It’s certainly not easy to inject movement and action into Zoom Games, but it definitely can be done!
I’ve come up with my favorite 16 active PE games for kids that are ideal for any kind of virtual session such as via Zoom.
These games all involve the following qualities:
-They are active, and yet they can all be done more or less by standing in one place. This means kids get exercise, but they don’t have to move around the room, with all the danger of bumping into things which that involves
-No equipment is needed! This is for both the kids or the leader
-They are fantastic for kids of all ages
-They are fun-filled, active, and enjoyable – with an emphasis on movement, listening and team-building
These games are great for whatever types of PE sessions you are running – for schools, clubs, or whatever else.
Research suggests there are many advantages of online learning. (Source)
So, let’s dive into the ultimate 16 Zoom PE games (that actually work!)
1. Extra Sensory Perception (ESP)
Invent three movements and demonstrate these for the group. For example, a cowboy twirling a lariat above their head, a camp counselor spelling out YMCA, and a college athlete throwing a fastball from the pitcher’s mound.
Then assign everyone a partner (or have them find their own from the field currently available on their screen).
The challenge of this activity is to activate your ESP, that is, your extra-sensory perception – the ability to read your partner’s mind.
On the count of three, everyone displays one of the three movements previously described, but not at random. Choose the movement that you think your partner is about to do. Ready?
1, 2, 3!
Get the same move? You’ve activated your ESP!
ESP is a very brief way of getting your audience up and moving, even if only for a minute or two. You can play multiple rounds of the activity, and switch partners.
2. Figures Of Eight
The simple idea behind this game is that the players are going to be standing in front of their screen and attempt to make a figure of eight with different parts of their bodies.
For example, you can make an eight with:
As a further extension, players could sign their names using various body parts.
3. Dance Counting
You need some sort of loud pumping disco music – ideally something without any words.
Get the children to stand up in front of their computer, then teach them a simple dance routine. It is probably best to stick to about four moves to start with. For example, arms to the right, arms to the left, arms up high, arms down low.
Now give them any number between 1-8, for example, 4 is a good one to start with.
So you’re all going to do the dance routine – but every move you will do it 4 times.
So off you go – arms to the right four times, arms to the left four times, etc.
Then give them a different number, for example, ‘six’.
Repeat the process again, this time with six of each move.
The smaller numbers are actually harder in this game, with ‘one’ being the trickiest!
4. Bob Up
The children sit down to begin this game.
The idea here is that you ask the children a question. If the answer for them is ‘yes’ then they jump up on their feet, and then sit back down straight away. This is the ‘bob up’ movement.
You might ask them, ‘Do you like tomatoes?’ The ones that do will bob up.
Ways of extending the game are:
-Children ask the questions
-Bob up and do a funky pre-designated move, such as do a funny dance or a silly face.
5. Animal Copy Cat
One child is ‘on’ for this game. They are the ‘cat’ that everyone else is going to try to copy.
This child then moves, on the spot, like some kind of animal. For example, like an elephant. They swing their trunk and stamp their feet.
The person that is ‘on’ will switch things up about every twenty seconds, by trying out a different animal.
Everyone else tries to copy.
Then switch to someone else being ‘on’. They try a new animal.
A variation of this game is that the person who is ‘on’ can also say ‘freeze’ at any given moment. Freeze in your animal pose. Anyone that they see moving is ‘out.’
Lots of children are passionately excited by vehicles and transformers, and this is another activity that can be done more or less on the spot.
There is of course lots of research about the importance of listening games in development. (Source)
The children are now transformers. They get to shape-shift into all sorts of vehicles. Nominate either a child or the adult to be ‘on’ and decide which vehicles to pick.
Some good ideas for vehicles are:
i) Helicopter – arms spinning round above your head
iii) Train – using ‘chugging arms’
iv) Racing cars – running in place fast
v) Monster truck – make yourself as big as possible, and chug on the spot
vi) Plane – arms out, ‘swooping’ (on the spot)
7. Mr Men/Little Miss Game
The simple idea of this is that the players pretend to be different characters from the Little Miss or Mr Men books. They do the movements on the spot.
Some good ones to try include:
Mr Tall – walk on the spot as high as possible
Mr Grumpy – stamp with an angry face
Little Miss Tiny – Curl up like a ball
If they can think of their own ideas then great! If not, just come up with some as the adult, and maybe demo some simple ways of moving like that character.
8. Child-Friendly Yoga
Incorporating a few of the easier yoga movements in virtual learning is a sure-fire way to boost engagement, and incorporate mindfulness into your session.
The Alphabet Stretch invites participants to use their bodies to create each letter of the alphabet in a smoothly flowing succession, from A to Z. Participants can move at their own speed, and define their own movements.
Household Yoga consists of slow movements created to mimic household activities, such as reaching high up on the top shelf to retrieve a box of cereal, or simultaneously washing a window with one hand while stirring a pot of soup with the other.
The participants can invent their own moves. The activity continues until everyone has shared at least one household yoga movement.
Child-friendly animal yoga moves can be used with children of all ages. Some good examples are:
Stand with one foot in front of the other. Reach up high with one arm above you (this is the giraffe’s neck). Then bend slowly down, touching your front foot with the arm that had been high up, before rising again to the original position.
Lie on your back, with your knees pulled into your chin. Rock gently forwards and backward like a turtle in its shell.
