Get the children moving with this list of physical activities for kids! We have both indoor activities and outdoor activities on this list. They are categorized into age appropriate groups, but as always, these fun physical games can be enjoyed by those who are ready and willing to have fun and get some exercise. How did you like to stay active as a kid? What physical games do you play at home? What physical activities do you do with your your kids? Let us know!
According to a 2019 study, approximately 17% of children in the United States are presenting with obesity 1. Fitting active play into a family routine helps to combat obesity as well as related health problems, like diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. It also helps with long term problems such as bone health.
Check out our newest list: 65+ Fun Nature Play Ideas for Kids
Physical Activities for Kids Ages 2-4
Look for fun physical games for kids that don’t require too much structure when they are preschool age. The tots like it best when Mom or Dad play too. Most of these activities can be done without any extra equipment.
1. Jumping Jacks
Start with 20 of these to get the blood flowing. You can easily incorporate these into a game of Simon Says if your kids are a little older! (#6 in the list). Or just let them go crazy on a mini trampoline. This is a fun activity to do to a music soundtrack.
2. Balance Beam
Very easily set up! Masking tape is all you really need – make a line on the ground and have fun! Ask your child to walk to the end only on the line. Try more lines at different angles, spirals, and zig-zags.
Variations – See who can walk the line the fastest, walk it heel-to-toe, walk it backwards, with eyes closed (take their socks off so they can feel the line), and jump down the line. If you want, you can certainly lay down and secure 2×4 pieces of wood as real balance beams!
3. Keep the Balloon Up
Be prepared as this will get rambunctious! This can definitely be one of the rowdier physical fitness games. Secure your lamps and pictures on the wall! Simply blow up some balloons and tell the kids to keep the balloons from touching the floor. What fun for the kids!
Variations – This can be a game where kids can get “out”. Round up a few judges, and if a kid hits a balloon which hits the ground then they are “out”. Last kid standing wins!
No real explanation needed here. Turn up the music and have a dance party!
Variations – This physical activity is obviously for all age groups; go ahead and make it a competition for your older kids! Or start and stop the music, having the kids freeze, to make it a laugh fest!
5. Temper Tantrum
I know, not really a parental favorite among the physical games for kids. But, go on, give the kids permission. Temper tantrum! Guaranteed to release some energy and if they really kick and rage they’ll engage their core muscles, too. Maybe mom and dad should give it a try alongside them?!!?
Physical Activities for Children Ages 5-8
At this age, we look for physical games to play as opposed to the less structured activities for the younger set and the straight exercise and sports ideas for the older kids. Make the activity fun and easy to do, and you won’t even have to ask them to play it. These are physical activities for 5 year olds to 8 year olds, but parents may love them, too.
6. Simon Says
I had so much fun playing this game with teachers even in 5th grade! But this time, you are the leader and get to work the kids up into a frenzy. First, choose someone to be “Simon”. Simon either begins a command with “Simon Says” or not. To stay in the game, kids only must follow the commands that begin with “Simon Says”. If you want to make the game difficult for older kids, simply issue commands faster and faster, and make the needed actions more and more difficult to complete.
7. Scavenger Hunt
A scavenger hunt is all about finding items from a list in certain rooms or areas of the outdoors. The kids will love checking off each item found or collected on the list. If you haven’t done this lately then you you just aren’t living!
Variations – Make this activity into a treasure hunt. You’ll just need to write the clever clues to lead them to the next clue!
8. Hot Potato
This physical activity will get giggly! Simply get a soft ball (not a softball!) or a rolled up sock and toss it to a child. Tell them toss it to someone else as quickly as possible. Everyone repeats this. When does this game end? Who knows? Just get rid of it!
Variations – Play short segments of music while they toss the “potato”, stop the music, and the last one to touch it after the music stops is out. The last child in wins.
9. Follow the Leader
No real trick here – just follow where the leader goes! Under a table? Over a tree stump? Into the kiddie pool? Oh noooo!!!
Variations – This physical activity can easily go along with Simon Says, and instead of the kids just following, they also have to do exactly what the leader does. Jumping jacks, dancing, headstands, whatever!
10. Duck, Duck, Goose (or Duck, Duck, Grey Duck for us Minnesotans!)
This classic activity needs about a minimum of 6 kids to play. Choose someone to be the Goose (or Grey Duck). All the other kids sit in a circle. The Goose then walks around the circle, tapping each kid on the head and saying “Duck”. Eventually, the Goose will say “Goose!” instead when tapping a person on the head. The tagged kid then must chase the Goose around the circle and reach him/her before they claim the vacant spot. If they do not, the tagged kid becomes the new Goose. This may be a favorite among physical games for kindergarten teachers, but even adults can enjoy a rowdy game of duck, duck, goose.
