“Take it to the wall!” That’s what we now tell our kids to do when they get frustrated, or whiny, or worked up. No matter the weather, they now have a place to go and work their minds and bodies, and experience accomplishment.
The project started with a Christmas gift idea from Nana. “Should I get them a climbing wall set?” It seemed like a good idea, it wasn’t a toy, or something that made noise, or something unhealthy. And when they opened the gift the excitement was obvious. “Can we set it up now, Dad!?” I had to explain to them that we needed to build a special wall to climb on. The set included a book that gave great instructions about how to build a wall, with just one small problem: it didn’t have the words “DON’T PANIC” in large, friendly letters on the cover. I panicked.
Where are we going to put it? Is it going inside or outside? How big does it need to be? What if it’s too difficult for the kids?
These are just some of the many thoughts I had every time I thought about the box sitting in the basement. Luckily, plans were made for Nana and Grampy to visit at Easter, and Grampy agreed to help build the wall while he was here. The panicky feelings began to subside.
With a trip to the hardware store we had everything we needed: studs, plywood, and lots and lots of screws (the climbing set included all of the mounting hardware). After some deliberation we decided on an 8′ x 8′ design in the basement, with a slight overhang to make it more challenging. Laying out the angles on a couple of studs and tacking them to the header and footer let us test fit the design in the space before filling in the wall with studs every 16″. If not for the fact that it was leaning outward, it would have looked like a good start on framing the basement!
The plywood was a more overwhelming task. The book recommended laying each sheet on each other and drilling holes through 2 sheets at a time. There were no clear instructions on where to drill the holes though, apart from the advice to not drill them at the locations of the studs. A half-hour of discussion later and we had a plan for the locations of the holes, one that would keep the same 6″ spacing along the length of the wall. After drilling, cutting and hammering 84 T-nuts into the back of the plywood, we were ready to screw the sheets to the wall. As the kids anxiously waited, the process of attaching the 35 climbing holds to the wall slowly took place.
Immediately after finishing the kids scrambled up the wall and all fears of difficulty were washed away. They climbed up and down; they climbed sideways. After attaching a bell to the rafter they became even more intent on reaching the top and ringing the bell in victory. They climbed until their arms hurt, then they would rest and climb some more.
Suddenly, what was once just a basement is now an activity room that can offer year round exercise to everyone (even I can find challenging routes across the wall). As the kids develop, the large holds can be swapped out with small ones, making it an ever-adapting challenge. It provides them with an active option no matter what the weather, and shows them that we want physical activity to be a part of all of our lives on a daily basis.