Martial arts instructor Dave Coffman uses what he calls "the jumping game" every week in his kids' classes. The reason? Sensei Coffman says, "Kids like to jump. They like to run. They like a challenge." Jumping games of all sorts give children the level of challenge and immediate feedback that makes video games so popular, while also developing important gross motor skills.
Coffman's Jumping Game
Have the kids line up on one side of the playing field. Gather several pads or cushions. Sensei Coffman uses martial arts kicking shields, but sofa cushions or similar pads work just as well. Place one cushion in the middle of the room. Kids take turns running up and jumping over the cushion, landing with two feet on the other side. Once all kids have jumped over the cushion, add a cushion to the stack and do it again. Keep adding one cushion per round. For a competitive version, declare a child out if the stack falls over or if he fumbles the landing by touching anything but his feet to the ground.
Set four to eight targets on the ground, a foot or so apart. Targets are anything large enough for a child to stand on and safe for landing on. Good examples might include hula hoops, flattened cardboard boxes or place mats. Children take turns, one at a time, jumping from one target to the next. A child who touches ground outside the targets must start over. For athletic children, you can use cushions for the targets. This adds some challenge to landing successfully, but does pose the risk of a sprained ankle for the less coordinated.
Over and Under
Line the children up on one side of the play area. Take two poles, either padded or made of light material such as PVC or rattan. Set one up a foot from the ground at the middle of the field. Set the other up 6 inches from the ground about 3 feet farther away from the children. For setup, you can put the poles on chairs or stacks of cushions, or have an adult hold each one. To play the game, children take turns jumping over the high pole, then immediately crawling or rolling under the low pole.
Acquire a landing net, strong blanket or cargo net. Have adults and older, responsible children take positions holding the net taut in front of a raised platform such as a chair or bench. One child steps onto the platform, facing away from the blanket, arms crossed in front of his chest. After confirming that the catch team is ready, the child closes his eyes and falls backward. The catch team catches the child in the blanket.