Many kids might not be able to stand on their head by themselves, so lend a helping hand!
My grade-school kids really love Cosmic Kids Yoga, which you can find on YouTube and other streaming channels, but you don’t even need a program. Just sit and stretch with them. Bonus because stretching and deep breathing have all sorts of health benefits beyond flexibility — for grown ups as well as kids.
How About Obstacle Courses for the Grade School Kids?
13. Indoor Obstacle Course
Obstacle courses make great physical games for children. I loved them as a child. Build a course using some of these ideas in any order:
- Crawl under tables.
- Use a Balance Beam as described in game number 2.
- Climb over ottomans.
- Children need to jump/somersault/crawl/crab walk from one obstacle to another.
- Put down pillows or couch cushions and the kids need to jump from one to the next. Alternatively, the kids could need to jump over the pillows or cushions!
- Perform various exercises like 20 jumping jacks.
- One of my personal favorites – crawling through a tunnel of blankets or sheets (hang them over chairs, couches, etc)
- Toss 3 sock snowballs from game number 22 into laundry baskets. You can also throw stuffed animals.
Variations – Make it a competition and time them to see who can through the whole course the fastest. There are plenty of things you can purchase for indoor obstacle courses, but I liked this one from WhatsUpMom that uses stuff around the house.
14. Outdoor Obstacle Course
The outdoor version of the obstacle course! Here are some ideas for your course to put in any order:
- Lay down a ladder and have the kids step through each rung.
- Allow only jumping/somersaulting/crawling/crab walking from one area of the course to another.
- Put down a piece of wood as a Balance Beam.
- Perform various exercises like 20 sit-ups or push-ups.
- Give each child 2 sheets of newspaper and allow each step to be taken only on a piece of newspaper. This requires the child to reach back and grab the previous step’s sheet of newspaper – tricky!
- Create a slalom – kids must run zig-zag between obstacles.
- Jump over various objects.
- Throw balls to knock down objects.
- Use water squirters to hit targets.
- Make kids fill up a cup of water, run a distance to another container, pour the water in the container, and repeat this until they fill up the container to a certain height.
Variations – For older kids, make it a competition and time them to see how long it takes them to go through the whole course.
Twin Cities Parks with Challenge Courses or Ninja Playgrounds
Northwest Greenway and Challenge Course, Plymouth
Woodridge Park, Cottage Grove
Schaper Park & Challenge Course, Golden Valley
Grassmann Park & Ninja Challenge Course, Jordan
Shoreview Commons Park
Central Park & Core Valley Fitness Park, Eagan
15. Animal Races
Some races the kids need to hop like a frog. Or run on all fours like a dog. Or maybe crawl on the ground like a lizard! Make it more fun with costumes! Which animal is fastest?
Try these different animal races. Or race to see which animal is fastest?
- Frog: Hop
- Dog: Run on all fours
- Lizard: Crawl
- Bird: Skipping & flapping your arms.
- Penguin: Waddle
- What other animals can you create special races?
16. Musical Chairs
Get your dancin’ shoes on! This game is best with at least 4 or more children playing and 1 additional person to stop the music.
Variations – If you don’t have enough chairs, then you could substitute for pieces of colored construction paper taped to the ground. When the music stops, the child who gets both feet on first claims the spot.
This is an old standby among physical activity games. We’ve all played it. We all love it. Now get in the game with those kiddos!
Variations – Laser Tag, Dart Tag, Ball Tag or Hide and seek tag. When you get found by the person who is it, run! Or you’ll be IT!
18. Jump Rope
If you don’t own jump ropes, don’t worry. You can make your own out of plastic bags!
Physical Activities for Kids ages 9-12
At this age, physical games may start to get replaced by sports for some kids, but others are still happy with playground games. Go with it.
Now this is what I call a physical activity. See if the kids can take you down! Be sure to only try this one on carpeting or grass. OK, if you have actual gym mats then you can use those, too 🙂
20. Crab walk
The crab walk will really get the kids winded. Start by sitting on the ground with your hands and feet flat on the ground. Make sure your fingers are pointing away from your body or else you will put too much pressure on your wrists. Now, raise your torso up towards the sky, about level with your shoulders. Then start to walk with your hands and feet. Let’s see how long you and the kids can keep this up! Crab walk tag, anyone?
The easiest way to do this activity is to get a piece of chalk and draw the hopscotch design on the sidewalk or driveway according to Wikipedia. Old-time fun! If you are indoors, Melissa & Doug makes a cute rug and you can play with beanbags or small stuffies.
Get some items that you can stand up like empty water bottles or plastic cups, grab a big enough ball, and start rolling to knock over the “pins”! This is the perfect game to play in hallways.
