Fun Physical Activities For Kids

Children need plenty of large motor activity to redirect excess energy. Before you throw that party, it's a good idea to know a variety of games and activities, in order to better handle the inevitable sugar rush!

Birthday parties, you say, what a nightmare! A dozen children, wired from excess sugar and excitement, running loose throughout your house. Your child's party doesn't have to be that nightmare, however. The key is knowing where you'll direct the kids next, after the presents are unwrapped and the cake and ice cream kicks in. Organized physical activities channel all that energy into a less chaotic alternative, preventing your small guests from turning into sugar-driven monsters.


Many games or activities are more appropriate for certain age groups. Usually, the more simple the game, the younger the children it will entertain. Small prizes or party favors, such as stickers, will ensure that you capture - and keep - the short attention spans of the young.

Ring Around the Rosy

This game is perfect for small children one to four years of age. Help the children stand in a circle, holding hands. Walk slowly in the circle, singing:

Ring around the rosy,

Pockets full of posies,

Ashes, ashes,

We all fall down!

On cue, everyone tumbles to the ground. Little ones especially love this part, and will beg you to play again and again!

Duck, Duck, Goose

Duck, Duck, Goose is an old classic that can easily be modified to keep kids' interest. Have the children sit cross-legged in a circle; if this is difficult, have the kids stand in a circle holding hands, and then sit down where they are. Choose one child as the first "ducker," or assume the role yourself. The ducker walks around the outside of the circle, lightly tapping each child on the head and proclaiming "duck." The ducker chooses another child by saying "goose" instead of "duck" when tapping him on the head; then the ducker runs around the circle, and the goose must get up and give chase. If the ducker reaches the goose's seat and sits down before being caught, she is safe. However, if the goose tags the ducker first, she must sit in the middle of the circle, or the "pot," until someone else is caught and takes her place. In either case, the play repeats with the goose as the new ducker. To keep things interesting, you may guide the children in finding new and creative words to replace the traditional "duck, duck, goose" - for instance, "caterpillar, caterpillar, butterfly!"

The Hokey Pokey

The Hokey Pokey is a great game for singing and shaking out the wiggles. Have the children stand in a circle, and sing:

Put your right leg in,

Put your right leg out,

Put your right leg in

And shake it all about!

Now do the Hokey Pokey

As you turn yourself around -

That's what it's all about!

Take turns with different body parts, and act out the song as you sing it - putting your leg in and out, shaking it, and turning around when the song dictates that action. Let the kids give you suggestions on body parts; there is plenty of room here for creativity!

Hot Potato

This game will force young children to simultaneously sit relatively still, take turns, and focus on one relatively challenging activity, making it a perfect way to calm the storm. Have the kids sit cross-legged in a circle. For the "hot potato," use a ball, beanbag, or other small item that is easy for little hands to catch and pass. Then, direct the children to pass the potato around the circle while you play music on a CD player, tape player, or the radio. At random intervals, stop the music; whoever holds the hot potato is caught red-handed, and must leave the circle. The winner is the last person left who has not been caught with the potato. Don't forget: as musical director, at times you must also act as referee!

Musical Chairs

Musical Chairs is similar to Hot Potato, in that it requires you man the music. However, whereas Hot Potato can be played with the children seated on the floor - or even standing - Musical Chairs requires chairs, always one less than the number of children playing. As the music plays, the children walk around the outside of a circle of chairs, all the chairs facing out; as soon as you stop the music, they must sit in the closest available chair. Whichever child is left standing must leave the circle. (Hurt feelings can be repaired by making the child Assistant Musical Director.) Take a chair from the circle, and start the music up again. As with Hot Potato, the winner is the last player who has not been "out" when the music stops.


As children get older, they become more aggressive and more competent. In general, successfully activities will be those that give them a larger range of motion and provide a greater challenge. As older children can be very competitive, it is advisable to stick to games that focus their efforts on the game and not at each other.

Red Rover

Red Rover is a good teamwork game for groups of ten or more children. Divide the children - or let them divide themselves - into two equal teams. The teams link hands in a line and face each other across a distance of at least ten or fifteen feet. Whichever team is elected to go first decides among themselves which child they want from the other team. Once they decide, the team chants in unison, "Red rover, red rover, send [child's name] right over!" The chosen child runs across the space and tries to break through the team's linked hands. If they manage to keep their hands locked, and she fails to break through, the teams gets to keep her; however, if she breaks through, she returns to her own team, taking with her a child from the opposing team. The winning team is the team that accumulates all the players. As a cautionary note, with very competitive or very hyper children, this game can become very rough, and children can get hurt; at the first sign of trouble, before things get out of hand, it's best to redirect the children to a different game.

Freeze Tag

Tag is always an excellent vent for excess energy. In Freeze Tag, one child is "it," and the rest try to keep from getting tagged. When tagged, a child must "freeze" in his tracks until another child unfreezes him (by tagging him or crawling between his legs). When a child is tagged for the third time, he replaces the original "it." There are many variations of tag, and older children will be happy to help decide what rules they will play by.

Relay Races

Relay Races are another way to put kids through their paces and out of your hair. Divide the children into small groups and give them a challenge - for instance, balancing an egg on a spoon and passing it from one person to another, jump roping, or sprinting. Team members must reach the finish line and pass the challenge off to another team member; the winner is the first team to have all its members run the race. Keep the kids involved by encouraging them to help you think of interesting challenges.

Hide and Go Seek

As children mature, they gain the ability to see the world from an exterior point of view. Because of this ability, games that require fooling others, like Hide and Go Seek, carry much appeal. Hide and Go Seek also allows kids to be creative in their hiding places. Like Freeze Tag, one person is chosen to be "it," and counts while everyone else hides. When the counter reaches a pre-determined number - twenty works well, especially if the group contains kids that can't count any higher - she yells, "Ready or not, here I come!" The first of the others found will be "it" next time; in the meantime, the found children can help find for the rest, until by the end the search has become a group effort. This game is particularly engaging in a large house or playground that affords many creative hiding places.


The rules are as important as the game. Prevent chaos by setting clear boundaries as well as providing entertainment. Your child's party doesn't have to become the nightmare you dread; with all the right tricks up your sleeve, you can make it into an event everyone will remember!

© High Speed Ventures 2011