25 Gym Class Games

gym class gamesFinding creative and engaging games for your gym class that encourage teamwork doesn’t have to be a challenge! This list is broken down by simple equipment you may already have available for your class, as well as equipment-free games. 

Hula Hoop Games

  1. Hula Hoop Hot Potato - Students get in groups of four and are each given a hula hoop and a bean bag (or you can use several bean bags). Lay down the hoops in the shape of a square on the floor and put the bean bag in their hoop. On “go,” students get in a pushup position (plank), positioned with their hands behind their hula hoop. The object of the game is to stay in that position while using one hand to throw your bean bag into someone else’s hoop, but also keep any bags from getting into their own hoop. The goal is to have the fewest bean bags in your hoop when time is called.
  2. Hula Hootenanny - This game is like musical chairs but without elimination. Make a circle on the floor with eight to 10 hula hoops. Have students walk in single file around the outside of the hoops while the music plays. When the music stops, they must put one foot inside the hoop (more than one student can put their foot in a hoop). Take away one hoop and start the music again.
  3. Hungry Caterpillars - Before the game, place objects on the ground such as cones, poly spots or foam balls. Divide students into teams of five to six players and give each team a hula hoop. Have teams put their hula hoop on the floor in a line and stand inside the hoop (hoops should be touching). This line is your team’s caterpillar. The goal is to collect the objects placed around the gym by moving your caterpillar around the gym cooperatively. The way the caterpillar moves is the last person steps into the hoop in front of them and passes the one they just stepped out of to the front, where the front person lays it down and steps into it. Everyone shifts forward and that is how the caterpillars moves! Only the front of the caterpillar may pick up items but then passes them back to be carried by other team members. The game ends when all the items have been collected.
  4. Hula Pass - This is an easy game that encourages teamwork and creative thinking. The whole class holds hands and tries to pass a hula-hoop by stepping through it and “passing” it to the person next to them. The goal is to get the hula-hoop completely around the circle without breaking hands.

Coordinate gym class volunteers with a sign up. SAMPLE

Foam Ball Games

  1. Battle Ball - Divide your class into two teams, and give each student gets a soft throwing ball. Put a large exercise ball at center court. The object is to move the exercise ball over a predetermined scoring line of the opposing team, moving it ONLY by throwing the soft balls at it. Players cannot cross the center court and cannot try to hit other players (like dodgeball) or they must sit down.
  2. Pin Ball Knock Out - This is like dodgeball, but students knock over pins instead of their friends! You will also need plastic bowling pins for this game. Line up pins on the baselines of both ends of the gym and place a line of balls on the center line. Kids can't cross the centerline, but try to throw or roll the balls to knock over the pins. The first team to knock over all the pins of their opponents win!
  3. Hideout - Start by creating a “throwing pit” using the middle circle of the gym. Stand tumbling mats upright on their sides to form barriers at four locations around the gym to form a “hideout” from incoming balls. Choose a player to be the “thrower” — that player must throw from the inside of the center circle. The remaining students run in the same direction outside the perimeter of the mats, trying not to get hit. The catch is that they can only stay behind the mat for a count of three and then must make a run for the next “hideout.” Whenever a player is hit below the waist, they are become a thrower in the center. Play for a set time or until everyone is in the center and then you can start over!
Cross country 5K race volunteer sign up form

Equipment-Free Games

  1. Captain’s Coming -  Similar to Simon Says but with a nautical theme! One person is “captain” and calls out actions and dismisses players who don’t do the actions quickly or are out of character. Some command ideas include: “Starfish”(get in a group of five and lay down in shape of starfish), “Crow’s Next” (get in a group of three and lock arms at the elbows to form the nest) or “Shark Attack” (lie on back with feet up in the air).
  2. Line Tag (Pac Man Tag) - Using the lines of the gym floor, pick out one to three “ghosts” and the rest of the students are “Pac Man” players. Spread out on the lines of the gym and have ghosts (possibly designate them with a vest or have them wave arms like a ghost) chase the Pac Man players while staying on the lines. If a Pac Man player is tagged, they must sit down and become a roadblock for other Pac Man players, but ghosts may go around roadblocks. You can also add additional lines with painter’s tape if you have a large class. No jumping from line to line, and the last players left untagged become ghosts for the next round of play.
  3. Caterpillar Races - Divide the class into four teams (two teams will sit out and cheer on the other teams as they take turns) and the two “racing” teams must sit down in a line with their knees bent and keep a hold of the ankles of the person behind them. Mark a finish line and once the whistle is blown, teams must scoot along, without letting go of the ankles of the person behind them, scooting forward and inching along like a caterpillar until they reach the finish line.
  4. Dog Catcher Tag - For this game, it is useful to have gym class jerseys/vests. An alternative is to have dog catchers run with one arm waving in the air, yelling “Get Those Puppies!” Divide teams into four corners and mark out a “cage” with painter’s tape. One corner is the dog catchers and when the whistle blows, all the puppies get loose from their cages and run from the dog catchers. As puppies are caught, they return to their cage until all the puppies are caught. Then another group gets a turn as dog catchers and so on.
  5. Toilet Tag - What kid doesn’t love a game with some bathroom humor? The twist on this tag game is that once you are tagged, you kneel down and hold out your arm like a toilet handle and must be “flushed” by another runner in order to become un-tagged (or unclogged, ha!).
  6. Giants, Elves and Wizards - Similar to “Rock, Paper, Scissors” but for teams. The rules are: Giants beat Wizards, Wizards beat Elves, and Elves beat Giants. There are two teams, and team members consult secretly to determine what their character will be. Once they decide, everyone comes to center court and on the count of three, they all do their action. The losing team runs back to their side end of the court, and the winning team tries to tag them. Whoever is tagged joins the other team for the next round.

