Kindergarteners are still developing important life skills. As a PE teacher, you have a unique opportunity to help your students develop gross motor skills and fine motor skills. However, planning a successful PE class can be stressful, especially when you're unsure what to expect. Here's what you need to know about planning kinder PE games.
Establishing Appropriate Expectations for Kinder Kids
The average kindergartener is five years old. Kindergarten classes are the first form of official schooling for most children, although some parents may choose to enroll their kids in preschool. A five-year-old child has not yet entered the more mature phases of childhood associated with advanced learning skills and may still struggle to move on from their toddler phase. Most five-year-old children have more self-control than a toddler and have the ability to successfully sit through a lesson from a teacher. However, they are still learning to control their emotions and are prone to emotional outbreaks. Five-year-old children may still cry about spilling their milk on the table or not getting the snack they wanted at lunchtime.
The physical development of a five-year-old is vastly different from the teetering habits of a toddler. Most toddlers are still learning to walk and run and struggle with fine motor movements. A five-year-old child is learning to perfect their fine motor skills and can run and jump with better coordination. Some five-year-olds will begin losing their chubby cheeks and gain more muscle than fat. On this note, it's important to remember that all children grow and develop at different stages. Just because the average five-year-old child will begin losing their chubby cheeks doesn't mean that every child will develop at the same time. If your child seems to be behind the other children, do not remark on their developmental stage. Mentioning the child's differences can make the child develop deep-seated insecurities.
Keeping in mind that each child is different and that you should regularly check with your local health provider to ensure that your child is healthy, here are typical health and growth milestones for kindergarteners:
- Gaining four to five pounds
- Growing two to three inches
- Achieving 20/20 vision
Additionally, most kindergarteners will achieve certain physical milestones that define locomotor skill. Mainly, kindergarteners will develop gross motor skills and fine motor skills. The typical milestones for five-year-old children are:
- Gain better coordination in hopping, skipping, running, and jumping
- Develop better balance
- Gain ability to handle buttons and zippers
- Gain ability to handle forks, knives, and spoons
- Less dependent on parents
- Stands on one foot for ten seconds
The emotional development in a five-year-old child is also significant, though it might not be as obvious as the motor skills. Many five-year-old children are people pleasers and have a desire to be liked by the people around them. They are more likely to listen to their parents and complete tasks in exchange for praise and recognition. However, they are also still young children and are prone to extreme emotional outbursts. Tantrums are common in kindergarteners, and teachers should be ready to deal with emotional outbursts. Young children also learn to articulate themselves and their feelings (though this can sometimes be contradictory). Five-year-olds will also feel empathy for the people around them and might feel sad when they see someone else feeling sad. The common key emotional milestones are:
- Separate from primary caregiver without feeling extreme anxiety
- Play and share with other children
- Attend to an adult-directed task for at least five minutes
- Feel empathy for those around them
Kinder kids will begin making social milestones. Five-year-old kids will begin initiating relationships with other children and make new friends. They will form relationships with those who are outside the immediate familial relationships. They will begin having independent relationships. However, some kids this age may begin bullying if the parents don't introduce bullying prevention. Additionally, kids who are being bullied will not know how to respond, meaning that parents should take an active role in their child's social life to ensure that they aren't being bullied by any of the other students. Teachers should also watch for signs of bullying in their classrooms and call out bullying before it becomes an issue in their classroom. The important social milestones are:
- Desire to please family and friends
- Desire to follow rules
- Desire to fit in with their friends
Five-year-olds will begin making cognitive progress and learn the difference between "right" and "wrong." Although their understanding of right and wrong will not fully define until they are around eight years old, parents can expect their kindergarteners to know basic morality principles. They will expand their language and better understand ideas such as "something is on top of the box," compared to "something is next to the box." The most common cognitive milestones are:
- Ability to count to ten
- Expanded oral and vocal vocab
- Enjoys singing, dancing, and playing
- Enjoys playing alone with friends
- Can tell what's real and what's pretend
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, parents and teachers should be concerned if their five-year-old is exhibiting unusual behavior. Unusual behavior may be an early determiner for cognitive issues or the need for early professional counseling. Contact your local health provider if you see:
- Doesn't show a wide range of emotions
- Shows extreme behavior (unusually fearful, aggressive, shy, or sad)
- Unusually withdrawn and not active
- Is easily distracted, has trouble focusing on one activity for more than 5 minutes
- Doesn't respond to people, or responds only superficially
- Can't tell what's real and what's make-believe
- Doesn't play a variety of games and activities
- Can't give first and last name
- Doesn't use plurals or past tense properly
- Doesn't talk about daily activities or experiences
- Doesn't draw pictures
- Can't brush teeth, wash and dry hands, or get undressed without help
- Loses skills they once had
Classroom teachers and physical education teachers should keep these important milestones in mind when creating lessons for their students. If a teacher tries to push their students further than reasonable, it could frustrate the kids and result in emotional outbursts. However, teachers should always push their students to help to develop future milestones.
