One of the more challenging tasks for any physical education teacher or youth sports coach is coming up with creative, engaging, and fun indoor PE games for kids that still increase cardiovascular fitness and strength.
Indoor PE games for kids can be difficult to organize because you’re dealing with careening rambunctious kids in confined spaces, so the space to run around is limited.
Due to space restrictions, many PE teachers turn to skills-based indoor PE games over fitness-based ones, because activities like practicing shooting hoops, hitting a ball with a racquet, throwing and catching, and dribbling a basketball lend themselves more easily to confined floor space than running around playing tag or doing laps.
However, some indoor PE games strike a balance and can increase fitness while not requiring a ton of real estate.
In this guide, we’ve put together 12 of the best indoor PE games for kids that require minimal equipment, yet are fun and help develop various aspects of fitness, social skills, and coordination.
Let’s check them out!
Indoor PE Games For Kids
#1: Relay Races
Kids typically love relay races and they help develop teamwork and leadership skills.
The simplest form of indoor relay races is just having the kids run laps of the gym or indoor PE space.
Split the kids up into teams of 2-4 students and then have them take off running the perimeter of the room—no cutting the corners or you’re out!
Have each runner take one lap and then tag or pass a baton to a teammate. The race can involve several rounds through each team, depending on the age of the students.
You can also get more creative with the relay races. For example, instead of straight running, you can have the kids run one side of the gym, then do walking lunges along the next side, then transition to skipping or bounding for the third side and doing lateral shuffling for the last side.
#2: Fitness Stations
You can set up a circuit or “gym” with different fitness stations spread around the gymnasium.
Divide the kids into groups based on the number of stations you have. Set up a timer for 1-2 minutes and have the kids cycle through the entire circuit of stations 2-3 times.
Examples of kids activity stations could be jumping rope, push-ups, sit-ups, plank, squats, burpees, jumping jacks, chair dips, resistance band side steps, high knees sprinting in place, side leg raises, or leg lifts, reverse crunches, and forward and reverse lunges.
#3: Red Light, Green Light
This classic indoor PE game is fun for young kids and it helps build listening skills and body control.
Related article: The 9 Best Kids’ Running Shoes
#4: Sharks and Minnows
Although this game was originally designed to be played in the water, it can be a great indoor PE running game for younger kids.
Players, or “minnows”, are lined up along one wall of the gym facing the other side of the gym. One or two “sharks” stand in the “ocean” in the middle of the gym.
When the sharks yell, “Fishy, fishy, cross my ocean!”, the minnows try to run to the opposite wall without getting tagged by a shark.
If they are tagged, they become seaweed and are stuck in place, wiggling and waving their arms.
They can then tag other minnows when they run by, making it harder for the minnows to get to safety without getting tagged.
#5: Captain’s Orders
Captain’s Orders is like Simon Says, except the instructor or one student is the captain. The captain gives orders like “The captain says, ‘Do 15 jumping jacks.’”
If the captain gives a command without saying “The captain says…” beforehand, any players who do the activity are eliminated.
The activities should be various calisthenics and other exercises like running, push-ups, jumping jacks, and walking lunges to give a full-body workout, along with ship-based activities like “scrub the deck”, “run to port”, and “walk the plank.”
You can also make up commands like “run to base”, where the kids have to run to a designated mat on one side of the gym.
#6: Fitness Bingo
Fitness Bingo is a great way to “gamify” exercise and make it more engaging without feeling forced.
To play this indoor PE fitness game, type up and print out a bingo card for every kid in your class with different exercises or physical activities in each of the boxes in random and varied orders.
Then, lead the class through the exercises in whatever order you decide to call out. The first student to get Bingo, wins!
You can make a set of each exercise for a certain length of time (such as 30 seconds) or a specific number of reps (such as 10-20), depending on the age and skill level of the kids.
Examples of exercises for Bingo squares include push-ups, plank, crunches, squats, burpees, jumping jacks, side-to-side jumps over a line, high knees sprinting in place, side leg raises or leg lifts, mountain climbers, jump squats, bird dog, Superman, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, lateral lunges, V-ups, tuck jumps, reverse crunches, and forward and reverse lunges.
