Hula-hooping, jumping rope, kicking the can—it’s probably been years since you’ve had a blast playing these outdoor games. But teaching them to your kids and enjoying them as a family scores big benefits for everyone.
For starters, all that running and bending makes for an excellent cardio workout, raising your heart rate while burning calories, explains Chris Freytag, chairman of the board for the American Council of Exercise (ACE) and an ACE certified group fitness instructor, healthcoach, and personal trainer. But even more important is that you’ll show your kids how much fun moving around can be, instilling in them a love of physical activity that will last long past childhood.
Start with these eight retro playground favorites; they’ll get your entire family active old-school style—no consoles, screens, or smart phones needed!
Hold a Hula Hoop Contest
How fun can it be to spin a hoop with your hips? The answer: More fun (and hard work!) than you think. Gather your family members, find a stopwatch, and discover who’s got the moves to keep that hoop going around and around the longest. Hula-hooping is an awesome strengthener for your core and legs, and even helps your balance, says Freytag.
Swap Screen Time for Jump Time
Jumping rope is “the easiest, cheapest way to get your heart rate up,” says Freytag, and the games you can play are only limited by your imagination. Try “School”: While two people turn the rope, another jumps under it and calls out “Kindergarten!” Next, you’ll jump in and jump once for “first grade,” then twice for “second grade,” and so on up until you jump twelve times in a row and “graduate.” Trip or miss and you’ll have to start over at kindergarten.
Tug of War at a Barbecue
Kids on one side, adults on the other; boys against girls… It doesn’t matter how you divvy up teams but how long and hard you can hold on to that rope, an activity that strengthens your arms and abs. Try tug of war the next time you hold a big family gathering—and up the stakes by staging it over a sandbox or slip and slide.
Test your quad and calf strength as well as your balance by marking in chalk at least 8 numbered squares on your sidewalk or driveway. Players take turns dropping a rock into the first square, then hopping over it and into each sequential square, turning around, hopping back, and squatting to pick up their marker on the way out. It’s a great starter game to ease into more intense activity.
Start a Family Kickball League
Kickball is played like baseball —you score runs and points by running to four designated bases without getting tagged out. The only difference is, you use a rubber playground ball instead of a baseball. No other equipment is necessary, but you do need the stamina to sprint, kick, and throw. “Those movements make it a great overall workout,” says Freytag.
Kick the Can at Your Next Block Party
This high-energy combo of hide-and-seek and tag is guaranteed to blast some serious calories, and it’s a lot of fun for little ones. One person counts next to a can on the sidewalk while the other players hide. If you are “found” by the counter, you must sprint back to the can and kick it over before you get tagged.
H-O-R-S-E Around Under the Hoop
Like basketball, H-O-R-S-E is great exercise for your arms, chest, and shoulders, and two people or a big group can play it. The first player tries to make a basket from anywhere on the court. If he does, the other players have to shoot from the same spot. Anyone who misses receives “H,” the first letter of “horse.” Spell the word completely . . . and you’re out.
Visit the Park, Capture the Flag
Next time you’re at a local park, recruit other families for this team game. Each team hides a flag (or sweatshirt, or picnic basket—whatever you have handy) on their “territory,” then players from the opposite team try to find it and sneak it back to their side. If you’re tagged on “enemy territory,” you’ll go to a designated “jail” until you’re freed by a teammate. This high-adrenaline, super-fun game is fantastic exercise for your entire body, says Freytag.