Backyard Physical Education

Whether you are a homeschooler who is looking for some physical education activities to do with your children or your kids attend school and you are simply trying to keep them active during a school break, these ideas for Backyard Physical Education are for you.

These simple activities require little or no special equipment (or equipment you likely already have on hand or can pick up at your local dollar store). They are easy and for the most part, require no preparation ahead of time. Best of all, they’re so much fun and ill encourage your kids to get moving!

backyard physical education

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Backyard Physical Education

Free movement

Equipment: none

Challenge the kids to move like various animals.

Encourage them to move as quickly as they can on two feet. On one foot. Repeat but this time having them move as slowly as they can.

Ask them to make themselves as tall as possible and move around. Repeat but this time have them make their bodies as short as possible. Try with as wide and as narrow as possible too.

Tossing a ball into the air

Equipment: Nerf ball, beach ball, or water balloons (or another soft ball that won’t hurt if someone gets hit with it)

Try catching with only one hand. Use your dominant hand first and then switch to the other one.

Toss the ball up in the air, clap your hands together, and then catch the ball yourself. Begin with two hands, then one hand at a time. Try adding a challenge by increasing the number of claps you do.

Toss the ball up in the air and catch it behind your back.

Throw the ball into the air and sit down and catch. Toss it again and stand up and catch.

Hold the ball over your head. Drop it and catch it above your waist. Catch it below your waist. Catch it below your knee. Can you catch it right at your ankles just before it hits the ground? If this is easy, add in clapping.

What else can you do? What about tossing the ball, doing a jump into the air, and then catching? Or turning around before catching? How about

Playing catch

Equipment: Nerf ball, beach ball, or water balloons

Play a simple toss and catch game using two hands for catching. Vary the distance between your child and their partner (yes, that might be you) getting further apart as you go. How far apart can you get and still manage to throw and catch the ball?

Try adding in some steps before catching – jumping up, turning around, touching the ground, clapping, and so on. The catcher can determine which one they will do each time or the person throwing the ball can call out what they need to do as they throw it.

Equipment: Beach ball or inflated balloon

Toss it back and forth without letting it hit the ground.

Use different body parts to keep it from hitting the ground – elbows, knees, feet, heads, and so on.

Combine movement with math

Equipment: A ball that will bounce (like a basketball or playground ball)

Estimate how many times you can bounce the ball in one minute. Then try it and count to see how close your estimate was.

Equipment: Hula hoop

Add a piece of tape to the hula hoop to mark a spot. Estimate how many times it will touch your stomach in a minute of hula hooping. Try it and count.

Use the hula hoop as a target. Toss a ball or beanbag into the target. Estimate how many times you can hit the target in one minute. Try it and count.

Use the hula hoop as a goal. Estimate how many steps it will take you to reach the goal. Try it and count. Now, try to reach the goal in the fewest steps possible. Then, try to reach the goal in the most steps possible. How else can you reach the goal instead of walking or running? (cartwheels, somersaults, hopping on one foot, jumping on two feet, leaping through the air, etc.)

Try spinning the hula hoop on its edge. How long can you spin it for? Estimate how long you can do it for and then time yourself. Try 3 times and figure out which one was your best time.

Equipment: Beanbag.

Estimate how many times you can toss the beanbag from one hand to the other in a minute. Try it and count.

Repeat but this time toss the beanbag from one person to the other.

Equipment: none

While at rest, count the number of times your heart beats in one minute. Estimate what it will be after you exercise. Do some kind of movement – running, jumping jacks, whatever you’d like. Measure your heart beats again and compare.

Flowing movement

Equipment: ribbons or streamers.

Encourage free movement with the ribbons or streamers. You can use music if desired. Encourage them to move as high as they can, as low as they can, walking, running, leaping – anything you can think of. Can they move like certain animals while still moving the streamers around?

Call out numbers, letters of the alphabet, or even whole words and have them spell them out in the air using their ribbons or streamers.

Equipment: scarves

Toss some scarves into the air. Catch as many as you can. Repeat, this time catching as many as you can with only one hand. Do it again with the other hand.

Toss up a scarf, clap, and then catch it.

Throw a scarf into the air and don’t catch it until it’s between your knees and the ground.

Catch scarves with different parts of your body that aren’t your hands. How many different body parts can you use?

Driving a car

Equipment: a paper or plastic plate or something else that’s round and unbreakable, colored pieces of paper (red, green, yellow). Other pieces of paper and a marker to make signs.

The plate is their steering wheel. Have them role play opening the car door, getting in, putting on their seatbelt, adjusting the mirror, rolling down the window, turning on the wipers, turning on the engine etc. You can even encourage them to do it “old school” with cars that have manual functions for some of these.

Use the red, green, and yellow papers to signal to the drivers how they are supposed to move about. Red means stop. Green means walk or run. Yellow means walk or jog on the spot.

Add in other signs as desired. You could have one that tells them to change directions. Make a “bumpy road” sign to indicate that they should skip or gallop. Add a construction ahead sign to indicate that there are potholes ahead and they will need to jump over those. A flat tire sign could mean hopping on one foot. A sign showing that it’s raining means they need to turn on their wipers (do jumping jacks). Use your imagination and get the kids to help come up with more signs.

Movement with a hula hoop

Equipment: hula hoop

Place the hula hoop on the ground. Stand in the center. You need to lift the hula hoop from the ground and get it up to your neck without using your hands.

Roll the hula hoop on its edge to another person. Start fairly close together and take a step back each time. (If a second person isn’t available, the kids can roll it to a goal instead).

Set up an obstacle course

Equipment: a variety of odds and ends from around the house

You can either set up an obstacle course yourself or get the kids to come up with their ideas for it. Use things you already have. A skipping rope can be something they need to jump over or walk along kind of like a balance beam, for example. The equipment doesn’t have to be elaborate.

Another way to set this up is more like a circuit. Set up stations and at each station, have a sign indicating what they need to do. For example, station 1: jumping jacks, station 2: jogging in place 25 times, station 3: 5 log rolls, etc.

Resources for further information:

Ontario Ministry of Education physical education curriculum

Active for Life

Physical and Health Education Canada

Energizing Physical Education Activities for Elementary Age Kids

Physical Education Activities