By Ellen Sturm Niz
July 01, 2015
rock climbing toddler

If your parents are competitive rock climbers and built a rock wall in your room when you were only 2 months old, chances are you're going to be pretty good at the sport. Pretty good, though, doesn't even begin to describe what 20-month-old Ellie Farmer can do. Watching the toddler, who learned to rock climb before walking, is an unbelievable experience. The little girl is so focused and thoughtful as she chooses her next hand and foot placements on her way to the top. My jaw dropped while watching Ellie, who has been nicknamed the Little Zen Monkey.

Ellie's mom and dad are competitive climbers Rachael and Zak Farmer—Rachel climbed rocks while pregnant, up until three days before Ellie was born, so perhaps the skill was passed on in utero. Ellie was climbing the rock wall in her room by the time she was 8 months old, and today she is a regular at the rock climbing gym. She practices there five times a week and often climbs for 30 to 60 minutes.

Because Ellie's too little to wear a harness, she practices a style of climbing called "bouldering," meaning she climbs without ropes. Her mom says she actually falls pretty frequently, but she there's a fluffy crash pad below the wall to cushion her landing. If she's more than a foot off the ground, her parents spot her. She's never gotten hurt, and has scaled a wall as high as 7 feet tall by herself.

"When she does something successfully, she loves to celebrate," Rachael told Today Parents. "She turns around, screams and claps."

Ellen Sturm Niz is a New York City-based editor and writer who has an eight-year-old daughter loves rock climbing and bouldering, too. Check out Ellen's new Etsy shop and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.