301.725.1313, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
- Gordon, Shannon. “Fit 5: Benefits of the ropes course.” The Oracle. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 July 2017.
- Wickes, Stuart. “Kids need adventure. Parents need to teach them how.” Family Adventure Project. N.p., 08 Jan. 2016. Web. 23 June 2017.
- Stadsvold, Jenna. “Adventure Play: The Benefits of Risk Taking.” Head Rush Technologies. N.p., 04 Nov. 2016. Web. 23 June 2017.