Childhood obesity affected about 14.7 million children and teens, aged 2-19 years, in the United States between 2017-2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and one of the best ways to prevent and reverse it is find ways to keep children active on a daily basis. Playing fun, physically active games for kids every day is one way children can get plenty of exercise. In fact, kids often prefer playing games to more formal forms of physical activity and exercise.
When deciding what games to play, the key is to keep things interesting, varied and fun. Try to switch things up frequently and give children a say in what activities they want to do. Whether it’s rainy and cold or sun-shiny warm, the whole family can enjoy these 12 active games for kids. They’re perfect for playing after school, on the weekends and even during parties.
1. Backyard Olympics
Organize a series of sporting events in your backyard or at a nearby park. Each child has to do each activity in order to earn points. At the end, kids earn medals or fun prizes. You can mimic and modify actual Olympic categories, such as the long jump, the 100-meter dash, volleyball and freestyle swimming, as well as add your own events, such as jumping rope for 60 seconds and hopping on one leg as many times as possible without tumbling over. Choose activities your children enjoy doing but that also challenge them and help them build endurance, strength and balance.
2. Dance party
Music is a great way to get children to move, and it can be done both outside in the yard and inside in the living room. For little ones, the music of their favorite television show is a great way to keep them interested. Older children will enjoy dance parties around a particular decade, such as the 80s or 90s. Providing simple costumes, wigs, sunglasses and other props makes the experience even more fun. Children can dance to the music and play games, such as musical chairs and freeze dance. You can award prizes for the most creative dancer, the best costume or the most unique music choices.
3. Pool games
From an early age, children are attracted to water play, and pool games are a great way to get some warm weather fun while exercising your body. It’s essential that you assess a child’s swimming abilities before anyone hops in the water and that adults who are good swimmers supervise games in and around the pool. Swimming itself is a great calorie-burner, but you can incorporate some kid-friendly games to increase both the fun and activity levels. Children can dive for objects, play water tag, race across the pool, toss balls back and forth and play popular pool games like Marco Polo.
4. Water games
Besides playing in the pool, you can enjoy many water games in the backyard or at the park. Children can be given small water buckets and asked to race with them; the fastest runner who spills the least amount of water wins. You can also have some fun with water balloons by playing water balloon hot potato and setting up water balloon fights.
5. Nature hike and scavenger hunt
Explore a nearby park or trail and have children locate certain objects in the form of a scavenger hunt. Before starting, decide what distance the children can walk/hike. Then plan a loop in that distance using a site like MapMyRun. Hide objects and clues along the way that the children have to find. Each clue leads to the next. To increase the exercise portion, include an activity challenge with each clue. Before kids can proceed, they have to do five jumping jacks or run in place for 30 seconds.
Instead of finding clues, you can also have your kids record the various trees and wildlife they see during the hike in a small journal. They can collect leaves from trees they encounter along the way, record the different colors of flowers and grasses they see or take photos of birds and identify them on the Internet when you get home. For more activity, you can play games around colors; when you find a yellow flower or see a yellow bird, do eight arm circles.
6. Home bowling
This one requires a little prep time so that you can collect and recycle the “pins.” Pick a long hallway in your home or clear off a section of a driveway and set up 10 empty soda bottles as the pins. Find a small rubber ball to use as a bowling ball. Your kids will have a blast knocking over the pins and running up and down the hallway or driveway to collect the ball and reposition the pins after knocking them down.
7. Mini golf
This game can be played both indoors and outside and is tons of fun for the whole family. Purchase some kids’ plastic golf clubs or make your own with a yardstick and a block toy attached at the bottom. Tip empty coffee cans on their sides to use as targets, and create tunnels, ramps and other obstacles for your mini golf course to make it more fun and challenging. To amp up the cardio, try speed mini golf. Place the coffee cans further apart so the kids can run to the next hole. The first person who completes the course wins.
8. Old fashioned games
Sometimes basic games provide the most fun. Remember the games you played when you were young: sack races, hopscotch, hide-and-seek, egg races, jump roping, hula hooping, etc. These games can be played indoors as well as outside. Be nostalgic and share them with your kids.
9. Watch a show (yes, really!)
Generally, screen time is associated with being sedentary. However, there are a number of shows that inspire active play, including “Floor Is Lava” and “American Ninja Warrior” for older kids and “Gabby’s Dollhouse: Cat-Tastic Dance Along” and “Cosmic Kids Yoga” for the younger set. To keep the action going, try creating a show-inspired game afterwards, because fact: No child will turn down the chance to play floor is lava in their living room.
10. Jump rope
Kids are way more likely to pick up their jump ropes — and continue to use them — when they have a slew of jump rope rhymes and songs in their arsenal. Not only are they catchy (admit it), they provide a specific goal for kids to go after.
11. Frisbee games
There’s so much more to Frisbees than getting them from Point A to Point B, which, let’s face it, can get old after a bit. From Frisbee tag to Frisbee baseball, there are a number of Frisbee games that will get — and keep — kids moving outside.
12. Obstacle courses
No child in the history of children has ever disliked an obstacle course — particularly if their parent or caregiver made it. Whether you want to keep things pretty low-key and simple for toddlers and little ones or want to get a little more adventurous for the older set, obstacle courses are always a good idea!