Whether you are a parent signing your child up for a camp, a counselor preparing to wrangle in and entertain the little rascals, or a parent looking for fun out-of-the-house activities, there is sure to be something here that will excite the kids this summer!
Each of the following climbing games for kids is suitable for a bouldering wall or ropes walls, depending on what is available at your gym! Some do require more wall space than others. Opt to try these out when the gym is less busy, and remember to abide by climbing gym etiquette (i.e., taking turns on the climbing walls) for the most fun and most manageable execution of the game.
5 Rock Climbing Games for Kids
1. Shark Attack
Ask any kid who has attended the climbing camp, and they’ll likely rave to you about Shark Attack. It’s the age-old game loved by everyone, even counselors.
To do this, find a vertical stretch of the climbing wall, either bouldering walls or the bottom of top-rope walls, with various climbing holds. Then about six to eight feet from the wall lay an old piece of rope flat on the ground. Have the kids lie behind the rope, on their stomachs, and facing away from the wall. As the conductor of the game, you’ll stand in front of the kids facing the rock wall, and they are looking at you.
To start the game, you shout “shark attack,” the kids get up, turn around, and run to get on the wall. Depending on the space, number of kids, or any other factors unique to your game set-up, you can give a countdown of 5 to 10 seconds. If a kid is not on the wall or a body part is touching the ground when you get to the end of your count, they are out. Once they are out, there are two options. The first option, if they are out, they have to watch until the new game begins. The second option is that the kid(s) become “seaweed.” They sit somewhere in the space between the wall and the rope. When a new round begins, the “seaweed” stick their arms out as an obstacle for those remaining in the game. You are out if you accidentally run into a seaweed on your way to the wall.
To spice up the game, you can set conditions before shouting, “Shark attack!” For example, you could make it so the kids can only hold onto the wall with their left hand and foot or that they can only use orange climbing holds. Get creative! The kids will love the challenge and the friendly competition to outlast everyone.
The benefit of commercial climbing gyms using a rainbow-colored assortment of climbing holds is that you can replicate the classic game of Twister on the climbing wall. Bring in the classic spinner from the board game, or use an online app to spin for the color. Have all the kids start by the wall and then hop on once you call out the first color and hand/foot. Like in the regular version of the game, if they fall off the wall or place a limb on the wrong color, they are out!
Up to you if climbers can share holds with each other or for their own hands/feet!
3. Relay races
Everyone loves a good relay race. Split the kids into two teams and pick two-top ropes or boulders close together and similar in difficulty/style.
The game is as simple as a relay race on the ground. Whichever team has everyone make it to the top of the wall and sit back down in neat line, for good measure, wins!
If you only have one available belayer, you can still conduct a relay race, but instead of going head-to-head, one team goes at a time. Use a stopwatch to time how long it takes everyone on the team to climb up and lower down. The second team then goes; whichever has the faster time is the winner!
Safety Note: If choosing to race on the top rope, have well-trained individuals who are comfortable belaying quickly as the designated belayers. Use a figure-8 on a bite with opposite and opposing triple-auto locking carabiners. If a child climbs fast, having someone who can take up the excess slack equally fast is critical to ensure the climber’s safety. Likewise, auto-locking carabiners and a party knot allow the belay to switch climbers safely, whereas allowing the climber to clip or tie themselves in increases the risk of improper use of the safety gear.
4. Blindfolded Climbing
Whether you are overseeing a kids’ climbing camp or taking your little ones to the rock gym to burn off some energy, they’ll likely get bored of the climbs accessible to their level at some point. But, if you have a blindfold or bandana, you can take them back to climbs they’ve already scaled and challenge them to get the top blindfolded!
If they’re not immediately keen on the idea, make it seem like it would be the easiest thing in the world for you to accomplish. They’ll want to prove they can do it too, and do it better than you! If you have the opportunity to show them first, go for it, you’ll have quite the laugh.
In the age of digitalism, have someone record the kid climbing blindfolded if an extra pair of hands are available. No one loves watching themselves or using electronic devices more than today’s youth.
Safety Note: This game should only be done on top-rope for safety purposes, as falling off a boulder with the output being able to see puts the climber and any spectators/climbers at an increased risk of injury.
The game add-on is excellent for older climbers and can be considered the climbing equivalent of the basketball game Horse.
Choose a climber order, have the person pick the starting holds, and make a new move for one hand. The next climber has to repeat the start and move without falling. If they do that successfully, they can add a move on with the opposite hand as was previously used. If the climber falls before making all the added moves, they get a letter. The number of letters they can receive before being officially outed depends on the word chosen. For example, you can use the word out, which would give three chances/saves, or the phrase add-on for five chances per climber. If the climber completes all established moves but falls trying to add a new hold, there is no letter penalty. Instead, they don’t get to add their move and go back in line.
Typically, climbers play the game with open feet (no designated foot-holds), so the only focus is following the correct hand-hold sequence. However, if the group of kids is exceptionally skilled, you can add that they must designate a hand and a foot-hold each time they make a new move. The game Add-on is usually best played on a vertical boulder wall for maximum fun.
Hopefully, these games provide endless summer entertainment for young climbers and allow you to have fun too! As always, get creative and add your variations based on what’s accessible to you and the group of climbers you are working with! If you have any epic rock climbing games for kids we missed, drop them in the comments below. We’d love to hear what other fun options are out there, and we’re sure others would appreciate it too!