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PE class at home: 9 fun games to get your kids to exercise

Many schools are online-only this fall, due to the coronavirus pandemic But you can recreate PE class from home with these fun games.

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In many cities across the US, whether or not kids will return to school in the fall is a decision officials have yet to solidify. No school means a lot of things for parents, like setting up childcare, learning to home-school and figuring out meals, to name a few. 

No school also means no PE class and no organized school sports, which means many kids won't get much physical activity, if any at all -- an unfortunate fact because exercise, especially play-oriented or task-oriented exercise, is critical for the physical, emotional and intellectual development of children. 

In preparation for a potentially at-home fall semester, we rounded up some of the best active games to keep kids moving this year, including indoor games and classic outdoor activities. 

Outdoor games

It often seems the art of entertaining oneself outdoors has been lost. When I was a kid, classic and simple outdoor games like four-square and hopscotch were staples in my after-school routine, but it's rare that I see kids playing outside in their yards today. 

In truth, imitating PE class at home can be as easy as getting your kids outside for something as simple as playing catch. If video games aren't cutting it, or you don't have the means to buy a new console or game, try these free and cheap outdoor activities to get your kids moving. 

Four-square 

All you need for four-square is some sidewalk chalk, a bouncy ball and four people. There are official rules for four-square, but you can vary them based on the ability level of everyone in the group. If you don't have four people, you can make up your own rules for two or three people -- honestly, just bat a ball around for 30 minutes and call it a day. 

Hopscotch

Hopscotch, like four-square, is inexpensive and easy to play. Just load up on some sidewalk chalk, draw configurations on the ground and get hopping. Encourage your kid to draw intricate hopscotch courses and attempt tricks, like hopping all the way across on one foot or spinning to a new direction in each box. 

close up of a hopscotch course made of sidewalk chalk

You really can't go wrong with an inexpensive, easy outdoor game like hopscotch.

J. Parsons/Getty Images

Jump rope

Jumping rope is a fantastic way to exercise, and all you need is a simple jump rope. Not only does jumping rope amp up your heart rate and improve endurance, it also develops balancing and coordination skills. The bonus: This activity can be done with just one person, so if you have an only child, it's an easy way to get in some outdoor activity. If you have more people, you can try double dutch.

Obstacle courses

For extra fun, set up an obstacle course in your yard. You could purchase some items to set up, such as outdoor balance beams, but you could also use any items you already have at home, as long as you don't mind if they get dirty. Buckets, paint cans, chairs and stools, two-by-fours, blow-up pool floats and more can come together for a fun obstacle course your kid will want to do over and over.

a young boy playing on an obstacle course made of toys in a yard

Toys and objects you already have at home can make for a great obstacle course.

Cavan Images/Getty Images

Frisbee and catch 

You can't go wrong with any activity that involves throwing and catching. You can get a frisbee at any sporting goods store (or a Walmart, Target or similar store), or order one on Amazon. Baseballs, softballs, and other throwable/catchable equipment are easy to come by, too. 

Indoor games

Sometimes, weather gets in the way of fun outdoor plans. If bad weather precludes you from taking PE class outside, try these fun indoor games that are just as active.

Tape games

If you have a roll of painter's tape lying around, you can play this game. Make shapes and lines on the floor (any flooring should work, even carpet) and make up some rules to follow. For example, you could place lines at 4 inches, 6 inches, 8 inches, etc., apart and have your kid jump from one line to the other without touching the floor in the middle. When they miss a line, they have to start over from the beginning. It's fun to see how far they can make it! 

The floor is lava

This game, put simply, is unbeatable. It's one of those games that seems to entertain kids (and adults, TBH) for hours on end. It's simple, it's easy and it's active: Just place cushions, bags, shoes and other objects all over the floor and instruct your children to move around without touching any body part to the floor. 

Crab-walk races

I hope I'm not the only one who remembers crab walk races as a very significant part of elementary PE class. A deceivingly simple activity, crab-walking will leave anyone winded at the end of a 30-second bout. Set up a course in your home and have your kids race each other to the end. I can almost guarantee they'll keep going back to the start for more -- for whatever reason, it's fun to move in weird ways. 

Movement chain

If you have two or more kids, have them play the movement chain game with each other. This one's totally free -- no equipment needed! How it works: Player 1 does two repetitions of the same movement. Let's say they do two jumping jacks. Then, player 2 repeats those repetitions and adds two of their own, such as tuck jumps. 

Player 1 then does two jumping jacks, two tuck jumps and two more repetitions of a new movement. The pattern continues until one player messes up -- what usually happens is that someone forgets the sequence. You can start over at that point or, depending on how long it's been, call it a day. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.