Editor’s note: This article has been updated with adaptations to do at home, along with some new virtual ideas.
Have eight to 10 kids hold the edges of the parachute and toss light plastic or foam balls on top. Tell the children to start popping the balls up by making waves with the parachute. Add more balls throughout the game to see how many can stay in before any fall out. (grades K-2)
At home: While the majority of families don’t have eight to 10 kids, younger kids do love this game and it’s doable as long as at least two people can hold the “parachute.” Use any tarp (or even a sheet folded up) and light plastic balls.
Balloon Pop Relay Race
You’ll need several inflated balloons and a chair. The object is for the children to take a balloon, run to place it on a chair, and sit on the balloon until it pops. (K-5)
At home: A scaled-down version of this is completely doable as is; it’s just a matter of whether you have, or feel like ordering, balloons. You could also use bubble wrap or air packs that many companies use to ship products and make the object of the game whoever can pop all their bubbles first.
Pool Noodle “Baseball”
Use cones or other markers to set up a goal. Cut pool noodles in half and have kids swing their noodle “bats” at a beach ball or other large, light ball with the object of getting the ball through the goal. (grades K-2)
At home: If you don’t have pool noodles, you can substitute a large plastic bottle for the “bat.” If you don’t have the yard space, use jump rope or sidewalk chalk to mark the goal line and have kids get the ball past the line. Indoors you could have try to get the ball into an empty laundry basket.
Set up about 10 bubble plates or buckets and pour bubble solution into them. Place different wands into the buckets (or bubble guns if desired) for kids to make and pop bubbles. For this activity, be sure to caution the students about safety and not getting the solution in their eyes. (grades K-2)
At home: No bubble solution on hand? Try this three-ingredient recipe for homemade bubbles from the artful parent.
Tug of War
It doesn’t get more old-school than this. Round up teams of students (and if you like, an adult or two on each team) and have them pull the opposite ends of the rope to see which team is the strongest. (grades K-5)
At home: If you happen to have an appropriate rope in your garage, have a parent vs. parent or parent vs. kids tug of war, or split up a family into one- to two-person teams.
Golf Ball Bowling
Set up bowling pins and give participants three chances to knock down the pins with a golf ball. (grades 3-5)
At home: You might not have plastic bowling pins around, but you probably have at least a few plastic bottles in your recycling. Set them up (size and shape don’t really matter) and use any kind of ball. Tip: choose a hallway or other narrow area in your house so that “gutter balls” bounce back into the “bowling lane” rather than rolling under the couch or another hard-to-grab place.
Car Wash Relay
Fill a bucket with water and place a sponge in it. The object of the game is for the child to run with the sponge to a cup and squeeze as much water into it as he can. (grades 3-5)
At home: Talk about a win—to your kids, it’s a game. To you, it’s a clean car.
Use feed sacks or pillow cases. Participants put both legs in their sack and jump to the finish line. (grades 3-5)
At home: This is adaptable as is, indoors or outdoors. If you’d rather not use your pillowcases, use scarves, stockings, or old rags to tie legs together.
Hula-Hoop Ring Toss
Set up 15 to 20 cones, a mix of small, medium, and large, on a field or pavement. Have kids try to toss Hula-Hoops over the cones. (grades 3-5)
At home: Have kids try to get the Hula-Hoop over an empty box. If you don’t have cones or empty cardboard boxes, stuffed animals can work.
Water Balloon Toss
The key to a successful water balloon toss is making sure you have enough prefilled balloons. For the toss, partners stand about a foot apart and toss the balloon back and forth. After each successful toss, one partner takes a step back. Let the pairs continue to toss until their balloon bursts. (grades 3-5)
At home: If you have or plan to order balloons for the balloon pop relay race, save a few for a water balloon toss on a warm day. If you do order them, look for those with a part that connects to a faucet, so a bunch of balloons are filled at the same time.
For this activity, you’ll need to ask for donations of large empty tissue boxes ahead of time. Cut the back side of the boxes to make two slits approximately 4 to 5 inches apart. Slide belts through the slits in each box, fill the boxes with table tennis balls, strap the belts around students’ waists, and challenge them to shake the balls out of the box. (grades 3-5)
At home: Use pantyhose for the “belts” and reinforce the boxes with tape around the cuts you make. Tip: Be mindful of where you do this activity indoors; it’s another one where balls can roll in and under many places.
Other Fun and Active Ideas To Try At Home
Fill it up with movement ideas like “7 jump-ups” or “run around the house twice.” Pull out a few of the activities for a quick mini “field day.”
Homemade Obstacle Course
The sky’s really the limit with this oldie but goodie. Some ideas:
Use ping pong balls or balled-up socks for a ball toss game (make it in the bucket or box), or toss throw pillows into a laundry basket
Set up cup stacking, a station where kids have to stack and unstack items
Have them put blocks or Legos in a basket, carry it to a certain spot, return to the start, and pour them out for the next player
Time players to see who completes the course fastest
Have players take turns setting up new obstacle courses
Virtual PE Classes and Activities
This list from We Are Teachers features free kids’ classes from dance to HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and includes options for all ages.
Virtual “Go Find Something” Game
This involves some sleuthing and movement. Parents can facilitate a videochat where kids are asked to find something in their homes (a big book, a TV remote, etc.); the first person to bring it back to the camera wins.
Simon Says—in Person or Virtual
This (another oldie-but-goodie) is suitable for a group or just a few friends, and it works well on a videoconferencing platform like Zoom where everyone can see what everyone else is doing. Kids can take turns being the leader, or an adult can facilitate.
Here's a fun way to play ball indoors. Just watch out for ceiling fans!
Use any kind of small ball and a broom or baseball bat for the golf club. Challenge players to hit the ball under the legs of a designated kitchen chair or into the next room. Make it harder by placing obstacles that players have to hit around (kids’ toys, cereal boxes, or canned food will all work).
Originally posted in 2016 and updated regularly. Special thanks to retired gym teacher Kathy Hibbard of Littleton, Mass., schools for contributing to this article.