- Dick’s Sporting Goods
- According to CDC guidelines, children from the kindergarten years into their teens should get an hour of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day to enjoy better physical fitness and health.
- Experts also report that children currently experience 7 or more hours of daily screen time – time during which their bodies are almost completely inactive.
- With a blend of a few great toys, fitness gear, and some excellent kid-centric fitness apps and video platforms, you can encourage your young ones to stay active even when they can’t leave home to participate in the sports they’re used to or go to the park.
- This guide has been medically-reviewed by Dr. Dipesh Navsaria, an MPH, MSLIS, MD, FAAP, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, and president of the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Exercise is critical for all aspects of a child’s development. Be it playing organized team sports, riding a bike, running at the park, or crawling up, down, and around a play structure, physical activity goes well beyond physical fitness. Children who get the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended hour of daily exercise enjoy better overall health, and that includes everything from reduced risk of obesity and type-2 diabetes, improved mental well-being, and, of course, better physical fitness.
One of the largest obstacles preventing today’s youth from getting the proper amount of exercise is the glut of time kids now spend staring at screens.
Dr. Nicholas Kardaras, a psychologist and author of the book Glow Kids: How Screen Addiction Is Hijacking Our Kids – And How to Break the Trance told Business Insider: “This modern age of screen time has led to a whole host of clinical and physical disorders and issues in children. We know that increased screen time has led to, according to evidence-based research, increases in ADHD, increased anxiety, cognitive impacts … and we know from a physical standpoint that pediatric obesity and diabetes have also increased based on more screen time.”
The COVID-19 global pandemic only made matters worse. Now, children are not only deprived of the physical education and sports opportunities afforded by their time at school, but they’re also limited in the activities in which they can participate beyond their home.
In order to keep kids active and healthy in the months to come, the solution is to find ways to make exercise at home genuinely fun.
We spoke to experts ranging from personal trainers to childhood fitness experts and assembled our list of toys, tools, apps, and videos that can help kids stay active at home. We divided the picks into three age groups: kindergarten through second grade, third grade through fifth grade, and sixth grade through eighth grade.
Of course, you know your kids best and there may be some crossover here; whatever works best to keep your kids moving and active is just fine.
Editor’s note: We recommend setting up two-step authentication on either the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for purchases. Though we’ve outlined the potential in-app purchases of the apps listed below, two-step authentication requires confirmation from the lead account owner before any purchases can be made (and can go a long way toward avoiding any unnecessary purchases).
Here are the best toys, gear, and services for helping kids exercise at home:
- The best fitness gear for kindergartners and early-elementary-age kids: Slackers NinjaLine Kit
- The best fitness app for kindergartners and early elementary aged kids: Sworkit
- The best fitness video channel for kindergartners and early elementary aged kids: Cosmic Kids Yoga
- The best fitness gear for kids in the mid-to-later elementary years: Climbing Monkey Climbing Holds
- The best fitness app for kids in the mid-to-later elementary years: Workouts and Exercises at Home
- The best fitness video channel for kids in the mid-to-later elementary years:Little Sports
- The best fitness gear for kids in the middle school years: TRX Suspension Trainers
- The best fitness app for kids in the middle school years: Zombies, Run!
- The best fitness video channel for kids in the middle school years: MovetoLearnMS
The best fitness gear for kindergartners and early elementary-age kids
- Dick’s Sporting Goods
The NinjaLine Kit comes with seven different obstacles that can be arranged to create a custom hanging course that’s as challenging or as manageable as your child needs.
Kids as young as five can enjoy this unique, customizable hanging obstacle course as can adults up to 250 pounds. The sweet spot user, however, is the younger elementary-aged child who’s full of energy and just wants to climb and swing. In so doing, not only will children build muscle and burn energy but they’ll also develop other skills.
