Best Competitive Climbing Activities for Children

Best Competitive Climbing Activities for Children

There are many great things about rock climbing. It’s an excellent individual sport that allows you to work on personal goals—physically and mentally. It also brings many opportunities to develop social-emotional skills and to work cooperatively with other climbers. Additionally, rock climbing can be a team sport that allows for competition. We feel there’s room for individual, cooperative and competitive activities in any program. Here are our favorite competitive climbing activities for youth. The first two allow you to bring some "sport climbing" events to your climbing program that are similar to those that will be taking place during the upcoming Summer Games.

Speed Climbing Event

A traverse wall version of one of the three sport climbing events from the 2020 Summer Games.

Materials needed: Stopwatch or timing device

Prep: None

Grouping: Partners

Grade Levels: 3 & up

Activity: One person climbs while the other times the climber going across the climbing wall. Switch roles. Fastest time wins. Keep a record of all climbing times and award medals to the winners.

Variation: Create one climbing route that all climbers must follow to make it more like the Summer Games event where climbers are climbing identical routes.

Bouldering Event

A traverse wall version of one of the three sport climbing events from the 2020 Summer Games.

Materials needed: Gaffers tape (or masking tape) & stopwatch

Grouping: Individual

Grade Levels: 3 & up

Prep: Set three routes of varying ability levels (beginner, intermediate, advanced). Mark with tape and uniquely identify the three different routes.

Activity: Have climbers attempt to climb all three routes, one at a time. They compete to complete all three routes in the least amount of time. Keep a record of all climbing routes and times and award medals to the winners.

Children competing in a relay race on the climbing wall

Up & Down Relay Race

A fast-paced relay race great for larger groups.

Materials:  Gaffers tape (or masking tape)

Prep: Place a tape mark at the exact same height on each climbing wall panel. Be sure to select a high location that participants will be able to reach while keeping their feet in the climbing zone.

Grouping: Teams of two or more people, ideally one team per 4-foot wide climbing wall panel section

Grade Level: 3 & up

Activity: To begin, teams line up at the edge of the mats across from their designated panel section. At the same time, one person from each team runs to the climbing wall, gets on their climbing wall panel, climbs to and touches the tape mark and then climbs back down to the mat, runs to and taps their teammate who will then run and climb to and touch the tape mark. Repeat for all team members. Each person should climb the panel three times. The first team to complete these climbs wins the race. 

Note: For safety reasons, climbers must down climb (not jump) after touching the tape mark. If needed, a “time out” of 20 seconds can be implemented for any team that does not follow this rule.

Variations: Repeat the activity with teams rotating through other climbing wall panels. Since the location of hand holds vary, each panel is different and poses novel challenges.

Teaching Tip: Taller climbers have an advantage in this race, so when creating teams, be sure to consider heights and make teams as equal as possible.