Movement Games for Children

Boy going through obstacle course

The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children and adolescents get one hour of physical activity every day, which can be a challenge between school hours, homework and extra curricular activities. There is an easy solution and that is to combine games with physical activity to get kids moving more.

Going on a Treasure Hunt

The only thing needed to complete this activity is one or more children and a narrator for the story, which is outlined below. The game follows an oral story where the child uses his imagination and movements to go on a treasure hunt.


The narrator should instruct the students that she will tell a story. After each short phrase, the students will repeat the words and motions of the narrator, adding to the story with each round. Each round starts with:

  • Clap
  • Clap
  • Hands smacked on thighs

The narrator says the following:

We're going on a treasure hunt. (clap, clap, smack thighs)
What will we find? (hold hands up and shrug shoulders)
A big treasure chest (drawl out the word big and hold arms in front in a circle to represent a trunk)
We're going through the forest (march in place)
A big forest (drawl out the word big while still marching in place)
We're going on a treasure hunt (clap, clap, smack thighs)
What will we find? (hold hands up and shrug shoulders)
A big treasure chest (drawl out the word big and hold arms in front in a circle to represent a trunk)
We went through the forest (march in place)
A big forest (march in place)
Now, we're swimming through the creek (making swimming motion with arms)
A wide creek (drawl out the word wide and keep swimming)
We're going on a treasure hunt...

Continue the story, adding ideas such as:

  • Running through a meadow
  • Skipping past the flowers
  • Climbing a mountain
  • Jumping over mud

The story can be as long or as short as you want. Try to keep it simpler for smaller children who might forget too many steps.

Pretend You Are...

This is a game of make believe. Instruct the children that you are going to call out a description and the child needs to do what the animal, person or thing does. Give the example of a kangaroo. If you say, "You are a kangaroo," the child should jump around like a kangaroo.


Once you've told the children to pretend by mimicking the motions of the person, thing, or animal, call out some different ones. There is no right or wrong way for the children to pretend to be an animal or a person. The goal is simply to get them moving in some way.

  • Airplane
  • Olympic swimmer
  • Dog
  • Soldier
  • Crab
  • Windshield wipers
  • Wild horse

You can add as many items as you'd like to keep the kids moving around.

Feet Painting

You've probably heard of finger painting, but have you ever thought about taking this activity outdoors and having your child paint with his feet? You'll need finger paints, which can be purchased in just about any toy section of a mass retailer such as Walmart or Target. You will also need to go to a teacher supply store and purchase a roll of plain white paper.

In a pinch, you can also use a disposable paper tablecloth, but they do not hold up as well if kids get rambunctious. You'll also need three to five disposable plates or aluminum roasting pans to hold the paint.


Roll the paper out either on the sidewalk or in the grass. The grass may be a bit safer if the paper becomes a little slippery. Pour the paint onto disposable plates. Tell your child that you will call out a color and he needs to dip his foot into that color and paint the paper with his feet only in the way you describe. Call out commands such as:

  • Blue - tippy toes only
  • Yellow - run down the paper
  • Red - paint a design
  • Green - make a flower with your feet
  • Blue - write your name with your toes

You can get as creative as you'd like. When finished rinse feet off under the water hose.

Dance Recital

This game allows children to experience different types of dance. It doesn't matter if the child actually knows ballet or jazz, just that he gets moving and pretends to dance in a certain way. If children are younger, you may want to quickly go over some dance moves from each genre you'll be using. School age children should be familiar with most of these styles or able to watch what others are doing and mimic the style.


Explain to the children that you will call out a style of dance and they need to pretend they are at a dance recital and are doing that style of dance in front of an audience. Each child is to make up his own "dance" to perform on the fly. Call out:

  • Ballet
  • Country dance
  • Hip hop
  • Jazz
  • Tap dance
  • Figure skating
  • Anything you want

You can dance with the children, if you'd like, to give them an idea of different moves they can perform.

Sort it Out

This game helps children with gross motor skills. You'll need various colored balls or blocks and enough colored baskets to match the colors. If in season, plastic Easter eggs would work well for this activity and be inexpensive.


Give each child or team of children a color. Tell the children that when you call "go," they will need to place the items matching their color in the correct basket as fast as they can. The first team to pick up all the items of their color wins. You could also make this game a bit harder for older children.

  • Write numbers on the balls and have the children sort by number
  • Have each team find one color of each item, such as a red ball, a yellow ball and a blue ball; a red block, a blue block, and so on.

Glow Stick Relay

If you're looking for a nighttime activity, glow sticks fit the bill. This game is a running game and is simply a way to get kids moving in a competitive way. However, it also is a great game for an evening party or camp out. Glow sticks can be purchased at many dollar stores or ordered in bulk from sites like Oriental Trading or in bulk from Cool Glow.


Divide the kids into two or three teams. Set up the course by hanging the same number of glow sticks as children on each team at the point the children are running to. It helps if you can purchase glow sticks in different colors and give each team a separate color stick. Have the teams line up in a straight line facing the point they are tagging and then running back from.

When you blow a horn, whistle or yell "go," the race begins. The first person in line runs to the glow stick, grabs it and runs back to the rest of the team. When the first person returns, the second person runs to the glow sticks and grabs another one and so on until all the glow sticks are captured. The first team to finish wins.

Toy Obstacle Course

This game can be used in a group setting by having children bring a toy from home. You'll need a wide variety of toys, but they should all be soft, such as foam balls, stuffed animals, character pillows or pillow pet type toys. Avoid toys with sharp or hard edges. You'll also need a timer, such as a watch with a second hand or a phone with a timer on it.


Take the toys and set up an obstacle course. Here are some ideas for ways to turn the toys into obstacles:

  • Stack several toys on top of each other (but not too high) for the child to jump over.
  • Line toys on each side of a "tunnel" that the child can run through.
  • Place toys on top of a table and explain that the child will crawl under the toys.
  • Create a mock alligator pit with stuffed alligators on top of a blue plastic disposable tablecloth. The children must skip around the alligators, avoiding them.

Once the obstacle course is set up, tell the children that you are going to go through the course with them. Take the time to explain each obstacle, such as that the child needs to avoid the alligators or crawl under the tables.

Now, each child is timed as he completes the course. The fastest child wins. However, if the child lands on an alligator, jumps on the animals instead of over them, etc., then 10 seconds is added for each occurrence.

Learning Healthy Habits Young

Not only are movement games fun, but children will develop healthy habits that will stay with them for life. Many movement games also help children develop skills needed to work in a cooperative environment as adults. In addition to playing games, encourage children to spend time outside, ride bikes, go for family walks and participate in activities they enjoy.

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Movement Games for Children