“One look at the [NinjaLine] kit and you might think of skills like strength and coordination, but we look at it and think about cognitive skills like persistence and resilience,” Paige Hirsch, the Chief Content Editor of Plinkit and a former elementary school teacher, told Business Insider. “The NinjaLine is a great way of teaching simple life lessons like falling and getting back up and the superpower of yet. It’s ability to be redesigned provides [new] opportunities for cognitive flexibility, too”
Redesigning the course keeps it fresh for kids and also allows children of different ages and skill levels to make use of the kit. All that’s needed for setup are a couple of trees, deck posts, or other stout upright anchor points, so most households with outdoor space will be able to use the NinjaLine. It can also be set up on a temporary basis at a park.
Pros: Customizable kit suits different ages and skill levels, enhances strength and problem-solving skills, portable and can be set up in myriad locations
Cons: Setup requires a fair amount of outdoor space with trees or sturdy columns
The best fitness app for kindergartners and early elementary-aged kids
The Sworkit app has workout routines for kids and for men and women, so a parent can get familiar with the app and then use it for the whole family.
Sworkit is “great for the entire family,” Jake Tipane, a personal trainer with the Healthline Parenthood Advisory Board, told Business Insider. “The app has an entire library of kids exercises, so you and the kids can plan your workouts together.”
That’s useful any time, but priceless when parents and kids are stuck at home together. It even excels at helping plan workout routines that are genuinely beneficial to people of varying age and fitness levels.
The app is also a great choice for users – grown or young – with different fitness goals. You can use it to focus on strength training, cardio, yoga, stretching, and plenty more. And though there’s a subscription fee for much of the adult-geared content, all of the kids’ fitness content is free. Sworkit does offer a free one-week trial of the adult membership, so you’ll know whether or not it’s a fit for the whole family before you’re charged.
Editor’s note: The membership costs for monthly or yearly subscriptions are the only in-app purchases accessible via the app, and these are located in a separate drop-down menu from the content and require confirmation before any purchase is made. These extra steps help curb any unnecessary charges.
Whether played through an Apple TV, mirrored to a smart television or displayed on a large tablet, Sworkit helps the whole family get fitter at home with workouts ranging from five minutes to one hour. Most of the classes are bodyweight-based and when they do require equipment, it’s often simple gear you might even already have on hand.
Pros: Workouts for the whole family, plenty of free content, suitable for people with varied fitness goals
Cons: Only works with Apple platforms
The best fitness video channel for kindergartners and early elementary-aged kids
- Cosmic Kids Yoga
Whether or not anyone in the family has familiarity with yoga, the Cosmic Kids Yoga YouTube channel makes it easy for kids to get into and soon love the practice.
The Cosmic Kids Yoga channel on YouTube promises “to help your kids become stronger, calmer, and wiser” by making “yoga and mindfulness fun for kids.” And by incorporating traditional, basic yoga poses and routines into playful scenarios (think yoga incorporated into the story of Sleeping Beauty or even into a “Harry Potter” scene) the yogis from Cosmic Kids really do draw in little minds and bodies.
Healthline’s Jake Tipane called the YouTube channel and its partnered app “a great introduction to yoga” and a sure way “to keep even the littlest ones engaged.”
The videos on the channel range from two to three minutes on up to half-hour-long sessions, and they are differentiated in myriad ways, from guided relaxation like the Peace Out series to much more active Yoga Adventure options. Parents can also select playlists curated by everything from age to best yoga for pre-bedtime winding down.
Now more than eight years on, this well-established and family-favorite yoga channel is the best way to introduce yoga to kids without leaving the house.
Editor’s note: Keep in mind that YouTube may air advertisements between videos. It also will automatically play another video shortly after the conclusion of the original video, though you can turn the autoplay function off (which we recommend).
Pros: Content platformed for multiple ages and experience levels, engaging narratives draw kids into yoga, large library of content
Cons: None to speak of
The best fitness gear for kids in the mid-to-late elementary years
- PR Leap
This set of Climbing Monkey Climbing Holds can be used to create an outdoor or indoor climbing wall, with the colorful grips mounted on anything from an existing play structure to the studs in the wall of your basement.
