Facebook Twitter

Backyard recess: 5 energy-burning games from an expert in active fun

5 Energy-burning kids games from an expert in active fun

SHARE Backyard recess: 5 energy-burning games from an expert in active fun

Meet Curt Hinson, Ph.D. As a dad, coach, and physical education instructor and consultant, Hinson is a walking (and, more often, running) encyclopedia of games kids love to play.

He shares five of his slam-dunk favorites. From a one-on-one jumping contest to a beanbag standoff, all are what Hinson calls inclusion games. In the P.E. business, those are games in which nobody sits out — instead, players are moving and learning all the time. In the backyard, we figure that translates into nonstop fun. Ready? Set? Play!


To grab and run or to wait and tag? That is the question.

What you need

Two players (or multiple pairs of two)

A small ball or a beanbag per pair

Two agreed-upon goal lines, about 30 to 40 feet apart

To play: Players begin by standing on their goal lines with the ball between them on the ground. At "Go," each tries either to grab the ball and run back to the line without being tagged or to tag the grabber. Either action scores a point. The game ends at an agreed-upon number of points.

Curt says: "Kids love chasing and fleeing, and this game gives them plenty of action. If the pairs of players aren't well matched, adjust the starting ball position to favor the slower runner."


Square off with a traditional heart-pumping test of wits.

What you need

Two players (or multiple pairs of two)

To play: Players face each other and designate who will be "same" and who will be "different" (like choosing heads or tails in a coin toss).

Both then jump in place six times, counting out loud. On the sixth jump, each lands with one foot forward. If they kick out on the same side, the "same" player wins. If they kick out on opposite sides, the "different" player wins. The game continues for an agreed-upon number of rounds, after which kids can change designations — or rest!

Curt says: "Though this seems like a simple game of chance, like rock, paper, scissors, it prompts higher-level thinking. Kids begin by planning their own jumps, but quickly realize they have to consider their opponent's patterns, so that they can guess the next move and react to it."


Work together to hit a moving target.

What you need

Four to six players

1 soccer ball (the planet)

1 foam ball (the asteroid)

To play: Divide players into two teams. The object of the game is for Team Asteroid to throw their foam ball and hit Team Planet's soccer ball.

Team Planet controls their ball by kicking it around, trying to keep it from Team Asteroid.

Team Asteroid players are not allowed to take any steps with their ball. Instead, they must pass it to teammates, trying to get it in the hands of a player close enough to the planet for a shot. When the foam ball hits the soccer ball, the teams switch roles.

Curt says: "This game teaches ball skills and strategy. The strategy is simple, and kids figure it out quickly: if you're a free Team Asteroid member, run toward the planet. The closer you get, the better your chances of hitting it with the asteroid."


Test your hand-eye coordination with this team challenge.

What you need

Five players

Two to five medium foam balls or other soft objects

To play: Players stand in a circle. The starting player throws a ball to a teammate who is not standing directly beside him. The catcher then tosses the ball across the circle to a third player. When everyone has received the ball once, it will have traveled in a five pointed star pattern. Players continue to toss the ball in this pattern, always throwing to the same teammate, until they have mastered it. Then, they add another ball or object to the mix. The challenge is to see how many balls the group can juggle at one time, and for how long, without dropping or missing throws.

Curt says: "Turn up the challenge by adding objects of different weights and sizes. Start with a light, 7- to 8-inch ball, then add a beanbag, a koosh ball, a rubber chicken, a light plastic container — you name it. It's best to avoid hard objects or bouncy balls that take time to chase."


Let your inner goalie shine in this one-on-one game of quick reflexes.

What you need

Two players (or multiple pairs of two)

1 hula hoop for each player

1 beanbag or soft object per pair

To play: Lay the hoops on the ground with their rims about 8 feet apart. Standing inside their own hoops, players try to toss the beanbag, using an underhand throw, into their opponent's hoop. If the beanbag lands and stays in the hoop, a point is scored. Players can block throws with their hands and bodies but must remain on their feet (no kneeling, sitting, or lying down in the hoop).

Curt says: "This one brings out kids' inner tricksters: they love to hide the beanbag behind their backs and fake throws. If you don't have a beanbag, try a balled-up sock with a few rubber bands around it."

Readers' poll

Would you like us to continue this series with further details on overcoming entitlement with ownership, or would you like us now to move on to other parenting and family topics?

More on entitlement

Thanks, move on now to other parenting topics

Give feedback atwww.theeyres.com