Kids need to be active and have fun. It’s in their nature. It really should be in our nature too, but we too often forget how amazing simple fun can be when we become adults. Games were our earliest form of exercise, before we thought exercise was work. Who doesn’t have fond memories of racing bikes, running through sprinklers, or swinging so hard we thought our toes would touch the sky? Your kids need these fond memories too. Give them a reason to get off the couch, put down the remote or video game controllers, and enjoy the fresh air and sunlight.
Active games are good for your kids. Healthy exercise relieves stress and burns off excess energy that, when left contained, can boil up in the form of temper tantrums, insomnia, frustration, anger, or an inability to focus. This doesn’t just go for your kids. Adults can have their own temper tantrums, frustrations, lack of sleep, and unfocused moments. Go have some fun already. It’s good for you in many more ways, like improved joint flexibility, heart function, lymphatic flow, and immune function.
Before you recycle those plastic juice bottles or tubs of protein, rinse them out and set them up like bowling pins. They don’t have to be all the same size or type. Odd shaped pins are fine, maybe even more exciting. Use a soccer ball or volleyball to bowl them down.
Hockey in the Grass
No need for ice, use that free grass in your yard or at the local park. Once again save a plastic bottle to use as a puck. You can recycle it later. Set up small goals using bright colored rags, fabric, cones, or some old t-shirts. Use brooms, mops, poles, sticks, or whatever you have to send the puck flying and hopefully score.
You can’t fail with the classics. Tag gets you running and laughing, both of which are great for your health. Don’t forget that tag has tons of options. Mix it up and each game is a new experience. Jumping freeze tag is a good way to make tag even more active. Once tagged you can’t move in any way but vertically, hopping, jumping, and waving arms to catch the attention of someone who can unfreeze you. Crawl between the legs to unfreeze.
Hide and Seek
This is an activity that can be done at the park, in your back yard, or even in your own home when the weather keeps you from going out. It’s another classic that never goes out of style and everyone knows how to play. Keep the count low so you and your kids have to run and the games go quick and play again.
This is a land-based version of Sharks and Minnows. You set up boundaries and stick the Wolf in the middle and line all the Foxes up along one edge. When the Wolf yells “Fox Over” everyone runs for the far side. Those that cross the line without getting tagged are safe and get to try again. Those tagged join the Wolf in the middle, making the game harder each time the players cross.
This naturally comes from everyone’s instinct to throw balled up socks. We’ve all done it, pretending the hamper is a hoop or tossing them at a brother, sister, or spouse like some dry fluffy snowball just for fun. If playing outdoors, use old socks you don’t mind getting dirty or grass-stained. You can set up ground rules like tag or just have an all-out brawl until everyone is panting from exhaustion and laughter. It’s up to you.
Baseball’s another easy thing to set up even without all the equipment. If you don’t have a baseball, use a pre-recycled plastic bottle, a softer ball, or even a balled up sock. No bats? Use a broom handle or a pool noodle and you’re good to go. Kickball is another great variation if you don’t have the equipment for regular baseball.
Kids love soccer and all the running is great for their hearts. Don’t know all the rules? No problem, just designate goals with bright fabric and kick away. Don’t have a lot of people? Only use one goal and play against each other. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be fun.
Capture the Flag
Another classic. Set up two flags and try to capture the other team’s flag. Don’t have enough people for that? Set up one flag with one guard and let everyone else try to get it. Mix up the rules now and again. First to touch the flag wins or have them carry it to their home base without getting touched by the guard.
This is another activity that can be done anywhere, including your home. Make it a race with a healthy prize and your family will run, duck, jump, slide, and crawl their way to being more fit and thank you when they’re done. Give each player a list of activities to do, things to touch, see, or smell, and places to go then watch them exercise without knowing it.
Need examples for indoors? Touch four light switches. Smell a clean shirt in the laundry room. Touch the kitchen sink. Look out an upstairs window. Do five jumping jacks. There are a million activities to give your kids a good time that is healthier than they know.
Outdoors ideas? Smell three flowers. Touch five trees. Run in place while you count to thirty. Spot two birds. Touch the swing-set and then swing seven times. The possibilities are endless. Use what you know will be there to get them to cover as much ground as possible.
This is a reversal of hide and seek in that one person hides and the rest count. The seekers then spread out looking for the person hiding. Once someone finds the hider, they join them in hiding. Each seeker who finds them does the same, eventually becoming hysterically obvious due to the mass of giggling souls all crammed into one hiding place.
One player throws any type of ball high into the air for the other players to catch. The thrower yells out a number before throwing the ball. Everyone else scrambles to get to the ball first. The person who catches the ball gets the yelled number added to their total. The first to 500 points wins.
Duck Duck Goose
This is a simple game, but very active and always more fun than it initially sounds. Make the circle bigger for even more fun, screaming, laughter, and running.
We have to include some winter activities. If you’re close to snow, sledding is a fun way to get some exercise as you race up and down hills over and over again. Stay warm though.
Build forts and make teams before pelting each other or mix in some of the other games like capture the flag, snow bowling, hockey, hide and seek, baseball, and more.
Make a map of the yard or park and mark interesting points with an X, like big colorful rocks, trees, lawn decorations, planters, etc. Once a child finds the Xed item, they get to make up the story behind it—what kind of treasure it is, which pirate buried it and why—then they may find another map to the next treasure.
If you have a sand box or a park nearby with a sandbox, it’s entertaining to hide fun objects a few inches to a foot down in that sand. Then break out the floppy hats, magnifying lenses, spades, and some old paint brushes and let the kids dig and discover the buried history. They can tell you what bones they found and what dinosaur they once belonged to or make up entire civilizations from the archeological evidence.
Funny Face Slip and Slide
Make a slip and slide. They can be made easily with inexpensive plastic sheeting from a hardware store. See who can make the funniest face for the camera at the end of the slide.
Turn the jungle gym into a pretend spaceship. Take turns being the captain and fly that ship into dangerous deep space, full of strange worlds, asteroids, spinning nebulae, and alien life. Remember to slip down the slide and explore those new worlds you discover.
Everyone gets to select some small to medium sized rocks or pebbles from the garden. You may not get away with this at a park. Paint them into fun shapes, colors, faces, and anything else you can imagine. Use these painted gems as goal posts or as the flag in other games.
Have a start and finish line set up in a straight line. Then come up with fun ways to get from one to the other. Crabwalk, go backwards, hop, skip, dance, crawl, jump rope, zigzag, wheelbarrow, army crawl, lunge, act like a dinosaur, be a dragon, bounce, etc.
Chalk Walk Art
Use washable sidewalk chalk and create art on the driveway, patio, and sidewalk for everyone to enjoy. You can choose a theme or let everyone come up with their own ideas. The bending and crawling will be good for your kids.
Come up with your own games and get active today. Feel free to share some of your favorites in the comments below. We’d love to learn some new ones.