Plan a school bike-a-thon with a sign up. SAMPLE

Balloon Games

  1. Balloon Snake Races - Divide into two teams and line up. Blow up enough balloons to put one in between pairs of students (with balloons between belly and back). Have races with the object being to keep all the balloons in place (without touching them! Have students put hands on hips to avoid the temptation to touch the balloon) as you complete a cone course, circle around a tree or just get from one end of the gym to the other.
  2. Balloon H-O-R-S-E - Give each student a balloon and divide them into small teams. Each team will need a starting line and a hula hoop, laundry basket or other goal. Have them make up a “trick” such as hitting the balloon three times in the air and then hitting it into the goal or carrying it between their knees to the goal and getting it to land in the hula hoop. The other team must replicate the trick. Each time a team is unsuccessful, they get a letter. Compete to see who can keep from spelling H-O-R-S-E first.
  3. Balloon Hole in One - For a fun outdoor balloon game, fill balloons with helium and spread them out around your playing area, staked low to the ground outside with golf tees. Use a pool noodle to designate the throwing line and write numbers on the balloon with point values (the further the throw, the more the points). Students toss hula hoops and try to make a loop over the balloon and then tally up their score. Great combination of hand-eye coordination and simple math!
  4. Partner Balloon Dash - Two partners have to stand back to back and place a balloon between their shoulders and then put their hands on their hips (no helping the balloon stay in place). Students must race together as a team to a finish line or go around an obstacle and return to the finish line. Increase the challenge by saying they have to shuttle balloons across the gym in this same way and the team who can shuttle the most balloons in a certain amount of time (or while a song plays) gets to pop a few balloons!

Exercise Ball Games

  1. Wall Ball - Have students lay down next to each other around the outside wall of the gym with their legs up against the wall. Take the exercise ball and start it down the line and students have to pass it using the wall and their feet. Once the ball has passed them, they can get up and run to the end of the line, lay down and wait for the ball to come again. The objective is to get all the way around the gym the fastest. For older students, make it interesting by having them lay one arms-length apart. You can even time classes and have a friendly competition to see who can pass it the fastest.
  2. Cannon Fire - Students divide into groups of five to six players and stand in lines on one side of the gym. Put out cones, hoops and other objects to be fired upon. When the teacher yells “FIRE,” students throw one ball and try to hit something in the “ocean.” If they hit a target, they get to bring the target back to their team, and the next person in line gets the ball and throws it at a target when the teacher yells “FIRE.” Challenge students to use their non-throwing arm or assign “pirates” to stand out next to the objects and swat away incoming cannonballs.

Organize a fun field day with a sign up. SAMPLE

Miscellaneous Equipment

  1. Card Cardio - Divide class into small groups. Post at the front of the class that each suit in the deck of cards (hearts, spades, etc.) represents a different type of exercise (sit ups, burpees, jumping jacks) and have a deck of cards on a desk. At the whistle, one representative of each group runs to draw a card and returns to the team where everyone has to do the type of exercise represented by the suit of the card and as many reps as the number given on the card. Set a certain amount of time and the team who completes the most cards at the end of the time is the winner.
  2. Get Off The Island - Students are divided into teams of three, and each student has a scooter, a mat, a hula hoop and a rope. The goal is to get their objects and team members to the other side of the gym without anyone touching the floor. Students can get creative using a combination of all their items to get across the “ocean” but if any skin touches the floor, their ship is sunk!
  3. Use Your Noodle - Place a shortened length of pool noodle between the heads (right above the ear) of two partner students. The goal is to keep it there without touching it while running over some partner obstacles (like jumping over another large pool noodle with your partner at the same time) and completing a partner task (like working as a team to pick up towels off the floor and fold them) while still holding the pool noodle in place. See which partner team can work the best in this conjoined manner!
  4. Triangle Tag - Have groups of four pick one person to be “it” and have the other three students form a triangle by holding three pool noodles between them (holding one end in each hand). Use two noodles that are the same color, and the third is a second color.  The three students must hold on to the pool noodles while the fourth student tries to tag the student at the “top” of the triangle (where the two pool noodles of the same color meet) with a fourth pool noodle.
  5. Parachute Beach - All but seven students grab the edge of the large parachute. The majority are the swimmers and spread out into a circle. While the parachute is elevated, five of the seven students go under the chute to be the sharks, and the two other students remain outside the chute to be lifeguards. (You can easily add more lifeguards and fewer sharks, depending on your class). After the sharks are in place, swimmers sit down, still holding the parachute, and extend their legs under the elevated chute (they can tuck it under them to help keep the air pocket trapped inside). The “sharks” then try to gently tug the ankle of the “swimmers” (no jerking, kicking or hard pulling or that player becomes a permanent swimmer!) before a lifeguard can come and tag them to save them from being pulled under by the shark. Swimmers can even call out for a lifeguard if they sense a shark approaching! If the lifeguard doesn’t get to them in time, swimmers go under the chute and become a shark.
  6. Protect the Penguin - Place foam balls across the gym and give each child a bowling pin to set up around the gym. Each person must protect their pin AND try and knock down other players’ pins. If your pin gets knocked down, then you are out. As more people get out, players move their pins closer together until only one is is left standing.
The goal of any gym class is to teach kids that having fun and staying active can go hand in hand. These ideas can help you find a new gym class game or two to keep your students laughing, working together and discovering new ways to keep their bodies moving! 

Julie David lives in Charlotte, N.C., with her husband and three daughters. She is a former teacher.