With this kit’s 25 climbing holds, you can convert a solid surface into a climbing wall that will have kids scrambling up and down for hours. Climbing is a challenging and often satisfying activity, and as your kids get stronger and more competent, you can rearrange the course to be even more of a challenge.
If you have an existing structure like a play gym to which you can affix these holds, then setting up a climbing wall only takes a minute or two per hold and you can use the hardware that comes with the set. Of course, the entire setup will take you a while to completely install.
If you’re going to be anchoring the holds to studs or another surface, you may need to buy additional hardware, but the screws needed shouldn’t cost much and the process will still be easy.
“Rocks walls can be a great opportunity for fun and exercise for kids of any age,” Annie Young, a former 15-year New York City educator and owner of Little Gym of Roslyn, told Business Insider. “For grade-school to pre-teens, you’ll want to consider increasing the grade or difficulty of the route and possibly including a slightly inverted wall. Rock climbing can seem intimidating to children at first but if you’re able to provide just the right level of challenge for them, you can see their confidence soar.”
Even if space is limited at your home, you can create a large climbing wall by mounting the holds on sheets of plywood that can be put together during use then stacked for storage.
Pros: Can be set up on a variety of surfaces, easy to reconfigure as needed, product backed by lifetime guarantee
Cons: Involved installation process
The best fitness app for kids in the mid-to-late elementary years
- Workout and Exercise at home
Workouts and Exercises at Home features multiple short exercise routines parents and kids can do together or that kids can enjoy alone, following their on-screen instructor, a charming little monster.
Kids in this age group can do plenty of exercises at home but it always helps to have someone there to serve as a guide. If a parent or caregiver wants to join in and be that guide, that’s always great but with the Workouts and Exercises at Home app, kids can also be guided by one of two lovable monsters, who act out each routine on the screen.
The app is free to download and offers short routines at no additional cost. For a nominal fee (three months for $17.99) the entirety of the app is unlocked, opening exercise routines including “Evening Relax” and “Wake Up!” You can also use the app to create customized workouts for your kids or for yourself.
Healthline’s Jake Tipane appreciated that the “short exercise routines” are perfect for “kids and parents to do together [and are] both simple and fun.”
Editor’s note: This app has several in-app purchases available at $1.99 per purchase, in addition to its subscription costs.
Pros: Features routines suitable for various times of day, on-screen cartoon guide models move, option for a custom workout regimen
Cons: Requires paid subscription to unlock most features, only on iOS
The best fitness video channel for kids in the mid-to-late elementary years
- Little Sports/Youtube
The Little Sports YouTube channel offers dozens of workout routines tailored to kids that promote genuine fitness progress.
Terms like 30-day challenge or daily calorie burn are usually associated with fitness products aimed at adults, but children can also benefit from some reduced abdominal fat, more calories burned, and fitness goals. The Little Sports YouTube channel features exercises any adult familiar with gym classes (or at-home exercise videos) will recognize, but these targeted courses are taught by computer-animated kids instead of adults.
At the time of this writing, the channel already has dozens of routines posted, most of which range between 15 and 20 minutes, a sweet spot for the attention span of the grade-school-aged child who might exercise with limited supervision. Some of the routines are targeted as noted earlier (abdominal fat) while others are more general, like the 12 Easy Exercises for Kids clip or the Morning Workouts for Kids video.
Jake Tipane of Healthline said the channel has “a wealth of simple workouts made easy to follow [by the] animated guides,” and appreciates the range of times of the videos. He added that “these workouts can be as long as 20 minutes, so parents can select based on the attention spans or even participate with the kids.”
Pros: Targeted content suitable for kids of varying fitness levels, features workouts for with specific goals
Cons: Videos start too abruptly without explanation of expectations
The best fitness gear for kids in the middle school years
A set of TRX Suspension Trainers can be used to create a workout fully customized to a tween or teen’s strength, ability, and comfort level.