Lie on your front, with your hands flat on the floor under your shoulders. Push upwards until your arms are straight, arching your back.
9. Action Counting Dance
This is a particularly good game for younger children, though older ones might like it too.
Put some kind of pumping tune on again; one with no words is probably best.
Pick some kind of action, and do it to the music as you count.
With older ones I always go to eight. Do eight actions, then move onto another movement.
So, you might do eight star jumps, then eight reaches up high.
With younger children, where they are still learning how to count, I (paradoxically) often count higher than eight. We just count as far as we can while doing the action.
Then start back at one with a different action.
The numbers are more of an emphasis with the younger ones, as they are still learning how to practice counting.
With the older ones, the emphasis is more on the exercise, with the sequence to eight just helping to give a structure to the activity.
10. Bean Game
This is a classic PE game that works really well on Zoom (as lots of these other games are).
In this game, the children are going to pretend to be different types of beans.
This is another game that is fantastic for listening skills in particular.
The leader is going to be saying the names of different beans. The children are then going to try to move like the particular beans, as they move on the spot in their space.
Some common instructions for this game are:
Runner bean – the kids run in place
Sprouting bean – stand on tip-toes, with arms stretched high in the air. Twist your hands and arms as if they are growing
Jelly bean – wobble like a jelly
Baked bean – sit down on the floor
Beans on toast – lie down
Chilli bean – shiver! (obviously, this is a ‘pun’ on the word Chilli)
Broad bean – Put your arms out as wide as possible
French bean – Say, ‘Bonjour!
Start simple (as is wise for all of these games). Just show them about three different actions, to begin with.
When they are good at using those, you can then expand into different actions.
Potentially a child could lead this game after they have got used to it.
11. Action Stories
This is a fantastic game for combining literacy, storytelling, and PE all in one big melting-pot.
It’s a simple idea! The leader makes up a story. In the story, there will be lots of actions.
For example, you might start, ‘One day the big giant went stamping across his cave.’
Everyone pretends to stamp like a giant.
‘He beat his chest!’
Everyone beats their chest.
‘He rolled the giant stone out of the cave doorway.’
Everyone rolls the stone.
‘He saw a unicorn galloping across the field towards him.’
The kids pretend to be galloping unicorns.
Continue like this. If the children can offer their own ideas, then that is fantastic! The more wacky and crazy the story goes the better.
12. Traffic Lights
This is another really classic listening game.
In this one, the children are going to pretend to be cars. The younger ones, in particular, can do all the pretend steering wheel driving if they like!
The leader is going to give them instructions based on the colors of traffic lights. The children are going to move in a pre-agreed way whenever you say a color.
So, some simple instructions to start with are:
Green – Go! Jog in place
Red – Stop
Yellow – walk on the spot
This is the best way to start – with just the three traffic light colors.
When the kids get the hang of this, then you can move onto the following ideas:
Parking Lot (or car-park) – Lie down on the floor
Freeway – Run really fast in place
Honk the horn – Beep! Beep!
Roundabout – Go around in a circle
Vary the speed of giving instructions to very quick (for maximum changes of movement and hilarity), to quite slow (for a calmer and easier version of the game).
13. HIIT Session
This is a fantastic game for kids of all ages, and of course adults as well potentially.
In this, you are basically leading the kids in an on-the-spot training circuit.
Pick some moves that will work well for their particular age group.
For younger ones, you could pick moves like:
-Jumping in place
-Reach up, reach down
-Jumping like a frog
-Reach to one side, reach to other
For older kids, you can do things like:
And all that kind of thing.
You can structure the session with time intervals. So it could be 20 seconds doing an activity, then 20 seconds off.
Pick about 3-4 activities, and do them in a sequence. Then repeat for at least a second rep (and potentially 3-4 for older kids).
14. Simon Says
Of course, pretty much everyone knows how to play this one.
Simply say, ‘Simon says,…’ and then say an action, like ‘put your hands on your heads.’
If you say ‘Simon Says’ then they all do it; if you don’t say ‘Simon Says’ then they don’t do it. It’s as simple as that!
You can spice this game up with variations, including:
-Simon Says Adventure. Make up an adventure as part of the game. For example, ‘Simon Says wade through the swamp.’
-Simon Says Theme. Pick a theme, for example, superheroes, and move like them.
15. Animal Freeze
Nominate one person to be the ‘leader’ in this game.
This is a bit like musical statues, but with a bit of fun, movement added!
Have some music that everyone is able to hear on Zoom.
Pick an animal, for example, an elephant. Everyone dances with big floppy ears, and a long trunk!
When the music stops – freeze in position!
The ‘leader’ can then say who was last to freeze, and also anyone that they can see moving. They are out.
Then start the music again, with a different animal.
16. Captain’s Coming
This is another classic game that is great for Zoom.
It combines imagination and physical activity.
The children are all pirates on a pretend boat. Give them different instructions which they act out. Classic instructions include:
Row the boat – Pretend to be rowing with oars
Scrub the deck – Get on your knees and pretend to scrub the floor
Captain’s coming – Stand up straight and salute
Swim to shore – Do the front crawl
Into the hammock – Lie down on the floor
Lift the cannonballs – Lift up those incredibly heavy cannonballs, with wobbling legs and straining faces.
With these games in your locker, you can inject all the movement, fun, and engagement into your online PE sessions as is humanly possible.