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Games You Can Play With Your Kids Instead of Exercising

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The number one excuse moms give for not getting enough exercise is lack of time. Motherhood is an enormous time-sucking black hole. All that cooking, cleaning, shopping, chauffering and parenting uses up most of the hours and minutes in our day.

The other reasons we don’t work out? Guilt over taking time for ourselves (even though we know we should) and the fact that working out is work (i.e. not fun!). There’s a simple solution that eliminates ALL of these excuses.

Play with your kids! No, an arduous round of Wii Tennis is not what I’m talking about. Instead, try some of these games you can play with your kids instead of exercising. You’ll have fun, they’ll have fun, you’ll feel like a super mom, and you’ll get a great workout.

Dance Party

This is one of my family’s favorites. You can do it no matter what the weather is like in any room large enough for you to shake your booty.

A family is dancing in a living room.

Sometimes we turn it into a dance off. Other times we form a circle and have each family member take the center for a short feature.

We have a playlist with all the popular line dances on it (e.g. Cha Cha Slide, Cupid Shuffle, Macarena). We also use the Kidz Bop Kids Radio station on Pandora.

Simon Says

This was my go-to activity when I worked with first graders and had to keep them occupied waiting in line. Kids take this game seriously!

If you let the kids be Simon, you will get a ton of exercise since they usually choose things like hopping on one foot, flapping your arms like a chicken, and spinning in circles (sometimes all at the same time!). This is another game that works easily indoors.


My daughter and I play some variation of tag every morning at the bus stop. She invented “Booger Touch” which doesn’t involve any actual boogers (thank goodness!). One person tags the other and thus, gives them the “booger touch.”

You can ward off the booger touch by holding one finger on the tip of your nose. I have no idea what the neighbors think of me as I chase my daughter around while she holds her finger to her nose, but looking ridiculous is half the fun.

We also sometimes play “Stinky Toe Touch” which requires you to touch the tip of their shoe with the tip of yours. I cannot play this with my older children since inevitably, someone stomps on someone else’s foot or accidentally kicks someone.

To ward off the Stinky Toe Touch, you have to stand with both hands on your knees. Don’t ask me why. This is what happens when you let a 7-year old make up the rules. Here are some other variations we play (and that your kids probably already know):

  • Infected (one person is “It” and if he/she tags someone else, that person is also “It” and can infect others. Game ends when only one person remains uninfected.)
  • Linked (one person is “It.” When he/she tags someone else, they must link arms and try to tag others linked together. Game ends when only one person remains unlinked.)
  • Freeze Tag (one person is “It.” When he/she tags someone else, they must freeze in place. Another player can unfreeze them by tagging them, but only if they get to the person before getting tagged and frozen by “it.”)


Who knew that badminton was the great equalizer of athletic ability? Despite the broad range of ages and physical size in my family, there is no combination of teams that grants anyone an advantage.

A family engaging in games you can play with your kids instead of exercising, enjoying a game of badminton in the backyard.

It’s always a mystery which team will win. Sometimes we don’t even keep score, we just try to set a record for the number of times we can volley the birdie back and forth.

If you don’t have a badminton set, you can get almost the exact same workout playing with a balloon. Try to keep the balloon from touching the ground. To increase the difficulty, require that no one can touch the balloon twice in a row.

Obstacle Course

I used to set up obstacle courses for my kids to keep them busy outside during the summer when I was trying to keep them away from the television and video games.

As with most things, it ended up being much more fun when I let them help design the obstacle course, which of course meant they wanted me to run it too. Here’s an example of what one of our courses would include:

A mother and daughter enjoying a playful game of hula hoops outdoor.
  • Hopscotch (must make it through without making a mistake)
  • Hula Hoop (usually involves a time requirement that you have to keep the hula hoop rotating)
  • Scooter (must ride it from one location to the next obstacle)
  • Tunnel Crawl (usually we use large cardboard boxes and form a tunnel to crawl through)
  • Jump Rope (have to complete 25 jumps without messing up)
  • Basketball (have to make a basket to move on)
  • Frisbee (throw Frisbee and get it to land in a specific area)
  • Pool Noodle Hurdles (lay noodles down in a series of rows that participants must jump over)
  • Backpack (fill backpack with appropriate weight for the person carrying it, have them carry it a set distance)
  • Climb (depending on what you have available, you can climb over a fence, climb a tree, or climb a rope)

If you don’t want to set up your own course, you can always head to the nearest playground and set up a course using the existing equipment.

Instead of running the course at the same time, we “race” by timing each person’s run. If it’s perceived that age or size gives an advantage, we come up with rule for handicapping the results.

Of course, you don’t have to compete, but my family wouldn’t understand the point since we’re a little on the crazy competitive side.

Nerf War/Water War

If you don’t allow play guns in your house, this isn’t for you. However, if like us, you have an entire arsenal of Nerf guns and water guns, these “wars” are great fun.

A mother and daughter engaging in a playful water gun fight in the backyard.

Despite the fact that the adults seemingly have all the advantages (we’re faster, more experienced, less frightened of getting hit by styrofoam bullets or water), I seem to always lose these battles.

Kids are more agile, and amazingly organized when it comes to taking down a common enemy (i.e. the adult adversary). This is one of the few games where I can be a graceful loser, mostly because I am too exhausted to pout by the end of the battle.

These are some of our favorite family physical games. What games do you enjoy playing with your family that get you all up and moving?

3 thoughts on “Games You Can Play With Your Kids Instead of Exercising”

  1. These are all great ways to be active with your children. Sometimes I think we forget how much exercise we are getting when we play! I love swimming and when it is warm, that is my go to exercise!

    • Swimming is a great activity with the kids! Sometimes we ride the pool noodles like horses and “joust” in the pool. It’s surprisingly exhausting!


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