7 Games to Get Kids (and Adults) Moving

We’re all getting fat, and that’s not good. I know, I know. Most people you read on the Interwebz sugar-coat it (pun totally intended) but really, society is getting fat. Diet is, arguably, the most important factor in fat gain and fat loss, but movement and education play such a major role in how people manage their health. Today, I’m going to give you seven great games that you can play with your kids, or as part of a warm-up/cool-down with adults, that gets everyone moving in a fun way. Adults, make sure you’re stretching a little before jumping in; Kids, have fun!

1. Farmers & Lumberjacks

  • Participants: 3+
  • Teams: 2
  • Equipment: 5+ cones, foam rollers, or other free-standing objects that can be knocked over safely. These are the “trees”.

This is a simple but great game to keep everyone moving. One team is made up of Farmers, and their only job is to keep the “trees” standing upright. The other team are the Lumberjacks, and their only job is to knock the “trees” down.

Here are some sample rules to keep everyone having fun:

  1. No guarding the trees
  2. Everyone has to keep moving, unless they are setting up a tree (no more than 3-4 seconds)
  3. No hitting, tripping, or shoving other players

If you want to play with kids who are more athletic or older, but also have kids who are still new, then you can make the more athletic kids do Bear Crawls when they move. For adults, Bear Crawls should be mandatory!

You can play this game in rounds of 30-60 seconds, and at the end the team with the most points (Farmers get 1 point for every standing tree at the end of the round, Lumberjacks get 1 point for every felled tree) the losing team gets to do 3-5 burpees/push-ups/whatever. The winning team gets to do 3-5 reps of whatever move they like best. No matter what, everyone is doing reps every round, so everyone is active.

2. Pizza Mats

  • Participants: 3+
  • Teams: none
  • Equipment: one AbMat or similar object for each player, called “pizzas” for the rules below.

This is a favorite at CrossFit Catonsville, and it’s really simple. Each player carries their pizza in one hand, balanced on their palm. The object of the game is to knock the pizzas off the hand of anyone else. Every time your pizza touches the floor (or if you smush your pizza, see below) you have to do 3-5 reps of a fitness move (burpees, push-ups, etc.). Once you’re done your fitness moves, retrieve your mat and get back into the game!

Here are some sample rules to keep everyone having fun:

  1. No hitting, tripping, or shoving other players
  2. No complaining
  3. Every person for themselves; no ganging up on other players
  4. At the end, everyone does 10 reps of the fitness move, no matter what

There are lots of tactics you can use to get good at this game, and players will fin ways to get good (kids and adults, both). Here are a few and whether or not I think you should allow them:

  1. Double-handing the Pizza: when you hold the pizza with two hands by any means. DON’T ALLOW.
  2. Gripping the Pizza: when you hold the pizza by the side, rather than balancing it on your hand like a pizza tray. DON’T ALLOW.
  3. Fancy Evasion: when you bob and weave the pizza on one hand to avoid being knocked off. ALLOW.
  4. Thrown Hand Switch: when you toss the pizza between hands, never touching it with both hands at once. ALLOW.
  5. Sacrifice Play: when you toss your pizza in order to knock down someone else’s pizza. CAUTION. Allow this only with a group that can handle it with accuracy.

Smushing the Pizza:

  • If a player double-hands the pizza (see tactics above) or holds the pizza into their body so it’s sandwiched between their hand and any body part, then they have smushed their pizza. They must immediately do reps of the fitness move as though they had dropped their pizza, and then get back in the game.

3. Calisthenic Limbo

  • Participants: 3+
  • Teams: none
  • Equipment:  Recommended to have one limbo pole per 6 players

Limbo, with a twist! Split players into groups of 6, each group should have their own limbo pole (about 5-7 feet long tends to work well). The players start in front of the pole, and do 3-5 reps of a fitness move, then they limbo under the poll, and on the other side do 3-5 reps of another fitness move. Once all players go through, lower the pole 1-4 inches and repeat. Once the poll gets low enough, players have the option of going under OR over the pole.

Here are some sample rules to keep everyone having fun:

  1. No hitting, tripping, or shoving other players
  2. As long as the player is doing something moderately athletic, they can go over or under the pole however they want within reason. Be judicious on what you allow.
  3. No one is ever “out”. Pick a number of rounds and let everyone go through all of them. It’s about fitness, not winning.

4. Ninja Dodge Ball

  • Participants: 4+
  • Teams: 2
  • Equipment: one or more dodge balls safe to throw at someone else (recommend 2-3 balls per team to keep the game moving)

Throw the ball, dodge the ball, don’t get hit! Ninja Dodge Ball is a play on the old goodie with some fun additions:

  • Set a place to be “base” for each team that is behind the play area on each side.
  • When you get hit before a bounce, you do 3-5 reps of a fitness move
  • If you catch the ball before a bounce, the thrower does 3-5 reps of a fitness move.
  • Every time you do the fitness move, you have to tag the base on your side, before returning to play. Hits and catches don’t count against you until you tag base, but your hits and catches don’t count either until you do.