Variations – Make a target on the ground using masking tape. With each section worth different amounts of points, the kids can roll the ball trying to stop it within the different target areas, competing for points.
23. Indoor Basketball
Easily done by making a few “snowballs” out of some pairs of socks, then get a laundry basket (or something smaller to increase the physical challenges for kids). Have the kids take turns trying to make a basket, and have them try some longer shots worth more points! A child wins when they get a certain amount of points.
Variations – Each child tosses the basketball, and if they make a basket they take one step back. Repeat. Whoever steps the farthest back without missing wins.
24. Design Your Own People-Sized Board Game
If you are doing this outside, the sidewalk squares make perfect game squares and a square city block makes a great game board. Inside, you can use pillows or sheets of paper or anything big enough and flat enough to walk on. Don’t have any giant dice? Make your own following this video, but make your dimensions bigger.
Variations – This can simply be a race around the game board or you can use sidewalk chalk to add silly activities to certain blocks. i.e. “Spin around in a circle 10 times” or “Take 3 steps back”. The variations are endless.
Physical Activities for Kids Ages 13-17
For adolescents, physical games often require a social aspect. If that is the case with your teen, try these games.
26. Bocce Ball
While ladder golf is one of my go-to outdoor activities, bocce ball is my favorite! Hours of simple fun! Played with 4-8 balls and a smaller, white “jack” ball, the jack is thrown out on the lawn, and players take turns throwing their larger-sized balls towards the jack. The point is to get as close to the jack as possible, and even touching it. Scoring and full instructions can be found here.
I would wager that the ancients and cave men even did pull-ups. You and your kids should join them!
Lacrosse is becoming more and more popular as the years go by. You’ll need at least one other person with a lacrosse stick to toss a ball around!
Got a Frisbee?
29. Tic-tac-toe Frisbee
Construct a tic-tac-toe board on the ground using masking tape or chalk, with the squares big enough for a frisbee. Then take turns with your partner throwing the frisbee, attempting to land it (mostly) in a square. If successful, mark your X or O in that square. Continue until you have a winner or a “cat’s game”!
30. Ultimate (Frisbee)
Played on a soccer or American Football field, get your friends together and play a game of Ultimate! The rules are fairly simple (full rules here) – throw a frisbee to your teammates (you cannot run with the frisbee) until you get to the end zone, without letting it touch the ground. If you do, you score a point. If the frisbee hits the ground, the other team gets control and they attempt to score. I played this in college, and it’s loads of fun!
How about some Golf?
31. Disc Golf
This is the most fun when played on actual disc golf courses with real disc golf discs, but you can also play it using a frisbee in the backyard or a field. For backyard fun, you’ll need to design a few “holes”, with a starting point to throw the frisbee from and a “hole”, or target, to throw at. Your hole can be short, at 30 feet or so, or long, at 100-300 feet or more. Holes can bend around trees, or go over ravines – be creative! For each hole, simply count how many throws it takes to hit the target. The lower the score the better. Find local courses here: Disc Golf in the Twin Cities.
32. Ladder Golf
Ladder Golf is one of my favorite outdoor activities. You can either purchase it or make this yourself; it involves tossing 2 golf balls attached by strings towards a stand-up plastic ladder. Scoring is slightly more complicated than this, but it basically is 3 points for wrapping the golf balls around the top rung, 2 points for the middle rung, and 1 point for the bottom rung. So. Much. Fun!
Activities for Kids of All Ages & Families!
Games, physical activity, exercise… call it what you will. These are still great for all ages.
Push ups are a great muscle-strengthening exercise that require no equipment.
Another no-equipment, do anywhere exercise.
Get out the bikes and go for a family bike ride.
- The Best Minneapolis Bike Trails for Families
- The Best St Paul Bike Trails for Families
- The Best Bike Trails in the Twin Cities Northeast Metro
36-51. Outdoor Physical Activities & Active Games
- Soccer (Football)
- Flag football
- Two-hand touch football
- Kick Ball
- Hula Hoop
- Get to a local park to take advantage of the playground equipment. Use our Twin Cities Parks & Playgrounds Search to find a park near you.
Need More Ideas? These pages also have ideas for physical activities for kids:
- Family Sports & Fitness – Family Friendly Races, Walks & Tournaments – This calendar offers ideas for sports, fitness and games to play physically around the Twin Cities.
- 60 Fun Summer Outdoor Games for Kids – There are several fun physical games to play included in this list.
1Sanyaolu A, Okorie C, Qi X, Locke J, Rehman S. Childhood and Adolescent Obesity in the United States: A Public Health Concern. Glob Pediatr Health. 2019 Dec 1;6:2333794X19891305. doi: 10.1177/2333794X19891305. PMID: 31832491; PMCID: PMC6887808.