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Encouraging and enthusing children to try caving

JAA

Active member
As a long time caver I?d love to encourage my daughter who is 9 to come along on some easy trips! An outing yesterday had mixed results but was mostly positive!
Main worries seemed to be cold feet and self confidence!

I guess my question is, what are parents top tips for firing and maintaining an interest! She?s an adventurous little thing, but what are your top ?essentials?? Wet socks? Chocolate?

Does anyone know who supplies decent quality oversuit in kids sizes? When I started I think mine was from Daleswear but obvs they are long departed now sadly!

 

cap n chris

Well-known member
Warmbac manufacture XXS suit(s) in lightweight cordura. Camp manufacture dinky helmets which work well for children, as do Petzl. Warmbac adjustable (velcro) elbow pads double up as functional knee pads for small children. The main cost consideration for caving kit with children is that they grow out of it quickly and unless it's being used on an almost daily basis would end up being a false economy versus occasional hiring.
 

Mr Mike

Active member
I took my daughter down a mine when she was 3 for the 1st time, and have kept it up on a regular basis. I've found a picnic goes a long way especially if you take a gas stove down. Treats to keep energy up. Having another kid along also helps or one of your friends.

Taking a survey and showing them progress / getting them to route find is another bonus to keep interest up.

Not always possible, but also being in a bigger group boosts the pack mentality - they see everyone going through the same obsticles etc... and that I find giddies them along especially if they are not confident on some things.

Gear wise - wellies with thick socks. I've used fleece top and old waterproof jacket. Pants have always been cheapo ski pants, which also helps pad things and keep warm. Bike helmet with my spare fenix HPL55. Gloves as well, dipped ones to keep the wet at bay. I've got away with this combo as it is mines that we go down, maybe not the best for wet caving.
 

Rob

Well-known member
Agree with lots of Mr Mike's thoughts. Taking friends is certainly good. Ours (younger than yours) like to have a handtorch as well. Adds to the fun, somehow.

For gear, we just use boiler suits (if it's a dry cave) or waterproof trousers and coats if a bit wetter. Certainly wouldn't spend lots of money on caving oversuits that they will quickly grow out of, but maybe we're just tight.
 

JAA

Active member
Oh I?m Yorkshire tight don?t worry! At the moment she has a cheap waterproof suit from Amazon which will do for now! Have ordered a fleece balaclava as well.
Defintely agree that friends help. We went yesterday with friends kids and if they hadn?t been there she would have bailed out, but keeping up with her new friends kept her going!
Good idea on the survey to follow, I think she would like that!
 

PeteHall

Moderator
My kids are younger and have taken to caving enthusiastically, but friends have had different experiences.

My main focus is warmth and comfort; if they are comfortable, they will be much more likely to enjoy themselves. Once they've got thd bug, they'll enjoy the miserable stuff too  :LOL:

Below is what I'd go for, for maximum comfort.

- Lots of layers for starters, or a wetsuit if it's going to be wet. I got one from the local car boot sale for a few pounds and there are loads for cheap on Facebook marketplace.

- Halfords do kids cycling gloves that are very good for caving.

- A helmet that's the right shape for a light, so either a climbing helmet  (petzl picchu is good) or a skating type helmet is probably better than a bike helmet.

- A light that isn't too heavy and in an ideal world is balanced front to back. My choice is a Petzl Myo, but you can't buy those new any more and they are hard to find 2nd hand.

- Harness to help on climbs. I have an old Petzl Ouistiti and an Edelrid Fraggle. Both are good, but the Petlz is easier to clean as it is all tape and buckles (though a belt is probably better for a 9 year old)

- two pairs of socks!

- boiler suit for dry caves, rain suit for wet caves. I've also got a Warmbac oversuit in XS that a club member gave me, but they are really expensive, so I'd not bother buying a new one until you are sure she's keen.

- as Chris says, elbow pads can be used as kids knee pads. I wouldn't buy them specially, but if you've got your own anyway, might as well give them a try.

Then choose the right cave. Don't do anything too hard too soon. And as Mike says, bring snacks!

Make little challenges for them, that they can try several times and build confidence while having fun. I like to send them on a time trial around a very short loop, crawling under a boulder, then back out over the top of it. Last time, we got down to 17 seconds, from over two minutes at the first try.

If they aren't having fun, stop and tell a funny story about a similar thing happening to you. By the time you're done and they are laughing, the problem will be much easier.

Take some photos, so they can show off to friends and family,  then they'll have a bit more emotional investment in it.

Taking a friend is sometimes great, but tears can also be contagious, so pick the right friend if you do.

Finally, have fun!
 

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maxb727

Member
We?ve found it really hit and miss with taking my partners 7yr old. Sometimes he loves it and other days he tells us he hates it.

Success is always more likely when there are extra people with us, such as other kids or our adult friends.

Snacks is a must, and sweets are a great bribe [emoji85]

In dry caves we use wellies, thick socks, old clothes (jogging bottoms) and a second hand all in one water proof suit (helps keep the damp off and is another layer). Plus we have a body harness which helps us have places to grab if required.

