Five Fun Workout Games for Healthy Kids
By Kedric Fink, West Chester Area YMCA Team Member
Kedric Fink, a Certified Personal Trainer with the National Academy of Sports Science, is a Personal Trainer for the West Chester Area YMCA. He’s been working with children to make exercise fun since 1999. Here are five of his favorite games that help keep kids moving.
Instilling healthy habits into children helps them grow into healthy adults. Making exercise fun turns working out from a chore to be sluggishly completed -- and never fully adopted -- into an activity that they look forward to time and time again.
You may have heard that kids shouldn’t lift weights, and that’s partially right. Kids shouldn’t be lifting heavy weights. What they should be doing instead is working on coordination, which can involve traditional weightlifting movements as long as the weights are light. The younger the child, the more they should be working on simple gross movement patterns. These are things like squats, jumping jacks, side shuffles, pushups and pullups that they should be doing. As they get older, they can work on fine movement patterns and highly complex movements, such as fine-tuning hand and foot position or perfecting a barbell clean (An Olympic Weightlifting movement where a lifter moves a barbell from the floor to a position across the shoulders).
With that in mind, here are five fun workout games for kids that you can do at home which will help improve their coordination, conditioning and overall strength.
Place a single marker, such as a cone or tennis ball, on the floor and a set of five markers about 30 feet away. Start at the single marker and run to the set of five markers 30 feet away. Pick up one marker, run back with it, and place it next to the starting marker. Repeat for all markers. Once completed, replace the set of five markers 30 feet away (kids love to help set things back up). To add a little competition, set up two lanes side by side for a race.
To make it fun, use different types of footwork instead of running. You can use things like side shuffles, grapevines, and backpedaling. You can even use bear crawls and crab walks to go back and forth. To change it up even more, do an exercise after running down to the set of five markers but before picking up a marker to run back with it. You can do things like completing three to five repetitions of pushups, squats, situps, jumping jacks, or burpees each time. To supercharge it, combine a footwork pattern with an exercise (e.g. grapevines and situps).
Choose any six fitness activities (planks, lunges, pushups, curls, jumping jacks, etc.). Set up the “X” circuit using any kind of markers as shown below. For two minutes, participants run through the circuit, completing everything in the direction shown below. Go through as many times as possible in the two minutes. However, emphasize that proper form and technique is more important than speed. After the two minutes, take a quick break and then go again. Repeat as desired.
Want to switch it up? Change the time, change the exercises or have them run from station to station with different footwork patterns like side shuffles, grapevines, bear crawls, etc.
*A Burpee is an exercise performed by bending over and placing the hands on the ground, jumping the feet back so that the body is in a pushup position, returning to the standing position and jumping once.
Cross Over Relay
It’s time to challenge your child and his or her friends to improve their fitness levels with a great combination of running and throwing. Divide the group into two teams and designate a starting line and goal line. Make sure the goal line is within throwing distance of the start line. Have the children form a single file line side-by-side behind the start. When you say, "Go," the first child in each team runs to the goal line while carrying a basketball. As soon as the child crosses the goal, they turn around and throw the ball to the next teammate. The team that gets all its members to the goal line first AND is standing in a straight line wins.
Timed Scavenger Hunt
Hide five tennis balls around the house and write five different exercises on four different pieces of paper and place it under each tennis ball, such as 20 jumping jacks or 10 pushups. When the child finds the tennis ball, they must complete the exercise and bring the tennis ball back to “home base”, which is wherever you are. They have five minutes to bring all five tennis balls back to the home base.
Kids love jumping rope. Start by showing them how to do a basic jump where they jump rope with both feet together, then show them how to alternate feet. Move on to criss-cross and jumping rope jumping jacks. Sure, this means that you need to know how to do all these things, too, but what’s a better way to teach your children that staying fit and healthy matters than by doing it with them yourself.