12+ Games to Play with Kids in a Gym: Youth Group, P.E., or Therapy
Game Ideas to Play with Kids in a Gym
Playing games with kids in a gym can be a lot of fun. A gymnasium allows you a lot of space for movement. Think about the details of the gameplay ahead of time to make sure it works for your group of kids. These can be used as fun P.E. class games, therapeutic recreation, or as youth group games. Enjoy!
1. Space Clean-up
I came up with this game when I was in a gym with kids who were sitting on the sidelines of the basketball court. They were being lazy and doing nothing, so I created a task that they had to do from their sitting position.
The kids liked it, and the game matured over several generations of gameplay. This is a simple game that can be used with all age groups. Physical activity is moderate, but attention and coordination are required.
How to Play Space Clean-Up
- Get the kids (space cadets) to sit on their bottoms. Spread them out evenly along the basketball court's out-of-bounds line and across the half-court line.
- Group a bunch of balls and other objects such as cones in the middle of the court directly in the middle of all the kids.
- Explain the rules: No one can get up off their butts. You must clear all the "space debris" out of the center of the gym and collect it on the sides. The balls must be used to move all the debris. The mission is accomplished and everyone wins when everything is cleared out.
- Choose one "space cadet" to throw the first ball. I tell them to pick a number between 1 and 20 to choose the person who starts.
- Give the cadet the ball.
- Let the games begin!
- Give people penalty time-outs if they get up from their bottoms.
- Celebrate when all the "space junk" is cleared.
Tips to Play
- Add objects with low profiles to challenge older kids.
- Make things more interesting by setting a time limit.
- Place large, unmovable objects in the way.
- Use the full court if there are more than 25 kids.
2. Trash War
The object of this game is simple: Get all the balls on one side of the gym while the opposing team tries to do the same. This game can go on until the kids reach exhaustion. I think it counts as a cardiovascular workout. I've sweated through my shirt after playing one round for 15 minutes.
How to Play Trash War
- Start with even teams on opposite baselines of the gym. Split up the total of balls evenly and give them to each team. One per person is usually about the right number.
- Tell the kids that the team who gets all the balls on the opposing team's side, even for a second, is the winner.
- Blow a whistle to begin.
Tips to Play
- Tell the kids that they can only use their hands.
- Remind them not to kick to prevent injuries.
- Use different-sized balls for an interesting game.
- Try this with a volleyball net up.
If you were a kid in the eighties, you probably remember being excited about the original Pac-Man arcade games. This is the live version that's played out in a gym. It takes advantage of something almost every indoor gym has: painted basketball court lines. Pac-Man is good practice for kids to follow directions and rules.
How to Play Gymnasium Pac-Man
- Choose one kid to be the Pac-Man.
- Make all the other kids line up in an opposite corner to be the 'ghosties'.
- Set some objects down in a few places for the Pac-Man to pick up.
- Explain the rules: All the kids have to walk only on the court lines. The ghosties are trying to tag the Pac-Man. Everyone can only walk. The Pac-Man gets three lives.
- Blow a whistle to start.
Tips to Play
- Tell the Pac-Man to make a "Whacka-Whacka" sound as he/she moves.
- Throw some objects out to turn Pac-Man invincible for a few seconds to turn the tables on the ghosties.
Dodgeball is a gym game favorite, but there are many variations and many rules that can make the game more (or less) fun. Taking it too seriously can make it too rigid for little kids, and not having enough structure can lead to a chaotic free-for-all. Watch the video for the directions, and then read the tips.
Tips to Play
- "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball." -Patches O' Houlighan
- Try to get the teams as even as possible so one team doesn't pulverize the other team.
- Include a system for getting people back in the game who are out to keep it fun for everyone. An example is "backboard" dodgeball.
5. Relay Races
Relay races are not technically games, but they are great to do in a gym with kids. The options are only limited by your imagination. You can get creative with what equipment you have to challenge the kids and increase competition.
Tips to Play
- Hopping, skipping, galloping, and sidestepping are simple variations.
- Have the kids work on dribbling a basketball, rolling a hula hoop, or running between cones.
- Make the kids practice balance by setting something on their heads.
- Give them a spoon and ping pong ball (or egg) to balance.
- Make the kids spin around a bat before running. They will have a difficult time running in a straight line.
- Set up some obstacles like mats that have to be climbed or hula hoops that have to be stepped in.
- Combine all of these to make the game difficult.
Balloon Relay Race
Human Ring Toss
6. Hula Hoop Ring Toss
A ring toss with hula hoops can be done with just a couple hoops and cones. This is a good game when you have less than 10 kids who aren't into physically active sports like full-court basketball. All you have to do is set up a line and have the kids alternate throwing a hula hoop onto a cone.
Tips to Play
- Set up a few different cones and assign different point values for each. They can get additional points for more difficult throws.
- Set up a golf course of cones and keep individual scores like in miniature golf.
- If you don't want or have cones, kids can practice throwing the hula hoop onto each other.
7. Bean Bag Toss or Corn-Hole
There's no need to go into detail about the rules. This is really a tailgating game, but it can easily be done in a gym, hallway, or anywhere. Here's a video proving that just about any age can play this, have fun, and master it.
If you don't have the corn-hole board, you can easily set up some type of marker on the ground. Hula hoops, tape lines, cones in a triangle shape, or even a chair can be used as the goal.
Kickball is a classic game to be played outside where a pop fly of a ball can soar, but in a gym, it gets a little crazier. It's basically like baseball, only you kick a kickball and run the bases. You have limited space, so the bases are closer together and the walls are fair game when playing in the gym.
Be careful with this action-packed game because the kids will likely slide and collide. Allowing throw outs will usually result in someone getting a red mark somewhere on his or her body, which just adds to the fun.
Game Ideas for Young Children
More Games for Kids
Here are even more games you can play with kids in the gym. Many can be modified to fit the number of kids you have and their ages.
It may be beneficial to show the kids these videos as demonstrations in addition to giving verbal instructions. Let the kids choose what games to play and rotate them so they don't get tired of playing the same one over and over again.