Games to Play with Kids in a Gym: For Youth Group, P.E., or Therapy

Ideas for physical education, after school programs, and youth groups. Gymnasium plus kids plus these ideas equals FUN.
Ideas for physical education, after school programs, and youth groups. Gymnasium plus kids plus these ideas equals FUN.
If you're like me, you have learned that the set up and directions of the game are essential. Take the extra time to make sure everyone understands the rules.
If you're like me, you have learned that the set up and directions of the game are essential. Take the extra time to make sure everyone understands the rules.

What Games to Play with Kids in a Gym

Playing games with kids in a gym can be a lot of fun. With the size of a gymnasium, you get to have a lot of space for movement. The following are some examples of things to do in a gym with kids, but you may need to think about the details of the game play 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. If you have access to display this page to your youth group, P.E. class, or other group of kids, then you could allow them to learn the instructions easier and choose what they want to play. Leave any other ideas for others in the comment section at the bottom of the page.

Space Clean-up

I came up with this game when I was in a gym with kids who were sitting along the sidelines of the basketball court being lazy and doing nothing. I used their position of sitting and created a task that I told them they had to do from a sitting position.

The kids liked it, and the game matured over several generations of game play. This is a simple game that can be used with all age groups of youth. Physical activity is moderate, but attention and coordination are required.

Space Clean-Up Diagram

One kids throws a ball at the group of balls and objects just like a pool Que-ball breaks the group of pool balls at the beginning of pool.
One kids throws a ball at the group of balls and objects just like a pool Que-ball breaks the group of pool balls at the beginning of pool.

Tips for Space Clean-Up

  • Add objects with low profile to challenge older kids
  • Make things more interesting by setting a time limit
  • Place large unmovable object in the way
  • Use the full court if there are more than 25 kids

How to Play Space Clean-Up

  1. Get the kids (space cadets) to sit on their bottoms evenly spread out along the basketball court out-of-bounds line and across the half-court line.
  2. 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 around the edge of the gym.
  3. 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.
  4. 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)
  5. Give the cadet the ball.
  6. Let the games begin.
  7. Give people penalty time-outs if they get up from their bottoms.
  8. Celebrate when all the "space junk" is cleared.

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 until the kids reach exhaustion, and could count as a cardiovascular workout. I've sweated through my shirt playing one round for about 15 minutes.

Tips for Trash War

  • Tell the kids that they can only use their hands and no kicking to prevent injuries
  • Use different sized balls for an interesting game
  • Try this with a volleyball net up

How to Play Trash War

  1. 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 amount.
  2. Tell the kids that the team who gets all the balls on the opposing team's side, even for a second, is the winner.
  3. Blow a whistle to begin.

Pac-Man Video

Pac-Man

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, played out in a gym.

It takes advantage of something almost any indoor gym would have, painted basketball court lines. Pac-Man is good practice for kids to follow directions and rules.

Tips for Pac-Man Game

  • 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 ofn the ghosies

Directions for Gymnasium Pac-Man

  1. Choose one kid to be the Pac-Man.
  2. Make all the other kids line up in an opposite corner to be the 'ghosties'.
  3. Set some objects down in a few places for the Pac-Man to pick up.
  4. 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.
  5. Blow a whistle to start.

Dodgeball Instructional Video

Dodge Ball

Dodge Ball is a kids' favorite gym game, but there are many variations and many rules that can make the game more... or less fun. Taking it too seriously could make it too rigid for little kids, and not having enough structure can lead to an out or control free for all. Watch the video for the directions, and then read the tips.

Tips for Dodgeball

  • "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" dodge ball.

How to Play 4 Corner Dodgeball

Wacky Bat Relay Race

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 more and increase competition.

Relay Races Tips and Ideas

  • Hop, skip, gallop, sidestep, etc. 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, or give them a spoon and ping pong ball (or and egg) to balance.
  • Make the kids spin around a bat before running. They will have a difficult time running straight.
  • Set up some obstacles like mats that have to be climbed or hoola hoops that have to be stepped in.
  • Combine all of these to make it really difficult.

Balloon Relay Race

Human Ring Toss

Hoola Hoop Ring Toss

Ring toss with hula hoops can be done with just a couple hula hoops and a couple cones. This is a good game when you have less than 10 kids who aren't into really 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 for Hula Hoop Ring Toss:

  • Set up a few different cones and assign different point values for each. Higher points for more difficult throws.
  • Set up a golf course of cones and keep individual scores like miniature golf.
  • If you don't want or have cones, then the kids can practice throwing the hula hoop onto each other.

3 Year Old Playing Corn Hole

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 really. 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, then you can easily set up some type of marker on the ground. Hoola Hoops, tape lines, cones in a shape of a triangle, or even a chair can be used as the goal for the bean bags.

Kick Ball

Kick ball is a classic game to be played outside where a pop fly of a kick ball can soar, but in a gym it gets a little more crazy. It's basically like baseball, only you kick a kick ball and run the bases. You have limited space, so the bases are closer 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 more. Allowing throw outs will usually result in someone getting a red mark somewhere on his or her body, which just adds to the fun.

List of Games for Young Children

Young children require simple games with not a lot of explaining. Here is a short list of games you can play with preschool aged children. Instructions can be easily found on the included links.

More videos with even more games

I'll finish this list with a bunch of videos featuring even more games that you can play with kids in the gym. Many of these can be modified to fit the number of kids you have and their ages.

If may be beneficial to show the kids these videos ahead of time as demonstrations in addition to giving verbal instructions.

Then let the kids choose what games to play in the gym and rotate games, so they don't get tired of playing the same game over and over again.

Cooperative Game for Kids

How to Play Pirates

Roadkill

Capture the Flag

Parachute Games

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