#7: Sock Snowball Fight
With older children, you can play dodgeball with soft indoor sports balls if you have them available, but for younger kids, or if you don’t have access to appropriate sports balls for dodgeball, you can create an indoor “snowball fight” using a similar game concept but with balled up gym socks as the dodgeballs or “snow balls.”
Divide the kids into two teams and separate them on either side of the gym with their backs up against opposite walls facing one another. Along the centerline of the gym, place a series of 10-30 gym socks, each tucked up into a neat ball.
On the command “Go!”, have the kids sprint to the center line and try to grab a snowball sock, then retreat to their side of the gym and try to aim and hit a player on the other team from the shoulders down.
Players who are hit are either eliminated or must complete a penalty before getting back in the game (such as doing 25 jumping jacks or holding a 30-second plank). You can decide the rules.
If a player hits someone in the head or neck, they are eliminated or must perform the penalty.
Players only get three lives and then they are out.
Snowballs are always in play so you can run and grab one if one hits your teammate or an opponent misses someone altogether.
The first team to eliminate all the opponents wins.
#8: Zumba-Inspired Dance Party
Throw a dance party with fitness-inspired dance like Zumba or play upbeat music and encourage everyone to move to the beat. If you have access to a projector, you can even play a free Zumba workout video for kids to help with the choreography.
#9: Bear Crawl Races
The bear crawl is a surprisingly challenging fitness move. Instruct students to keep their core tight, glutes engaged, and back flat.
You can have bear crawl races. Line up the students on one side of the gym and have them bear crawl to the other side. The last one there is eliminated.
Keep going back and forth, eliminating the student who comes in last each time until the winner is crowned.
If your gym is small and you have a lot of kids, you can pair them up and have one member of each pair go to the opposite side and back, taking turns. The same elimination process remains.
#10: Crab Walk Races
Crab walk is another really challenging, but beneficial, exercise for kids and adults alike, so you can also do crab walk races using the same idea as the bear crawl races.
#11: Cheetahs, Frogs, and Kangaroos
Another one of our fun indoor PE games for younger kids that helps develop listening skills, reflexes, and body control while also increasing muscular strength and aerobic fitness is Foxes and Hares.
There are three different movements in this game. When you’re a cheetah, you sprint as fast as you can.
When you’re a frog, you get down on all fours, and frog leap as swiftly and powerfully as possible.
Lastly, when you’re a kangaroo, you do two-foot bunny hops jumping as high and fast as you can, resembling a bounding kangaroo.
Line up the kids with their backs against one side of the gym facing the other side. Yell “Cheetah!”, “Frog!”, or Kangaroo!”, and the kids must respond by doing the indicated movement until you yell another animal command.
You can switch up commands as frequently as you want and at random intervals.
Kids are eliminated if they perform the wrong motion or fail to switch in time before you spot them.
Have the kids go back and forth in straight lines (in their own “lane”) to prevent crashing into one another. When they get to the opposite wall, they simply turn around and come back, resuming the motion they were doing until you yell a different command.
#12: Don’t Come In Last
This indoor PE game will get kids sprinting, yet it’s ultimately a game of endurance.
Have the students line up along one side of the gym with their backs to the wall, facing the opposite wall. Call out “ready, set, go!“ and then have the students take off sprinting to the other side of the gym. The last student to reach the line is eliminated.
Then have the students lineup on that line and face the original starting line. Call out the same commands and have the kids sprint back, again eliminating the last runner to cross the line. If possible, line the walls with mats against them, or instruct the kids to put their hands up to avoid crashing into the wall.
Continue instructing the kids to run back and forth between the two lines, eliminating the final finisher each round until only one runner remains.
How do you challenge kids with indoor PE games?
For instructions on how to perform some of the bodyweight exercises mentioned, take a look at our guide: 6 Essential Bodyweight Exercises For Runners.