If you’re looking for something to do with your kids on non-school days or if you’re like me and babysitting your friend’s kids, this article is for you!
We’ll cover all sorts of games kids can play to keep active. We’ll cover what the game is, how to play, and how many kids (and/or adults) are needed. Plus, we’ll review why playing games and staying active is important in the first place.
Reasons to Keep Kids Active
Kids have a lot of energy to burn that they aren’t going to get by watching TV or playing video games. It’s important for them to spend time moving, because activity is a critical part of building a healthy body and mind. Plus, kids worn out from active play fall asleep easier and sleep better at night.
We all know the benefits of exercise in boosting mood, helping with depression, giving confidence, and so forth. Keeping your kids active is a good way to make sure that you’re getting a happy and healthy child. Combined with a good diet, plenty of sleep, and a loving home, there’s nothing more a kid needs.
Why Games Are Good Ways to Keep Kids Active
Games are one of the best ways to keep kids active because they love competition. They love besting their peers (and even adults) at anything. For a child, anything can be turned into a competition.
So, when you’re thinking about ways to get your kids some exercise, you should work with their natural inclinations rather than against them because you’ll encounter less resistance and it will be easier to motivate them to keep it up.
But beyond a kid’s natural inclination, games are great because they involve at least one other person and likely many more, giving your child the opportunity to develop social skills.
Outdoor Fitness Games for Kids
Obviously, getting outdoors and getting some vitamin D is the best option, so consider trying some of these games with your kids!
1. Relay Race
This game is pretty straight forward. You have two teams that are racing to complete particular tasks. Really the options are endless if you have at least four kids to have two teams of kids competing against each other.
A larger number of kids is ideal, but it will work with as few as four. Task your kids with seeing which team can run a half-mile the fastest, switching halfway in between, or carry an egg and walk quickly without dropping it, or swim a certain distance in the pool.
The idea is to get two teams of kids competing against each other, teaching them how to work together as teammates in order to beat another team, which will provide great learning opportunities for your kids.
2. Crab Walk Race
This is going to be hard, but you’re turning yourself into a human crab. Start off on the floor with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms behind you.
Your fingers should be pointed toward your feet. Lift your hips and butt off the ground and start crab walking—move your right hand and left foot followed by your left hand and right foot and repeat.
To turn it into a race, you’ll need at least two people (or have your kid race against himself or herself to beat his or her previous time—kids love doing this).
Designate a certain distance and see who gets to the finish line first. If you want to jazz it up even more, time your kids so they know what time to beat.
3. Hopping Race
Kids love hopping because it’s easy, so take advantage of their competitive side and turn hopping into a game and physical exercise. Again, you’ll need at least two kids (or timing your kid to compete against himself or herself).
You can have them do a bunny hop race over a certain distance, hopping on two feet, or you can suggest hopping on one foot, something kids love to do.
You might consider a course that involves turning a corner—as a kid, I always hopped around the square garden patch—to give them something slightly harder to do.
4. Obstacle Course Race
This will involve slightly more effort on your part, but it will be a big winner in their book. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a military base, use an obstacle course there. If not, you’ll have to find one or make up one on your own.
This can be as simple as running a certain distance, hopping on your foot, throwing a ball, climbing a tree, etc. Anything that strikes your fancy and something that your kids might enjoy doing.
While you can definitely have kids compete against each other, of all the races we suggested, obstacle courses are the easiest for a kid to compete against themself. Plus, with it being timed, it gives them something to try to reach—under a certain number of minutes, for example.
5. Sharks and Minnows
For tag games, you’ll need a larger group of kids. Select someone to be the shark initially, and have them stand in the middle of the play area. The minnows start walking toward the shark to reach the other side of the play area.
When the shark feels so inclined, he or she can yell, “Shark Attack!” and then the minnows have to run away. Once someone gets tagged, he or she becomes a shark, and there are now two sharks. Keep going through several rounds until there is only one minnow left, who becomes the shark for the next game.
6. Color Tag
Like sharks and minnows, color tag works best with larger groups. Find several different colored cones or objects to mark the boundaries of the game. Select someone as a tagger and have the kids run around the tagging area.
Once a player gets tagged, the tagger tells that person what color to go to. The tagged player must then go to the colored object and do jumping jacks while spelling the color out loud before he or she is allowed to return to the tag area.
