Although the differences between a 4-year-old and 9-year-old are vast, an engaging, active game helps them play and exercise together. According to KidsHealth.org, children need daily exercise to strengthen muscles and bones, develop motor skills, and enhance their feelings of self-worth and self-esteem. Team sports are too advanced for most preschoolers, but children younger than 10 can find common ground in games with simple rules and clear objectives.
Readily adaptable for any age group, an obstacle course promotes team work as children work together to beat the opposing team. The objective in any obstacle course is to avoid obstacles, such as chairs and couch cushions, while completing a task, such as carrying an egg from one point to another. For a wide age discrepancy, tailor sections of the obstacle course to meet the children's individual abilities.
Played in a relay, the older child carries his plastic egg on a spoon across one leg of the course. If he drops the egg, he starts over. Once he reaches the end of the course, he passes the egg onto the younger child, who runs back through the course carrying the egg in her hand, rather than on a spoon. If she drops the egg, she must also return to her starting point and try again. The first team to finish wins.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends playing Tag for a vigorous intensity aerobic game. At its most basic level, one player is "It" and chases the remaining children, trying to tag someone by touching him. When a child is tagged, he becomes "It" and the chase to tag another player "It" continues. He cannot tag back the player who was just “It.”
For a large group, try "Blob Tag." When the "It" player tags someone, the tagged child joins hands with "It" and, together, they tag more children. As more children are tagged, the blob becomes longer, and the challenge to move in the same direction becomes harder.
Whether you decide to rent shoes and go to a professional alley, or set up your own lane at home, bowling is a game the whole family can enjoy. To even the playing field at the bowling alley, add bumpers for the younger children. At home, knock down soda liter bottles with tennis balls. Make different starting lines for each age group, with the 4-year-olds standing the closest to the pins and the 9-year-olds standing furthest away. Move the line back a foot for each age.
If you don't want to keep score, KidsHealth.org suggests an alternative. Divide the group into two teams, and see which team can knock down all 10 pins the fastest. Let the youngest children go first so they have a better chance of knocking down a pin. Fewer standing pins means a tougher challenge for the older kids.
- KidsHealth.org: Motivating Preschoolers to Be Active
- KidsHealth.org: Motivating Kids to Be Active
- KidsHealth.org: Group Games for School-Age Kids
- American Council on Exercise: The Top 10 Fun Fitness Summer Activities for Kids
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services : 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: Chapter 3: Active Children and Adolescents