30 Gym Class Games for Elementary School

kids playing with hoola hoopsRecess and gym class are a great opportunity for kids to get exercise while learning important skills, such as teamwork, healthy competition, new physical skills, strategy and more. If you’re looking for new ideas for your elementary school gym class, check out these 30 games that students will love. 

Tag Games

  1. Sharks & Minnows - A simple, fun chasing game that is sure to get the wiggles out. One student is the shark and every student they tag becomes a shark, too. The students left are the minnows. They can run in any direction to avoid the shark, so strategy is of the essence if they don’t want to be caught!
  2. Blob Tag - Two players begin the blob by chasing after other kids while linking arms or holding hands. Any child they touch must join the blob. Just be sure to let students know that the goal is to work cooperatively, and they should never continue at the expense of a blob member getting dragged or hurt.
  3. Tail Tag - Sort of like flag football, each student is given a “tail” — a piece of fabric they can tie to a belt loop or tuck in a pocket. Then, all students start chasing each other to grab as many tails as possible. If they touch the tail and it doesn’t easily come out, make sure students know that they need to stop and give them the tail. Even students without a tail can continue to chase and grab the tails.
  4. British Bulldogs - A take on the game of tag, this works inside or outside. Place all students on one side of a gym or open area, then the student who volunteered as the “bulldog” stands in the middle of the playing area. All of the students should try to run across the designated area or gym without getting tagged by the bulldog. If tagged, they join as a bulldog and try to tag the runners.
  5. Body Part Freeze Tag - A version of traditional freeze tag, except in this game, only the specific body part tagged is frozen. So, if someone tags your arm, you cannot use that arm any longer. If a leg is tagged, you must hop. You can also set it up so another student who is not the tagger can un-tag the frozen body part.
  6. Shadow Tag - If you are looking for a tag game with no touching, shadow tag is for you! You need a sunny day for this rendition, but it works just like tag, except students tag a runner’s shadow. If they hit their shadow, they call out, “SHADOW” and that student becomes the next shadow tagger. This game works really well for younger kids who may not be fast enough to catch another student or with a group of kids that tend to push or be on the aggressive side.

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Ball Games

  1. Octopus Ball - Students play a sit-down version of dodgeball. In this game, if they are tagged with a ball, they sit down and become part of the octopus. Sitting players can touch any player that gets too close to them and then they must also sit down. Students love this version where even if they are considered out by the ball, they still get to participate in the game.
  2. Crab Kick Ball - Just like kickball, except students are in crab-walking positions. They work in two teams to try to kick a ball to a goal — which can be past a chair, trash can or another visible marker.
  3. Balance Ball - This game is similar to basic catch, except students have the added challenge of having to balance on one leg. Pair them up in twos or fours, based on how many balls you have, and have them toss the ball while balancing on one leg. Each time they successfully catch, they step further away from each other. They can alternate in between legs in between catches if they like!
  4. Broom Hockey - Split kids in two games, give every player a broom and use a ball as their puck. Depending on their age, you can give them different positions and talk about cooperative teamwork to pass the ball. Or, you can just rotate in new players every few minutes so there aren’t too many kids playing at once. Just remember to have identified goal areas!
  5. Soccer Relay - Soccer is a great activity to play with kids! Either as a simple scrimmage or by doing relays with kids up into smaller groups. Easy relays include dribbling the soccer ball around some orange cones and back to the next person in their team or simply passing the ball games to their teammates. Not all balls have to be soccer balls. Incorporate balls of different sizes and weights and ask students how the different balls changed the way they had to play.

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Gym Games

These games are great for inside the gym on rainy or super hot days. Set up stations where students can rotate through or just guide students through each activity one at a time. 

  1. Yoga - Play a yoga for kids video or guide them through your own version. You will love seeing how engaged and excited students are to practice yoga — and they pick up on it very quickly!
  2. Simon Says Get Moving - Play a game of Simon says, but use all exercises to get them moving. Here’s a list to get you started: toe touches, bridges, forward tumble (if on soft flooring), side bends to touch the ground, hops, jump on one foot, spin, hop backward, flamingo legs, run in place, etc.
  3. Gymnastics - Kids love gymnastics. Consider teaching them soft gymnastic skills, such as bridging, cartwheels and more. Choose one skill to focus on, guide them through how to do it, and then allow them to practice.
  4. Dance Routine - Even if you aren’t a dance teacher, you can learn a simple dance routine by following a YouTube video or making up your own and then guiding students through the steps to learn the dance. Be sure to play music whenever they get to perform and praise them for their effort.
  5. Animals - In this game, students get to take on the characteristics of different animals. Call out a name and have them act out the movements and sounds of different animals. Then, when you call out a new animal, they have to switch! Make sure to play the game with them long enough for them to understand the different animals. Here are a few animals to get you started: crabs, kangaroos, ducks, bunnies or lions.
  6. Hula Hoops - Hula hoops are great exercise and they work a lot of muscle groups! Get out the hula hoops, play some music, and let them go! You can take this to the next level by having them practice spinning the hoops on other body parts, such as on an arm, on lower legs while laying on their backs with legs up and so on!
  7. Jump Ropes - Don’t discount this old school favorite. Jumping rope is an incredible way to tone the body while getting the heart rate up. Give students jump ropes and time them to see how many jumps they can do in a period of time. If you know how, teach them old playground games like double dutch.
  8. Funny Running - This hilarious game has students running from one side of the gym to the other while doing some kind of funny movement. You can alternate between different types of running and incorporate music to make it more fun! Ideas include: race across as some kind of animal, a certain kind of dance like a new disco move or any other type of creative movement that they can do while attempting to run across the gym.