So many adults love exercising with TRX Suspension Trainers straps because whether you’re a professional bodybuilder, a competitive cyclist, or abject amateur to the fitness world, you can get a great workout – so long as you’re able to hook them onto a wall, door in a frame, or a tree branch. They’re also a great exercise tool for kids in the middle school grades because kids can use them to exercise at just the right level for their strength, balance, and physical developmental level.
When using the TRX straps, making a given exercise harder or easier – like squats, tricep pulls, or lunges, – is as simple as moving your body to create a more or less acute angle relative to the straps. A 14-year-old kid well into puberty who needs a challenge can move their feet right near the wall during a press for some serious strain on those muscles.
A 12-year-old is still in a kid’s body, on the other hand, and could do the exact same exercise with feet well back from the wall (or tree trunk) to greatly reduce the angle and the weight put on them. Of course, mom or dad can also use these straps as they’re rated to support up to 350 pounds.
Almost as notable as their versatility is how compact the straps are. When not in use, you can store the whole system in a pouch that tucks away into a drawer or on a shelf.
Pros: Allows for customized difficulty level, easy set up just about anywhere, compact for storage or travel
Cons: Rather expensive
The best fitness app for kids in the middle school years
- Zombies Run/Facebook
Tweens and teens will have so much fun playing with the Zombies, Run! App that they’ll hardly notice all the running (i.e. exercise) they’re doing.
You know how pump-up songs genuinely get you moving faster and finishing strong even when you’re about ready to throw in the towel? That same idea is taken a step further with Zombies, Run!, an app that cranks out motivating jams but also pits you against a horde of (imaginary) zombies. This concept is great for middle school kids looking to keep active, too. And rest assured, the app is rated suitable for kids ages 12 and older and is, according to Jake Tipane, an engaging “audio adventure game that encourages young athletes to run to complete challenges.”
Rather than relying on screen time, the app creates an immersive aural experience, placing your kid (or you) in an adventure where real running is all that can save them from imagined zombies. With a mix of sprints, distance running, and recovery periods, the app is very much a legitimate training and fitness tool, it just happens to also be fun.
Like any good fitness app, Zombie, Run! tracks progress over time, letting you and your kid track development as a runner, which is great for the aspiring athlete or for the kid just trying to get in better shape.
Go ahead and preview the app yourself before unleashing the undead on your kid, as some of the content might not be appropriate for younger or more sensitive users.
Editor’s note: Zombies, Run! offers a selection of in-app purchases such as different race packs ranging from $1.99 to $7.99, and also sells all-access passes for $17.99 and year-long subscriptions for $19.99.
Pros: Makes genuine fitness into an enjoyable game, tracks progress over time, works with your own music playlists
Cons: Some content mildly inappropriate for younger middle school kids
The best fitness video channel for kids in the middle school years
The videos on the MovetoLearnMS YouTube channel get kids in motion and dancing, offering both physical and mental benefits and helping them reset and stay focused post-session.
MovetoLearnMS was started as a tool for grade school classroom teachers to use to get kids refocused and ready to learn. By getting up out of their seats and dancing for a few minutes, they’d be more ready to sit back down and study. The channel has grown dramatically over the years, and “now has dance workouts for kids in grades K through 12th,” said Jake Tipane.
And not only has MovetoLearnMS expanded the age range its videos and routines serve, but it’s also greatly diversified the content. The channel now has dance routines designed for everything from high-intensity exercise to low-impact relaxation, and there are even myriad routines built around educational themes, like geography, science, and so forth.
Thus, playing MovetoLearnMS videos at home can not only help kids stay active and burn some calories but serves as an educational tool that’s all the more precious during long stints when kids are out of the classroom.
Editor’s note: As is the case with any YouTube video, YouTube may broadcast advertisements before, during, and after the clip. Its autoplay function also automatically plays another video once the previous one finishes, too.
Pros: Videos and playlists for many ages, myriad educational topics covered, short and manageable routines
Cons: Channel is hard to navigate until you’re familiar with it