Here are some sample rules to keep everyone having fun:

  1. No hitting, tripping, or shoving other players
  2. No complaining
  3. Everyone keeps moving at all times
  4. No hiding (behind things or people)
  5. If you want to keep score, the team with the least “base tags” at the end of the game time wins.
  6. You can split this into rounds of 45-60 seconds each, and keep the fitness move reps lower to keep them moving quick.
  7. If one team dominates the other (more than 50% higher score) in a round, switch one player between teams on each side.

Important Note:

Face shots are going to happen in this game. We’ve never been able to avoid it. Give a warning and let the players move on. If a player is intentionally hitting the face, be an adult and sit them out for the round. Adults should be able to follow basic directions and kids need to be taught that there are consequences to being mean (whether or not they like it). Preventing someone from having fun (especially kids) is a pretty great way to help them improve behavior without punishing them in a traditional sense. You’re not making them do something unpleasant; you’re preventing them from doing something fun.

5. Animal Races

  • Participants: 2+
  • Teams: none
  • Equipment: none, but you will need to be able to mark the start and end of the raceway

We do a lot of Animal Forms in our kids class (and a good deal in the adults class too) because they develop overall athleticism nicely. The three we use are Bear Crawl, Crab Walk, and Ape Travel. Each of those links to a YouTube video showing snippets of how they’re done (all open in a new window). Note that the Ape video has increasingly difficult progressions, and we usually only have people do the simple version at the beginning.

The object of the game is to race another player in whatever animal form you’re doing that round. I like to split it into four rounds:

  1. Bear vs. Bear: both players must race in Bear form
  2. Crab vs. Crab: both players race in Crab form
  3. Ape vs. Ape: both players race in Ape form
  4. Any vs. Any: each player chooses their own animal form to use for the race

You can also add another round where someone else picks the form for them, such as their form is picked by the person they’re racing, drawn randomly, etc. At the end of each race, the winner chooses a fitness move and both players do 3-5 reps.

Here are some sample rules to keep everyone having fun:

  1. No hitting, tripping, or shoving other players
  2. No complaining
  3. Everyone does their best and finishes each race, no matter what
  4. If you break animal form, you have to go back to where you broke it, get back into correct form, and keep going (i.e. if someone switches from Bear to Ape half way through, they have to go back to where they switched and get back into Bear, or it doesn’t count)
  5. Suspend Rule #4 for Any vs. Any races

6. Push, Pull, Clap

  • Participants: 2+ in even numbers of players
  • Teams: 2 person teams
  • Equipment: none

This is a core strength test. Each player does a standard ab plank, facing one another and within arms reach distance (but not so close that they almost bump heads). That video linked above is a little shaky but he shows the form we’re looking for. There are three basic games you can play, but more are possible:

  • Clap: each player has to keep a beat by clapping opposite hands while holding the plank. You can have them clap once, twice, etc. and the first person to miss a beat or drop the plank does 2-3 reps of a fitness movement. The other player continues to hold the plank.
  • Push: the players place same side palms together at shoulder level. At 3…2…1…GO! the players push against one another to try to knock the other out of their plank. The first to drop does 2-3 reps of a fitness movement while the winner planks.
  • Pull: the players clasp opposite hands at roughly chest level; as long as they’re off the ground it’s fine. At GO! the players try to pull one another out of the plank position. First to drop and winner perform fitness reps or plank, as above.

Here are some sample rules to keep everyone having fun:

  1. No hitting, tripping, or shoving other players
  2. No complaining

7. Fitness Poker

  • Participants: 3+
  • Teams: none
  • Equipment: a standard deck of cards for every 6 players

Shuffle the card deck, and deal out five cards to each player. Whatever hand they get determines the fitness movements they complete. This can be made completely body weight, or include barbell/weighted movements depending on the group you have playing.

Sample Card Division:

  • Spades – push-ups
  • Hearts – squats
  • Clubs – pull-ups
  • Diamonds – sit-ups
  • Jacks – wall balls
  • Queens – box jumps
  • Kings – deadlifts
  • Aces – burpees

Face cards are always 11 reps of the movement provided. Non-face cards are the movement given for reps equal to the card number.

Sample Hand:

  • Player draws: 4 Spades, 10 Diamonds, Ace Hearts, 10 Clubs, Queen Clubs
  • Player does 4 push-ups, 10 sit-ups, 11 burpees, 10 pull-ups, and 11 box jumps

Here are some sample rules to keep everyone having fun:

  1. Play three hands, and give players 5-6 minutes to finish their whole hand. If they finish early, deal them a bonus card or two (which don’t count as their hand for scoring).
  2. The players keep the best hand from all rounds played, and best hand wins.
  3. Winner picks the fitness move and all players do 15 reps