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Promoting Physical Activity Through Active Games

This is an excerpt from Fitness Education for Children-2nd Edition by Stephen Virgilio.

Promoting Physical Activity Through Active Games

I have selected the games in this chapter to help you increase the activity levels of your students throughout the school year in humanistic and fun ways. Use them as warm-up activities or as closing segments for skill-oriented lessons, not as the core of lessons. Help children recognize how games promote healthy physical activity. To avoid unnecessary frustration, however, first teach any specialized manipulative skills the game requires.

The primary purpose of the games in this chapter is to promote physical activity levels. To make planning easier for you, I have divided the games by developmental levels and have used the following symbols to indicate the physical intensity level of each game:


Moderately active

Highly active

Developmental Level I Games

Remember, developmental level I activities are for kindergarten and first-grade students. When adding new games to your curriculum, remain mindful of the developmentally appropriate characteristics on pages 183-184.


Arrange students in two parallel lines, 40 to 50 feet (12 to 15 m) apart. Put two identical sets of pictures of different animals in two boxes, one for each team. Students in each line select a picture of an animal from their team's box. At the signal, have the students begin to walk slowly toward each other making the noises of the animals they selected (e.g., pig, cow, dog, horse, snake, monkey, cat, lamb, tiger), trying to find their matches. Once students find their partners, they must imitate the animal sounds and their physical movements. Repeat the procedure. This game also promotes expressive movement and creativity.

Hopping the Islands

Scatter hoops 10 feet (3 m) apart throughout the playing area, making sure you have one hoop for every student. At the beginning of class, ask students to each find a home island by stepping inside a hoop. Ask students to perform one movement activity of their choice inside their hoops. Now ask them to perform a movement outside their hoops. Then have them hop back on their islands. Next, play a popular children's song. Ask them to walk, jog, or skip throughout the playing area without stepping inside the islands. When the music stops, tell the children to hop inside a different island. Then allow 10 to 15 seconds for them to perform an exercise, movement, or stretch of their choice. Play the music and repeat the procedure. To add variety, use music with different beats and ask the students to match the pace of their movements to the tempo of the music. Alternate the physical activities each turn, or have a student decide for the class. For closure activities, ask the students to return to their original home islands. Because this game allows for plenty of personal choice, it also develops physical activity decision-making skills.

Developmental Level II Games

Developmental level II games are for grades 2 and 3. Using slight modifications, you might also try these games with level III students.


Children are divided into six or seven groups around the gymnasium. Each group is given two 8.5-inch (22 cm) soft cushion balls and a goal placed against the wall marked with two cones about 6 feet (1.8 m) apart. Each group is given a specific color and a small 10-inch (25 cm) marker cone. In the middle of the gym about 15 plastic cap cones are lined up and numbered 1 through 15. You will also need a music player for music.

At the signal “Go,” the first student from each line tries to score a goal from a line marked 10 to 12 yards (9 to 11 m) from the goal. The student who kicks also retrieves the ball for the next player. Students who score goals run to the middle of the gym and advance their colored marker cones one level along the numbered plastic cap cones. Then, when the music is turned on, all students find a line in the gym and perform ski steps (short hops, side to side, with both feet together) over the line (usually for 10 to 15 seconds). When the music is off, they then go back to their kickout teams and continue to score goals taking turns. Use the music throughout the game or every three minutes or so.

Variation: Place a bowling pin in each corner of the goals. Players who knock down a pin move their markers two places in the middle of the gym.

Hearty Hoopla

Discuss the fact that running helps decrease the bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase the good cholesterol (HDL). Divide the class in four equal groups and position one group in each corner of the playing area. Place a hoop in each corner with five beanbags and five tennis balls. Label the beanbags LDL (bad cholesterol), and label the tennis balls HDL (good cholesterol). Say: “On the signal ‘Go!' run to another team's corner to get as many tennis balls (good cholesterol) as possible and bring them back to your home. At the same time, try to clean out the beanbags (bad cholesterol) from your corner and place them in another team's hoop. But you can grab only one tennis ball or beanbag at a time. You may not guard your home or steal tennis balls from other students, and you may not interfere with someone placing beanbags in your home.” After two to three minutes of playing time, call out “Freeze!” The team with the most good cholesterol (HDL) and the least bad cholesterol (LDL) is the winner. Remark: “Exercise helps build the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) and reduce the bad cholesterol (LDL) that can develop if you don't exercise and you eat too much fat.”

Developmental Level III Games

Developmental level III games are for children in grades 4 through 6. Continue to reinforce the health-related physical fitness concepts throughout the games.

Chute the Ball

This game increases muscle fitness and promotes cooperation and teamwork. Divide the class into two teams and have them stand around a large parachute, with one team on one side and the other on the other side. Place a large inner tube and two different-colored balls on top of the chute near the center. Say: “At the signal ‘Go!' each team tries to shake the parachute to get its colored ball through the inner tube. The first team to score three points wins the game.”

Adaptation: Place more than one ball for each team inside the parachute.

Bump and Run

Divide students into groups of eight. Have seven students in each group form a circle, which is marked with small cones or gym tape. Direct the eighth student to stand in the middle. Say: “To warm up, bump a volleyball around the circle playing Keep It Up. Next, the students in the circle begin sidestepping around the circle, and the student in the middle with the volleyball calls, ‘Bump and run.' Each time a player on the outside of the circle bumps the ball back to the middle, he runs completely around the circle back to his original spot.” Add more players to the circle to keep the drill continuous. Have students count how many times members of their group bump and run. Encourage groups to compete against themselves for their best scores, not against the other groups.


Learn more about Fitness Education for Children, Second Edition.

More Excerpts From Fitness Education for Children 2nd Edition