Cooperative Games

  1. Parachute - There are so many games you can play using a parachute, and most of them require students to work together to use the parachute at the same time. Simple games include throwing beach balls on top of the parachute and having students work together to keep the balls in the air.
  2. Water Relay - Split kids into small groups and have a bucket of water with a big sponge in it at the start of each group of kids. Their goal is to carry the big sponge to another bucket ahead to squeeze out the water. They race the sponge back to the next person, who dunks the sponge and runs with it to repeat the relay. Teams are working to fill their second bucket with enough water to reach the line. This game is absolutely perfect for hot days, since kids will love the opportunity to get a little wet and cool off!
  3. Leap Frog - Split groups with an effort to group kids of similar heights. Groups are attempting to relay race across an area of about 50 feet, but they have to do it by jumping over each other! Have one student start by leapfrogging forward and then stopping in a frog or a crouch position. The next student runs and then jumps over them, then crouches. This game continues until a person on the team has reached the end of the relay area. If a student struggles to jump over, they can do a series of jumps next to a student to pass them and then crouch ahead of them.
  4. Balance the Egg - Learning to balance is an important motor skill. Have the students attempt to balance a small ball on a spoon and walk across an area and back. Break kids into several teams and make it a relay.
  5. Hop in a Hoop - This fun game can be done in a small area indoors. Space out a bunch of hula hoops. Put on music and ask students to walk around like musical chairs. Or, if you have enough space, you can have them do a certain exercise, such as hopping, skipping, side-stepping, etc., and then when the music stops, you call out a number. Students must group up inside the hoops with only that number of students, no more or no less. Once they have the correct number of students in their hoop, they pull the hoop up to their waists to prevent other people from joining the hoop. Just be sure to only use numbers that can evenly be split into the hoops you have or the students in your group. This isn’t a game designed to leave any students out.
  6. Find Your Friend - For this game, make sure students are in a safe, flat area with no hazards, preferably inside a gym. Students wear light blindfolds and are gently led to different areas around the playing area or gym. Then they are told to walk carefully as they try to find their friends. When they bump into a friend, they link arms and continue looking for more friends. They continue until everyone is linked together! Remind students to be gentle and keep hands lower so they don’t poke each other in the face.

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Single Games

  1. Command Relay - In this game, it’s every student for themselves. Students walk around or run around a designated area until you blow a whistle and call out a command to freeze in a position or do a certain exercise (e.g., 3 knee lifts). The students who don’t listen are out. Your commands can range from an exercise to a freeze position. Decide in advance what type of activity you’ll ask them to do to alleviate confusion. For example, you could do a whole series of positions you practice in a group before playing, so when the game is moving, you don’t have to stop and explain. Examples include freezing like a ball, a star, a pencil, etc.
  2. Hoop Run - Set colored hula hoops in the corners of a play area. Then have students run around and when you call out a color, they have to rush to that hoop color. You may need several hoops of the same color to fit your group, although a little squeezing is part of the fun.
  3. Hot Potato - In this game, students are either in one large group or broken into smaller groups. Each group has a ball that is their “potato.” The goal is to not get stuck with the potato when the whistle blows. You can have students chant the hot potato song or just play music and have them toss the potato until the music ends. This game works great indoors or in a small space.
  4. In Your Opinion - This game requires a small amount of prep but can be reused for future games. Create signs that can be used to mark bases with: LOVE IT, JUST OK, NOT FOR ME and NEVER TRIED IT. Then, have a student who stands in the middle of the bases and calls out the name of a food. Students run to the base that describes their answers. If the person calling out the food tags a player before they make it to the base, that person gets to call out the next food.
  5. Obstacle Relays - Set up a series of obstacles around an area and time students as they move through the relays. To move things along, start a new student every 5 or 10 seconds, creating urgency for all students to keep their pace. Allow students to go more than once in an effort to beat their own time. Don’t announce times of students, which can alienate students who are slower. The goal is to have fun, exercise and compete with your own personal best.
There are so many ways to enjoy gym time with elementary school kids. Feel free to make changes and tweak these ideas to create a game that works best for your students, space and access to equipment. As you move through the year, see which games resonate with your students the most and use that to guide you as you plan future games.

Erica Jabali is a freelance writer and blogs over at ispyfabulous.com.