In wet caves (Swildons) we are going to have to get wet socks as his feet were so cold once he got wet, the rest of him can stay warm with layers but his feet were frozen and that made him quite sad.

Amazon (I?m sure other retailers sell them too) have kids gardening gloves which are mini versions of caving gloves and he loves wearing these. Means he doesn?t mind getting his hands wet and muddy as much.

We?ve also worked out that we need to spot when to turn around so that it?s early enough before he looses interest or gets upset. We try to have every caving trip as a positive memory and so this really helps. Also knowing that he changes his mind a lot, sometimes he?s super confident and wants to be at the front. Other times he wants us to lead and we just go with whatever mood he?s feeling on the day.
 

PeteHall

Moderator
Good tip on the kids gardening gloves maxb, I'll have to look for some of those.

The cycling gloves we have are great, but not very cheap.
 

Cantclimbtom

Active member
Would it still be in the spirit of this to submit a non caving one?

My eldest at 14 is an older kid than previous pics above. I'm sure the location needs no introduction, taken during half term just gone.
P0oZ6V6.jpg

Cw8dqRP.jpg

I find it a battle to interest any of my kids in any activity that doesn't have a touchscreen, and attempts at ultra-classics like Dinorwig "Snakes, Ladders and Tunnels" and CRTT have proved equal amounts of hit and miss (especially the "snake").
I have no magic answers to motivating kids but reading thread here with great interest

EDIT: Editing pics to scale for screen
 

CatM

Moderator
Lots of good tips on this thread, thanks!  (y)

My daughter recently turned 2 and has been underground a handful of times (first time around 7 months) - I figured it best to start early and get her used to it! She was carried in a sling on the earlier trips, most recently she made it from Valley Entrance to the top of the KMC pitch mostly under her own steam (but wanted to be carried / ride on my back most of the way back again) so we're making progress.

In terms of my experience & "tips", most of which have been mentioned already:

- I've always aimed to keep trips fairly short, to avoid getting too bored / cold / tired. Gradually building up....

- I've tried to avoid days when the weather is rubbish, so that it's not a miserable experience getting changed (and can hopefully warm up relatively quickly if she does get cold). I want caving to be remembered as a pleasant experience!

- Be prepared to go at their pace, which may well be very slow!

- Equipment wise: Lots of warm layers. So far I've just used wellies, thick socks and normal clothes with full waterproofs over the top. We've just been given some salopette type things which look ideal - looking forward to trying them out. We use a bike light with fenix headtorch attached (using cable ties), hat underneath. Last time we also took a hand-held torch which was a big hit.

- She loves showing pictures to her friends at nursery, so take some if you can.

- Take LOTS of snacks (and a drink).





 

Mr Mike

Active member
Yes, photos are good especially if they show them in class. When I took her down Wapping Mine and she took them on mem peg into school - the whole class wanted to go mine exploring - she felt 6' tall.
 

mrodoc

Well-known member
I feel I have a little experience in the field having started caving at 14 after asking my father if we could  do some. It was a joint journey of exploration starting in Goatchurch Cavern with old clothes and borrowed lights. I started taking my daughers when they were old enough and they are still keen on caving (one has been expedition caving) and they are now in their late 30's. Now I have the privilege of taking my  5 year old granddaughter caving and she seems to love it. My other daughter is planning to take her children underground when they are  a bit older.

Regarding kit, I bought Scarlett my oldest granddaughter an excellent helmet from Starless River, and of course reasonably priced LED's are easily available. Currently Scarlett is wearing waterproofs and wellies. However one person posting made the valid point that although Warmbac do small sizes kids grow fast.  Simon Mullens of Isca Outdoor has suggested an exchange system to reduce costs, and I think would be interested in initiating such a scheme with sufficient demand.  Perhaps people could indicate their interest to him.
 

owd git

Active member
With Easter coming up an u/ground easter egg hunt some where safe is a winner. even with the scroats from Ripley scooter club we met exiting eating choccies and halving the haul I'd laid .  :LOL:
 

maxb727

Member
One of our clubs, Chelsea SS organises specific children?s weekends. The one we had in 2021 was a single day, and the weather in the morning was horrendous rain.

We used this awful weather to stay at the hut for the morning and play some games as a warm up to caving. We had a few rounds of twister, good for warming up muscles (although if you?re over 30 I recommend warming up before twister as well!!!). Then we had a mini ?cave assault course? where the kids had to crawl under a number of chairs, pick up a welly, put it on and crawl back to their teammate. This was all with a helmet on and the raucous noise it produced was a sign of the fun everyone was having.

After this we finally walked to the cave and much to the parents delight the kids were much more enthusiastic about caving, and went further than expected. One slight issue was once one child cried it did have the tendency to set the rest off but we all survived unscathed and hopefully this summer we shall have another attempt.

Post caving treats involved a candy floss machine which replaced the sugar reserves and led to the kids running about the garden for the next few hours having fun together.
 
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