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12 Gym Class Classics Your Kids Can Do at Home

A group of children running and playing under a parachute.
Oksana Shufrych/Shutterstock

Worried your kids aren’t getting enough exercise while they’re stuck at home? It’s a valid concern. Fortunately, there are some fun, classic gym class activities that can motivate your kids to get up and moving!

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends school-aged children get at least an hour of exercise per day. If your family’s not meeting this goal, we recommend you make it a priority in the daily schedule.

It’s just as important as academics and chores. In fact, with the extra boost from exercise, you might find your kids’ ability to focus on schoolwork improves.

It’s time to put down those screens and get those hearts racing!

A Parachute

Parachutes are a versatile gym class accessory that kids absolutely love. While the kind gym teachers use for a class of 20+ kids are quite large, you can purchase a smaller one. This six-foot parachute is easy to use in your backyard, or even your living room.

If you have a larger family or a playgroup pod, you can size up to a 12- or even 20-foot parachute.

Not sure what to do with it? Check out these fun parachute games. If you have a small family, you can tie one end of the parachute to a tree or the side of a deck.

Freeze Dance

Three children playing freeze dance.
shurkin_son/Shutterstock

A dance party is a great way to squeeze in some exercise. The freeze element just makes it more of a game.

Start by picking a song everyone loves. Then, encourage your kids to dance like uninhibited wildebeests (that’s how mine dance, anyway). Hit pause at random intervals and call on anyone who’s still moving or talking. The goal is to remain as still as possible whenever the music stops.

You can make it more challenging by calling out specific movements during the dance portions, like hop on one foot, act like a monkey, or do froggy jumps. Or, tell everyone they have to balance on one foot when the music stops—just make sure there’s enough space for some kiddos to fall over!

Simon Says

Not only does this game get everyone moving, but it helps strengthen your kids’ attention and listening skills. You can call out any action, such as, “Simon says jump in circles,” or, “Simon says do cartwheels.”

The key is to shout out the instructions one after another, and then eventually drop the “Simon says” part and see who still obeys the command.

Give every child a chance to be Simon (this is especially fun for younger kids). You can also play a socially-distanced version of this game with friends or neighbors in the backyard. Just make sure everyone wears a mask and remains six feet apart.

Ball Toss

Have a large ball lying around? Form a circle outside and toss it from person to person. Expand the circle if it’s too easy.

On rainy, cold days, consider tossing a stuffed animal around inside. If you can, slide some furniture out of the way to make more space.

You can also take this game to the next level by including an action. For example, try shouting, “Jump!” as you toss the ball.

An Obstacle Course

Get your kids sweating by creating an exciting, challenging obstacle course. They’ll be worn out in no time!

You can use anything you have on hand, such as chairs, hoops, old stumps—you name it! Check out the video above to create a course using only stuff you can buy at the dollar store. Talk about cheap! You can also add a slack line for an extra challenge.

Once your kids get the hang of it, time them to see if they can beat their previous scores. Feel free to join in—after all, exercise is good for you, too.

Races

If you lack supplies or cash, there’s nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned race. Kids love to run, and it’ll get everyone’s heart rate up. You can have them race from one end of the yard and back, or down the sidewalk.

Check out these in- and outdoor relay races for some more inspiration.

Dodgeball

Ah, the classic don’t-get-hit-by-a-ball game. Fun times, right?

Make sure you use a ball that’s soft enough and instruct your kids not to aim at each other’s heads, or other sensitive areas. Alternatively, you can have everyone put on their swimsuits and fill up some water balloons!

This game can easily transition into tag if things get too intense.

Jump Rope

Jumping rope is a great way to get fit, and jump ropes don’t cost much either! You can also watch the video above and learn how to make your own out of old T-shirts.

Once everyone has a rope, check out these fun games and activities to get started.

Hula Hoop

The art of hula hooping is far more complex than simply spinning a hoop around your waist. Get the kids to try some new tricks, like spinning the hoop around their knees.

You can also use hula hoops for other activities, like including it in an obstacle course or using it as a jump rope. Cool!

Capture the Flag

This fun, fast-paced game will not only get your kids moving, but it will also teach them the importance of teamwork.

Below are a few things you’ll need, and the general rules of the game:

  • Open space: They’ll need space to run. Obstacles, like bushes, trees, or sheds, can make the game more challenging. Go to a nearby park, if necessary.
  • Flags: Each team will need to make a flag. You can use old socks, T-shirts, bandannas, or cut up some towels.
  • Two teams: Split the players evenly. You can do mixed-age teams, or play kids versus adults.
  • Territories: Mark off an equal-sized territory for each team. You can use cones, tape, ribbons, chalk, or whatever you have on hand to define the boundaries.
  • Safety: Examine the terrain before playing, and remove any lawn tools, balls, toys, and so on.
  • Capture the flag: The goal is to grab an opposing team’s flag and return to your territory, without getting caught!

Here are the full rules, along with some variations to make it even more fun.

Tumbling

A young girl doing a cartwheel on some grass.
Pavel L Photo and Video/Shutterstock

Get a small tumbling mat and teach your kids how to do somersaults, cartwheels, or even handstands.

More advanced stuff, like the hands-free aerial cartwheel, is probably best left at the tumbling gym with a gymnastics coach, though.

Planking and Push-Ups

Planking is not only easy to do, but it requires no equipment! It also strengthens tons of core muscles. Add in some push-ups and a round of sit-ups, and the whole family can get some daily core training!

If you get bored with regular push-ups, there are lots of variations. Try a different one each day for an extra challenge.

You can also make planking a competition, with family members taking turns calling out “Plank!” throughout the day. Everyone then has to drop whatever they’re doing, assume plank position, and then see who can hold it the longest. Offering prizes and incentives can make it even more fun.


Including some daily exercise in your quarantine life doesn’t have to be a struggle. In fact, it can even be fun! These PE classics might even have your kids begging for more. Don’t forget to join in and get your heart pumping, too. If you want some more activities, consider signing up for an online fitness class.

Jill A. Chafin Jill A. Chafin
Jill A. Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »

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