A few minutes is all it takes to raise the energy in the room—and promote fitness, too.

by Elizabeth Pagel-Hogan


Family fitness nights are great, but you don’t have to plan an entire event to promote health and fitness at your school. Efforts that work a few minutes of movement into all of your events— whether it’s a Hula-Hoop contest before a meeting or a dance break in the middle of bingo night—add up and make a difference.

Perhaps the simplest way to work activity into your events is to give children time and space to play. For example, when Nicki Jiran was principal at Kirkersville (Ohio) Elementary, the school held movie nights outdoors on its large wooden playground. “Kids and parents would play and run and then settle in watch a movie,” she explains.

Even if your school doesn’t have the right weather or equipment for an outdoor event, there are plenty of fun activities you can try.

PE Sampler

Ask the school’s PE teacher to come to a parent group event and teach a game. If the teacher isn’t available, borrow equipment like jump ropes and scooters. Before the event starts, challenge a few brave parents to a race or other contest.

Dance Party

Blast some fun tunes on the school loudspeakers and encourage families to get up and move however they want. Invite your school mascot to your next family event to show off his moves and encourage families to dance. Or go online and find a video that teaches dance moves. At Kirkersville Elementary, the school played YouTube videos at a sock hop to teach classic ’50s dances like the Mashed Potato, the Twist, and the Hokey Pokey.

Balloon Tennis

Set up nets in the gym and divide people into teams for games with balloons and fly swatters. If you can’t set up nets, a simple variation is to challenge teams to keep the balloons in the air. Make it tougher by adding in rules like “only use your left hand” or “only use your elbows.”

Laser Maze

For family nights featuring spy books or movies, create a laser maze in the library. Stretch crepe paper at different angles and heights across bookshelves to represent laser beams and challenge people to make it through without hitting any. To make it fun for all ages, add a timed challenge or create easy, medium, and hard levels.

Over and Under

This game works with large or small groups, indoors or out. Divide the group into two teams. Teams line up in parallel lines, all facing the front of the line. Each team gets a ball. The first person in line passes a ball overhead to the person behind. The second person passes it under, between his legs, to the person behind. Teams continue passing over and under until the ball reaches the end of the line. For younger groups, the winner is the team that gets the ball to end of the line first. For older groups, the ball must go all the way back to the start in the same pattern for a team to win.

Relay Race Tic-Tac-Toe

Divide the group into teams. Lay out a tic-tac-toe board on the ground. (Use painter’s tape or Hula-Hoops to create the board.) Each team only gets three items. One person from each team races to the tic-tac-toe board and places their item. If no one has won after three people have gone, the next players go and move one of their items to a new position until one team wins. Get creative here and use items that relate to your family night, like fruits and vegetables, sports teams, or historic items. You could also add challenges like obstacles or require people to hop or skip to the board.

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