7. Scavenger Hunt
I’m an adult, and I still love scavenger hunts, so your kids definitely will too. You can make this as simple or as complex as you want. And again, it can be with tons of kids or even just one. Ideally, though, you’ll have a couple small teams of kids to play against each other.
Simply put together a list of items that the kids need to gather, take pictures of, touch, etc. This also might be a way for you to get some cleaning in the yard done!
8. Capture the Flag
In order to play Capture the Flag, you’ll need two teams of around 5 kids or more. Have them hide flags on their side. Flags can be anything from actual flags to balls to jackets.
Then each team attempts to get the flag from the other side without getting tagged and put in jail. Players who do land in the clink can be rescued by another player from their team who hasn’t been tagged yet.
Your kids will run a lot in this game and won’t even realize how much physical exercise they are getting in!
This game can be played with one person or several players. After putting together the hopscotch board, have your kid throw a small object on the board to see how many spaces he or she needs to hop to get the object.
Technically, kids are supposed to hop with one foot in the single squares and two feet in the side-by-side squares, but depending on the age of your children, they may be more or less precise about this.
10. Jump Rope
You have a couple options to turning jump roping (a great cardio exercise, by the way) into a race. You can see who can go the longest without stopping, or you can get a rope with a counter like I had growing up.
It counted how many successive times I had jumped rope, and I found it very motivating to see how many I could do, competing against myself. Because I often couldn’t talk my sister into playing outside with me, I used that jump rope a lot!
Indoor Fitness Games for Kids
If it’s rainy outside, these fun indoor fitness games are great options. They are also good if you have smaller numbers of kids.
11. Indoor Obstacle Course
Just like an outdoor course, you are giving your child obstacles to avoid. It’s going to be a little bit harder to do inside, but this is your opportunity to pull out things like crab walking or using a limbo stick.
The lava game is similar to an obstacle course—it’s getting from one room to another without touching the floor. Kids take this very seriously!
12. Indoor Scavenger Hunt
Indoor scavenger hunts are a great way to get your kids to get stuff for you without realizing what they are doing. Seriously, though, you can put together any list of things for kids to find.
If you want to get out because there has been a string of rainy days, consider going to the mall and having your kids find different things there. I still remember doing a scavenger hunt in the mall when I was in high school and I had a great time.
We had to down a slurpy as fast as we could and sing to someone at the cash register while racing against other teams. It’s always great fun.
13. Dance Party
Dancing is a great option to get positive vibes going and some much needed energy out. Turn on some Kids Bop or whatever music will get them pumped up and encourage them to dance. Kids have no shame, so they won’t be embarrassed unless they are teenagers!
If you have a disco ball, this will make the dance party even more fun and might even get your teenagers moving ever so slightly!
We all grew up on Twister and likely loved playing it. This is the way to get some stretching in with it being fun! If you’re feeling particularly good-natured, you could even play Twister with your kids, but they will likely show you up.
15. Stair Ball
Depending on where the stairs are located in your house, “stair ball” may or may not be a good game, but it’s an easy option, and you only need two people. Have one person at the top and one person at the bottom and throw a beach ball to one another.
The idea is to keep passing it back and forth so that it doesn’t hit the floor. Tell your kids that they are playing for a world record, and they will really get into it!
Kids Fitness Games With Gadgets
Finally, if your kids just don’t want to part with the gadgets, you can still get them to work out with these suggestions!
16. Garmin vivofit Jr 2
Turn your kid’s Garmin vivofit Jr into a game changer by doing a step challenge with your kids. You can do this for as little or as much time as you want. You might start first with seeing who can get the most steps in two minutes and then gradually increase and eventually work up to a day or a week!
17. Wii Kids Fitness Games
If you have a Wii, you have lots of games available to you that can be a great way to stay active and get exercise in from We Ski and Snowboard and Mario Power Tennis to Playground and Outdoor Challenge.
My personal favorite is Just Dance. My friend’s nine-year-old son can get me to play anytime if he wants to play that. I love the competitive aspect and getting to dance (because I’m a child at heart).
Just one small caution. While gadgets are all well and good, make sure that your kid is still getting outside because nothing can replace the goodness of good ol’ vitamin D!
In the end, exercise can be super fun, especially for kids. If your kids keep telling you that they’re bored and you know that they need to be more active, try some of these suggestions. Likely both you and your kids will start sleeping better at night!