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Fun Physical Education Activities and Games for Young Children

written by: Donna Cosmato • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 5/6/2011

Whether the sun is shining or there are storm clouds, these fun activities will have kids up and moving, improving fitness and having fun at the same time. No special skills or equipment are required, and simple directions for each game are provided.

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    It is no secret that overall obesity is on the rise in America; the most alarming facet of these rising statistics is the increase in childhood obesity. Fortunately, one of the solutions to this problem is as easy as getting up off the couch and bending, stretching, walking, running, skipping, or other physical movements.

    Take advantage of every opportunity to have children outside playing in the sun and soaking up vital vitamin D, but do not overlook the many possibilities for indoor physical activity. These games can be used by parents, teachers, or homeschoolers to encourage children to move more and learn the benefits of physical education and fitness in their own lives.

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    Outdoor Games

    Here are some time-tested physical activity games that give the muscles a good workout. Play until kids get bored, and then change to a different game or challenge. All of these activities exercise large muscle groups, encourage gross motor skills, and develop balance, coordination, and stamina.

    benefits of physical education kids 3 Freeze tag – The object of the game is to avoid being tagged; however, when someone is tagged, they must freeze into position. Running, stretching, and bending to avoid being touched improves flexibility, improves circulation, and exercises the heart.

    Don’t Bust my Bubble tag – The adult has a bubble blower and bubble solution and generates loads of colorful bubbles. Kids chase the bubbles, getting as close to the bubbles as possible without bursting them. If a bubble bursts on a child, he is out and must go to the sidelines. To make it more challenging and exercise fine motor skills, challenge the kids to catch a bubble on the palm of a hand without popping the bubble.

    Animal Parade and Stretches – Choose a child to be the leader and form the other children into a single line behind her. The leader calls out the name of an animal, like a monkey, and imitates the movement of the animal. All the children imitate the movements of the leader and parade around in a line. Let the kids take turns being the leader, and then have them form a circle. This time, the leader stands in the middle of the circle, and names an animal, like a cat. She stretches like a cat, and all the others follow her lead.

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    Indoor Games

    Rainy days do not have to mean long hours in front of the television or computer screen. Here are some quick and easy ways to incorporate movement and exercise into children’s daily routines.

    Play the children’s game “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” Touch the head, shoulders, knees, and toes, starting slowly at first and then speeding up until it is difficult to keep up. This is a favorite game of most kids, and they will happily repeat it over and over. This activity increase flexibility and works small and gross motor muscles.

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    “Duck, Duck, Goose,” is a fantastic indoor or outdoor activity. It requires no special equipment or skills, and it can be modified to fit special holidays or themed lesson plans. For example, for Halloween it can be “Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Ghost,” or for a mouse-themed unit why not call it “Mouse, Mouse, Cat?”

    All the kids except one sit in a circle on the floor; the other child stands. The standing child moves around the circle, touching the other kids on the head and saying “duck” or “goose”. The ducks stay sitting, but the child who is called “goose” stands, chases the other child around the circle, and tries to take his seat. Whoever is left standing becomes it.

    These are just a few of the many fun and traditional childhood games that promote physical movement and encourage exercise. No matter whether you take a walk with your child, play on the playground together, or dance in time to some music, setting the example and encouraging your child to become physically fit benefits everyone. 

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    Wikipedia, “List of Traditional Children’s Games,” accessed 06/30/2010

    Wilderdom, “Physical Games & Activities for Groups,” accessed 06/30/2010

    Image: <a href="">Playground At The Park</a> by Shari Weinsheimer