There’s no doubt that exercise for kids is important. With declining physical education time in schools, summer holidays that are prone to producing bored kids, and excessive screen time being an ever increasing temptation, it’s vital that parents come up with some easy exercise games for kids that get kids moving without it seeming like a drill sergeant workout.
Coming up with exercises for kids at home off the top of your head isn’t always easy though, so to get you started, here are ten games your kids will love. If you need more players, why not enlist the neighbour kids? You’re bound to be a legend.
Place two kids side by side with a balloon or ball wedged between their hips. The goal is for them to walk across the room or backyard without dropping the balloon. If they do, they must go back to the starting line and start over. Once they’ve mastered it, increase the challenge by timing them and encouraging them to beat their time with each try. Feel free to add more players to the line, which will make it extra tricky.
Place pieces of paper on the floor in random order. Get kids to line up on one side of the room, and make it to the other side by jumping from one paper to the next. The papers are the safe zones from the floor, which is the hot lava that no one wants to touch and be burned by. Make it a race to see who can cross the room first. (For safety, consider taping the papers to the floor so kids don’t slip.)
Throw and Touch
Give each child a beach ball. They must throw it in the air, and before it drops, do a high high-five, star-jump, or touch their toes, etc. Keep the fresh ideas coming with harder challenges each time. This is also a great game to try (one at a time) on the trampoline
Spider, Bear, Crab Tag
Have an extra-fun game of tag by having everyone travel as animals, including the “it” player. On your command, kids move as either a spider, bear, or crab. Spiders move in a push up position, bears walk on hands and balls of feet with bottoms up in the air, and crabs travel sideways on hands and feet with stomachs facing up. This is great for strengthening the hips and legs. Once you have finished with tag, kids can also race from one end of the room or backyard in these animal positions.
Set up a race by placing two small bowls on one end of the room or backyard, and marking a starting line on the other side. At the start line, give both players a potato or small ball to hold between their knees. They must then either walk, run, or hop to their bowl and drop the potato into it. If they drop the potato for any reason (or miss the bowl when dropping their potato in), they must return to the starting line and start over again. If there are more than two players, make it into a relay race. The first team that finishes, wins.
This is best played in a wind-free location, and can be played with 1 to 4 kids. Blow up a balloon, and set up either a couch, chair, small table, deck chair, or string as the “net.” Put an even number of kids on both sides, and see how many times they can hit the balloon back and forth to each other without dropping it. If you have only one player, they must race back and forth around the “net” object to play for both sides. See if they can keep the balloon in the air for 21 hits in a row, which is the score you need to win a game of volleyball.
Just like the Village People’s “YMCA” song, show your kids how to form each letter of their name using their entire body. They can do this either standing up, lying on the ground, or a combination of both. Film or take photos of each letter, then show them how cool they look afterward. This encourages both physical activity as well as fitness.
Some good, old-fashioned fun. One child walks on their hands while their partner holds their feet up, and races other pairs across the yard and back. This is great for developing upper body strength in the hand-walking partner, and total body strength in the other. Be sure to switch positions so both kids get a chance to be the wheelbarrow.
Jump and Pop
Tie a balloon to each player’s right ankle with a piece of string about a metre long. Once everyone is set up, the kids run around a large confined area (backyard, garage, etc) trying to pop each others’ balloon by jumping and stomping on them. As soon as your balloon is popped, you’re out and must sit off to the side (no more trying to pop others’ balloons at that point). The last child with an inflated balloon is the winner. Make cleaning up a competition as well to see who can collect the most balloon bits off the ground (as they are a choking hazard for small children and pets).
Demonstrate the crabwalk position to your child (walking on hands and feet, stomach facing up). Then get them to balance a toy on their stomach and walk without dropping it. The aim of the game is to get them to transport all their toys from the messy area to where they need to go (eg- their room or the toy box). Challenge them to carry more than one toy at once without dropping it to increase the difficulty. If you have more than one child, count to see who can clean up the most items in total. Hint: don’t tell them they’re cleaning up.
Remember, these exercise games for kids are about creating fun, lasting family memories, all while challenging your kids to increase their heart rate, develop spatial awareness, control their body movements, and improve their agility, muscular strength and endurance.
The best part is that they will do this all without realising they’re exercising, since they’ll be so focused on the task at hand, as well as on winning.
And you, as a parent, will be winning too, with fitter, stronger, and happier kids.
Author: Corinna Nairn