Regular exercise can work wonders for children. It builds strong bones and muscles, enhances cardiorespiratory fitness, controls weight, improves focus, and helps reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. It’s also been shown to reduce the risk of things like cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis. Regular physical activity has many benefits, so it’s no surprise that most experts recommend that children ages 6 to 17 should get at least 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity every day and that can be a challenge, especially with kids who aren’t as naturally active. It’s also been particularly challenging thanks to COVID. With kids stuck inside and our lives in a state of constant upheaval, just getting dressed and knocking out a couple of lessons can be a major achievement.
That’s why we decided to create a guide for physical activities for kids at home. Whether you’re a homeschooling parent or a teacher whose students have moved to online courses, we’ve got you covered with an idea that will help you implement physical education at home.
Ideas for PE Activities at Home
We dug through PE ideas from exercise gurus, seasoned homeschoolers, and pandemic parents to bring you the best, most practical, and most joy-filled ideas for getting your kids moving, happy, and healthy.
Make an Activity Jar
Take an empty mason jar and fill it with ideas for activities. When your kids need a wiggle break, have them reach in the jar and pull out an activity challenge. Here are a few ideas that you can put in your activity jar:
*Do a handstand
*Have a 15-minute hide-and-seek session
*Hold a plank for 1 minute
*Do 50 jumping jacks
*Have a crab walk race
*Invent a dance
*Imitate 7 animals (including sound and movement)
*Do 50 sit-ups
*Do lunges to your room and back
It’s a good idea to let the kids come up with most of the ideas for activities; there’s a better chance they’ll want to do them when they pull them out of the jar.
Some clever parents even incorporate chores into the activity jar like:
*Washing the car
*Walking the dog
*Cleaning the windows
*Gathering the laundry
*Doing a quick pick up
Of course, these might require some incentivizing. Consider making a separate rewards jar for when your kids pull a productive activity (ahem, chore).
Those who were alive during the 1918 flu pandemic didn’t have workout channels on YouTube, so we’ve got that going for us. They’re an almost-inexhaustible resource for exercise. Need a 5-minute, full-body strength workout for kids? There’s a video for it. Want a 30-minute Pilates-based exercise the whole family can do? You’ll find one in 30 seconds flat. Want one that incorporates dance or has a goofy cartoon character? It might take some searching, but it’s there. Technology has so many benefits when it comes to learning, so why not use technology in your PE activities at home?
The ubiquity of kid workout videos is a blessing, to be sure. But it also means everyone and their mother has a workout video and quality can vary. Be sure you’re using reputable videos from people and channels that understand the types of exercises and activities that are appropriate for your students’ age group.
When you see your students are getting restless, take a 15-minute break for some chair aerobics. Without even getting up, they can do bike pedaling, chair jacks, chair running, power holds, and healthy stretches. Or, you can have them get up and use the chair for more advanced exercises like dips, step-ups, toe taps, squats, and more.
If you’re not sure what will work, the internet is full of ideas for chair exercises for kids, complete with handy printouts, instructional videos, and complete routines.
Pump Up the Jams
Some kids can get motivated to move just by turning on some upbeat music. Whether it’s dancing, doing air guitar, or belting out their best Taylor Swift impression, music has a way of lighting a spark. And playing music during a workout doesn’t just help with boredom. Studies have found some incredible workout-boosting benefits for kids — the right jams can increase endorphins, promote metabolic efficiency, increase endurance, and raise the heart rate.
Here’s an idea — sit down with your kids and have them make a playlist of tunes that get them going.
Almost anywhere you are in the country, there are places you can go to experience nature and get active. If your town has a greenway, a family walk can help your kids expend energy and refocus. If there’s a park or field nearby, a soccer ball, football, gloves and baseballs, frisbees, or any cheap sports equipment can be the ticket to healthy, fun exercise sessions.
Hikes are also a fantastic way to combine the peaceful benefits of nature with some vigorous cardio.
Make Indoor Games
Of course, it’s not always convenient or even possible to go spend an hour outside every day. That’s okay — there are plenty of ways to make sure your kids get their sweat on indoors. Here are a few ideas:
Nondestructive and oh-so-versatile painter’s tape can be used to make a hopscotch court or in a wealth of fun, active games (look up Best Foot Forward, First Things First, Whatcha Doin, and Wave Relays).
Simon Says can be turned into a cardio game pretty easily. As an indoor game, you can have your students/kids do jumping jacks, push-ups, standing on one foot, and shaking their bodies.
Charades hits that sweet spot between physical activity, competition, and silliness. And there are all sorts of variations to keep it interesting: sports charades, movie charades, animal charades, emoji charades, and so on. Although not a strict exercise, it still gets kids up and moving.
__The Floor is Lava__
It’s an oldie but a goodie. Put down pillows, towels, or shoes and have kids try to navigate from one side of the house to the other without touching the floor.
You can also have a game of fitness bingo where you draw cards that instruct your students/kids to do push-ups, burpees, mountain climbers, jumping rope, or running in place. The first kid to mark off all their squares wins.
We’ll give you a second to recover from your spit take. There.
So, video games don’t have to be a brain-dead, zoned-out, couch-potato activity. In fact, over the last decade, the video game industry has developed all sorts of games and equipment that make exercise more fun than it has any right being. It’s called exergaming and it’s an awesome way to get in those 60 minutes of moderate activity.
Some video games do it on the sly by using dance or sports competitions (like baseball or tennis) to get kids moving. Others are designed explicitly for exercise and even come with equipment like rings, punching bags, and smart mats.
Consider a PE Curriculum
Many educational organizations offer well-thought-out, pre-made homeschool physical education lesson plans that take the guesswork out of PE. Some do cost something, either a one-time expense or a monthly fee, but they can be worth it for parents and teachers who are busy or don’t have the time or energy to design their own physical activities for kids at home.
Tips for Implementing PE at Home
Encouraging physical fitness in kids can start habits that will keep them healthy long into adulthood. Yet, creating exercise habits can be a challenge, so here are some ways to make it easier.
#Make a Routine and Be Consistent
To make physical activity habitual, experts recommend creating an exercise plan and sticking to it. Making an exercise calendar can help — it’ll give parents, teachers, and kids a clear understanding of how PE will fit into their day. Once you have convenient times set up, you stay consistent with them, even when you don’t feel like it.
#Set Clear Goals
Having clear, achievable goals adds an element of challenge to exercising, which is a great way to keep them motivated. If it’s running, add a little more distance to each run every week. Or, go for faster times. If it’s a workout routine, set a goal that adds 1-2 extra reps each week.
#Be a Role Model
If your kids/students see that you’re having fun being physically active, they’re far more likely to follow suit. In fact, getting the whole family involved is one of the most successful and sustainable ways to maintain exercise habits.
#Focus on the Fun
Forget about “no pain, no gain” — never lose sight of the idea that physical fitness should be fun. If it’s becoming a chore, don’t be afraid to completely change it up!
Rewards are a great way to give your kids a pat on the back for a job well done (and it trains the brain to keep going). These can be internal rewards — like noticing the good feelings that exercise brings — or external rewards, like movie nights, TV time, or healthy food treats for meeting a weekly exercise goal.