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Need Movement Activities To Keep Kids Active At School?

Movement activities burn off extra energy and give kids a break from deeper thought work. That means they can learn better throughout the day.
Movement activities burn off extra energy and give kids a break from deeper thought work. That means they can learn better throughout the day.

With kids back in school, it’s time to get them learning—and moving. Whether your students were less active while learning at home or need some movement breaks to get used to being in the classroom all day, it’s good to have some tricks in your toolkit. There are lots of ways to get kids moving throughout the day (and good reasons to do it too!)

Movement activities burn off extra energy and give kids a break from deeper thought work. That means they can learn better throughout the day. Movement activities can be running around at recess, but they can also be movement games you introduce for PE or even movement games you use as brain breaks. 

4 movement activities for kids you can use at school

Move like a ___

Mix up movement students make anyway. For example, when you move from your mat at morning meeting back to tables or desks, ask students to move like a penguin. When you call a group to work with you, have them hop like a bunny to your table. Remind students they are moving quickly and quietly even as they move like something else. This activity makes a regular transition a little more fun and gets kids moving their bodies in different ways. 

You can also use this as a movement activity on its own. Playing outside or in a gym will give you more space, but you can do it in the classroom. Before you begin, remind students to be aware of their bodies and avoid running into or touching others. 

Ideas for ways to have students move include: 

  • Swim like a fish
  • Hop like a frog
  • Run like a gazelle
  • Pounce like a tiger
  • Waddle like a duck
  • Slither like a snake.

Movement activities burn off extra energy and give kids a break from deeper thought work. That means they can learn better throughout the day.

Do as I do

This game is similar to Simon Says. The two differences are that there are no verbal commands and there is no “trick” that gets students out. Students can still get out, but will stay active. 

For this activity, make sure students have space to move their arms and legs without hitting walls, furniture or other students. Then, instruct students to mimic what you do. 

The leader (usually the teacher, but you could have students take turns leading) does a movement that students can copy: toe touches, arm circles, bunny hops in place, lunges,  jumping jacks. Start slowly and then speed it up. If a student does the wrong action or fails to change actions, they are “out” for the round. Have students who are out jog in place until the next round begins. 

Movement activities burn off extra energy and give kids a break from deeper thought work. That means they can learn better throughout the day.

5-4-3-2-1

This is a great brain break activity that only takes a few minutes. Use it between activities to re-energize students. Have students complete a short sequence of activities. For example they could:

  • Clap 5 times
  • Pat their head 4 times. 
  • Hop on their left foot 3 times
  • Touch their knee 2 times. 
  • Shout Boo 1 time.

You can do any sequence of activities. Other ideas include touching toes, skipping in place, doing jumping jacks, hopping on their other foot, touching knee to elbow … or any other ways you think of to get kids moving. Need more brain break ideas? These Brain Break Cards have you covered with 60 ideas!

Movement activities burn off extra energy and give kids a break from deeper thought work. That means they can learn better throughout the day.

Obstacle course

Obstacle courses get kids moving fast and in different ways and are great for agility. A gym or outside space is ideal for an obstacle course, but you could set one up in a hallway or even your classroom too. It’s helpful to have objects like cones, hoops, jump ropes, and steps, but you can use any objects to create obstacles. You might also want a stopwatch to time students. (If you have multiple stations, you’ll want multiple stopwatches.) 

You can have students do any number of activities. For example: 

  • Skip from one marker to the next (markers can be cones, lines in the gym, tape on the floor, or anything else that shows a start or end point)
  • Hop to the next station
  • Walk along a line (this could also be a line in the gym, tape along the floor, or a jump rope)
  • Weave between a row of cones or other markers
  • Leap over a space marked by tape or jump ropes
  • Step into each hoop laid out
  • Slither along a mat to the end. 

Demonstrate how students should go through the obstacle course before they begin. 

Obstacles are very adaptable. You can adjust the activities to work with your space, time, the number of students, and resources. This classroom game could also serve as a PE activity. You can get more PE games and activities with fully formed lesson plans here: PE Lesson Plans

Movement activities burn off extra energy and give kids a break from deeper thought work. That means they can learn better throughout the day.

Looking for more ways to get kids moving so they are engaged and ready to learn? Get 11 games to use as movement activities or brain breaks in the free resource Classroom Game Cheat-Sheets:

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Movement activities burn off extra energy and give kids a break from deeper thought work. That means they can learn better throughout the day.

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Subscribe to our newsletter to receive regular teaching tips and updates & get instant access to the free classroom games PDF:

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