Instilling the value of physical fitness is just one of the advantages of including physical education in the daily routine of elementary children. Some kids love PE, and others wouldn’t be upset if they never played another game of dodgeball.
Gym games for kids is one of the best ways to make PE the favorite class of the day. In addition to teaching teamwork and problem solving, gym games disguise physical activity as playtime with friends. Be sure to pick games that are age appropriate and can be played by all students. If you have a child with a physical disability, alter the rules for everyone.
Hold a Dance Competition
Blast some popular music and hold a dance contest for your next gym class. If you sense that individual kids will be intimidated to strut their stuff, make it a group competition. You can even stretch this activity over several days. Form small groups and have them choreograph their own dance routine to perform at the final dance-off.
Design an Obstacle Course
Dig into that storage closet and pull out the ingredients to create a PE obstacle course.
• Use hula hoops for an agility challenge.
• Build a mountain to climb out of tumbling mats.
• Use hurdles for an army crawl.
• Create a jump rope station.
• Set up scooters for the final run.
You can even challenge your students to create the course for you. Record individual scores and encourage each child to work on beating his own score. Fun gym games like this can also be used for team competitions.
Bring Technology Into the Gym
Gym games for kids don’t have to be limited to team sports. Surprise your class by using a video game like Dance Dance Revolution as a way to spark excitement about PE class. Dance Dance Revolution combines aerobic activity, mental focus and physical coordination into a fun exercise experience. An added bonus is the opportunity to play video games at school.
Try Adventure Education
Use adventure gym activities for kids to build cooperation and teamwork. Position the class in a tight-knit circle and have them place their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. Ask them to slowly sit on the lap of the child behind them. Once the lapsit is secure, have the class walk in this position. Be sure the children are close together before they sit down.
Tie a rope between two trees. Have the class stand on one side of the rope and tell them that the task is to move the entire class to the other side without touching the rope or moving under the rope. Act as a spotter to ensure that each child is safe during the activity.
Unravel Your Class
Twist up your next gym class with a gym game called the human knot. Form small groups of 12 or less students. Ask them to stand in a circle and then reach across to grab hands with two different group members. The result is a human knot. Time the groups as they unwind without breaking hands. Try the game again to see if each team can beat its time.
Have a Sit In During Dodgeball
Dodgeball is one of the storied gym games for kids. The problem with this activity is that once you’re out, you have to sit on the sideline until the next game. Add a new rule to this game to involve the whole class for the duration of the game. If a student is tagged with a ball, have her sit down right where she was standing. She can now tag anyone who gets close enough to her. Anyone who gets tagged by a sitter must sit down and join in the tagging fun.
Keep the Ball in the Air
Bring the beach into your gym on a cold winter day. Blow up three beach balls and challenge your class to keep the balls in the air. Once they get the hang of it, ask them to keep the balls in the air without using their hands. Time the class to see how long they can go without letting a ball touch the ground. You can even run a school-wide competition to determine the ultimate class winner of the beach ball float game.
PE Doesn’t Have to Be a Drag
Gym games for kids can build stamina, strength and teamwork. Grab some burlap sacks or blankets and challenge your kids to a drag race. In partners or small teams, ask your students to drag each other across the gym floor. One child can sit on a burlap sack or a small group can sit on a blanket. The other team members must use their muscles to pull the kids across the finish line. Switch up the roles to give everyone a chance to glide across the gym.
Make Sure the Cup is Half Full
Gym activities for kids are a great way to teach patience and concentration, but they may also be challenging for some students. Try a team-oriented relay race using water, spoons and cups as an accessible way to involve everyone.
Set up teams on one side of the playground and give them each a cup of water and a spoon. Put an empty cup about 20 feet away. Have each team use the spoon to carry water to the empty cup. The first team that fills the cup beyond the halfway mark wins the race.
Build Trust Into Your Curriculum
Use cones, balls and other supplies to set up a minefield in the gym. Partner your students and blindfold one student in each dyad. The partner without a blindfold must guide his partner through the minefield. If one of the mines is disturbed, the dyad must return to the starting point. Have students swap roles and discuss the importance of communication and trust in effective teamwork.
Collect the Bunny Tails
Get your class moving with a unique game of tag. Give each child a flag and ask them to stick it in their back pocket. Use sticky notes for children who don’t have pockets.
Challenge the class to run around the gym and collect as many flags or sticky notes as they can. You can even use two colors and make it a team game. Hang up a piece of paper and post the results. Play several rounds as a way to motivate the class to better their score.
Fun Gym Games
Go retro with fun gym games from the past. Play an old-fashioned game of Twister with the entire class. If you don’t have a Twister game, use giant sticky notes or rubber discs to create your own game board. If you have a big class, run several games simultaneously. Print the directions on pieces of paper to create a playing deck. After the first game, the last student standing can read the directions for the next game.
Noodle Floor Hockey
Try this creative version of hockey to play an outdoor sport indoors. Foam noodles, whiffle balls and orange cones are all that you need to teach a soft-sided game of floor hockey. For younger children, play without a goalie. The main rules are to keep the ball on the ground and move the ball through the cones to score.
Dr. Kelly Meier earned her doctorate from Minnesota State Mankato in Educational Leadership. She is the author and co-author of 12 books and serves as a consultant in K-12 and higher education. Dr. Meier is is a regular contributor for The Equity Network and has worked in education for more than 30 years.