If you’ve been trying to find the right time to up your family’s fitness level, May is it. Today kicks off National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. Whether you’re a parent, coach, PE teacher, fitness professional or simply an activity advocate, we at ACE want to help you help the kids (and adults!) in your life have a blast while getting fit through sports and play. So gather the neighborhood kids (and their parents!), find a safe green space and get started with these seven fun and active games developed by Avery D. Faigenbaum, Ph.D., and Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., authors of ACE’s Youth Fitness Manual.
Beach Ball High
With this game, all ages can have a blast while building balance, coordination, agility and teamwork skills.
How to play: Ask the kids and adults to scatter around an open play area, free of hazards. One player tosses the ball in the air and the group tries to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible. Remind the kids to hit the ball up in the air and encourage them to shout out the number of times the ball was hit. If the ball hits the ground, the game starts over. As the players get better at the game, add more beach balls in the mix.
Equipment needed: at least 1 beach ball
Cat and Mouse
This backyard game builds core strength in the abdominals and lower back, while teaching cooperation and teamwork .
How to play: All players stand in a circle with feet shoulder-width apart. One player starts with the “mouse” ball and another player on the opposite side of the circle starts with the “cat” ball. After you say “go!”, the players turn their torso from side to side to receive the ball and then pass it to the next player in the circle. The goal is to move the balls around the circle as fast as they can so the “mouse” ball is not caught by the “cat” ball. Remind players that the ball must be passed and not thrown, and that the purpose is to twist the upper body from side to side when moving the balls.
Equipment needed: foam ball or medicine ball
This game develops power, agility and coordination in older kids, teens and adults.
How to play: Tie one end of a long clothesline (about 8 feet) to a sock filled with sand (this is the “bola”). Ask the group to form a circle and then choose a player to stand in the middle of the circle holding the bola. That person then turns in a circle swinging the bola while gradually letting out the rope so that it is long enough for the players to jump over it. Remind the player in the center of the circle to keep the bola close to the ground and to slowly increase the speed of swinging the bola as the players get better at the game. When a player misses a jump, that player goes to the center to swing the bola.
Equipment needed: clothesline, sock, sand
This game builds agility, balance, and lower-body strength and endurance.
How to play: Players should stand in a large circle with their feet shoulder-width apart. The feet of the players should touch (side to side). Players squat down until their thighs are parallel to the ground and hold this position and place their arms in front of their bodies . Then, an adult rolls a foam ball into the circle and the players try to score a goal by using their hands to hit the ball between the legs of an opposing player. If the ball travels between the players, it is out of bounds and should be returned to the circle. Players can use their hands to stop a goal, but must try to maintain a proper squat position with head up and back flat.
Equipment needed: foam soccer ball (Note: Always use a foam ball for safety.)
This activity increases upper- body strength and endurance in older kids, teens and adults.
How to play: Two players get in a push-up position (legs straight and arms extended) and face each other head to head (about 2 to 3 feet apart). A bean bag is used for the puck and each player’s arms are used as the goal. One player begins the game by supporting his or her body weight with one hand, using the other hand to push the bean bag through the hands of the opponent. Then the other player gets a chance to score a goal. Encourage players to alternate which hand is used to support their body weight. To make the game easier, players can support their body weight on their hands and knees. To make it more difficult, the players can move further apart.
Equipment needed: bean bag
This game builds endurance, agility, balance, coordination and teamwork while upping the fun factor !
How to play: Players in groups of four to five form a train by placing their hands on the hips of the person immediately in front of them. The front of each train aims to link up to the back end of any other train while trying to avoid being linked onto from behind by another train. If one train does hitch up with another, the two parts continue as one unit, trying to join up with other smaller pieces. Soon, all the small trains will be linked into one large one. The front engine can then try to catch up and link to the last car.
Equipment needed: none
These variations on tag equal fun running games that develop speed, endurance and agility. Here is a sampling of options:
- “Blob” tag – two players hold hands and become the “blob,” which runs around trying to tag the other players. As players are tagged they become part of the “blob” by holding hands. Other players are not allowed to break the chain of the “blob.” For variety, play the game with two “blobs.”
- “Freeze” tag or Tunnel tag – one player who is “it” tries to tag the other players. When players are tagged, they must freeze and stand with their legs spread apart. F or a player to become “unfrozen,” another player must crawl through the “frozen” player’s legs without getting tagged.
- Tail tag – e ach player gets a “tail” (a piece of cloth or a sock) and tucks it into the back of his or her shorts at the waist. When the instructor says go, the players run around and try to get the “tails” from the other players. When all of the players have lost their “tails,” start the game again.
- Equipment needed: Most tag games require no equipment. Tail tag requires a piece of cloth or sock.
Adapted from the ACE Youth Fitness Manual by Avery D. Faigenbaum and Wayne L. Westcott, published in 2013. The ACE Youth Fitness Manual and more information about the ACE Youth Fitness Specialty Certification is available at acefitness.org.
In celebration of this National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, ACE is hosting a variety of events, including:
- Wednesday, May 8, at 10 a.m.: ACE Fit’s Premier MomTV LIVE SHOW on How to Get the Kids Fit! with Dr. Natalie Muth and special guest, ACE Exercise Physiologist Jessica Matthews.
- Thursday, May 5, at 5 p.m. PST: ACE will be hosting a “Refuel Your Workout” Twitter Chat to discuss favorite fitness classes and exercises, as well as motivation techniques and health and fitness goals. Just use hashtag #ACEfit to join the conversation
- Date TBD: ACE will be hosting an “Ask the ACE Experts” Google+ Hangout, which our Senior Consultants will participate in and share tips on how to incorporate physical fitness into your life based on their own expertise and background.
Natalie Digate MuthContributor
Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD, FAAP is the Senior Advisor for Healthcare Solutions for the American Council on Exercise, a board-certified pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, a Diplomat of the American Board of Obesity Medicine, registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, and ACE Certified Health Coach. She is the author of "Eat Your Vegetables and Other Mistakes Parents Make: Redefining How to Raise Healthy Eaters" and the textbook "Sports Nutrition for Health Professionals." She has been ACE certified since 1998.
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