Kindergarten PE teachers have a unique ability to help their students form future milestones. The goal of kindergarten PE is to get the kids moving and enjoying themselves while they learn to love PE class. If a PE teacher can teach young kids to love exercise at an early age, the kids will have an easier time later in life. As a PE teacher, you help create the foundation of a healthy future for your students.
PE teachers should not expect more than their students than the average milestone. If a child excels, be proud of the excelling student; however, do not tell the other children to act like the excelling student. Putting down other children can create insecurities that could follow them throughout the rest of their lives. Instead, PE teachers should focus on encouragement and help to make exercise as fun and entertaining as possible, ensuring that exercise becomes an important part of their lives.
How to Have a Successful First Week
The first week of class for kindergarten PE teachers can often be the most difficult. Because kindergarteners are the youngest class that takes PE courses, teachers may have trouble navigating the new scene. During the first week, PE teachers should focus less on physical exercise and more on getting to know their students. The first week should include icebreakers, get-to-know-you games for kindergarteners, and other activities that show your students' personalities and limitations.
PE teachers should also focus on setting up their expectations for their students. This includes setting up assigned seating, clarifying gym rules, and establishing classroom behavior. For the first week, gym teachers should be very easy going and shouldn't push the rules too hard. Make it clear that you're both a teacher and a friend in order to encourage the students to trust and respect you. For some kindergarteners, kindergarten is their first exposure to a classroom. Studies have shown that 70 percent of four-year-olds attend preschool and 40 percent of three-year-olds attend preschool. This means that 30 percent of kids have no prior school exposure other than their kindergarten class. Because a child's background is not obvious, never assume that the kids should already know how a gym class should work.
When exercising in the first week, make sure that all the exercises are focused on games that encourage creativity and friendship. Rather than making the five-year-old kids run and jump, focus more on low-impact activities. As the kids arrive at the gym, encourage them to participate in an instant activity like stretching. While stretching, allow the kids to talk to one another. When you call out "Home Base," have all the kids run to their assigned spot. This helps the kids to listen and socialize at the same time.
Above all, remember that you're working with five-year-old children. Don't expect too much from them, and remember to be extremely patient. There will be many times where the kids don't listen or don't realize what you're asking of them. Work within reasonable expectations and never yell at them for doing something wrong. If you are having trouble with a child, talk to their parents rather than address it with the child. Your responsibility as a kindergarten PE teacher is to help the child love to exercise. If the child is yelled at or scolded in front of peers, it could cause the child to become withdrawn and upset during class, scaring their emotional growth.
Top Ten Best Games for Kindergarten
To make class fun and entertaining for young kids, PE teachers should encourage fun and exciting games. To help students get the most out of the experience, try introducing these ten activities to your class. Of course, monitor your students and use your personal discretion to determine which activities are right for your class. Here are ten activities that will make your students love coming to PE class.
- Funny Running
One of the best games for kindergarten kids is Funny Running. Funny Running is an easy game to play that is similar to Simon Says but requires more exercise. To play, line up the students on one side of the gym and point out a destination (the other side of the gymnasium). Then, give the instruction to run. The first to make it to the other side of the gym wins. However, there's one important twist; they have to run in a specific way. The PE teacher calls out, "Run like a robot!" or "Run like a turtle!" and the kids must immediately change their run to act like that thing. You can also take out the competitive edge to the game so that no one wins when they reach the other side of the gym. Taking out the competitive edge helps the kids focus more on running as you specify rather than being the fastest.
While playing Funny Running, make sure to point out kids who are doing well in their form. Rather than saying, "Good job!" compliment their form. Say, "Jessica's robot-run looks just like a robot!" Complementing the kids will help them to try harder and enjoy themselves better. They will feel proud of their effort.
- Simon Says
Simon Says is a great PE game for when you have limited space. Additionally, not every lesson plan should involve heavy activity. If every PE class exhausts the students, they might not enjoy it as much as you want them to. In order to encourage a balanced physical education, include games that aren't as physically demanding. Simon Says is the perfect game for an off-day that lets the kids rest from running, jumping, and playing since young kids might not understand their bodies' limitations yet.
Here's how to play Simon Says:
"One person is designated Simon, and the others are the players. Standing in front of the group, Simon tells players what they must do. However, the players must only obey commands that begin with the words 'Simon Says.' If Simon says, 'Simon says touch your nose,' then players must touch their nose. But, if Simon simply says, 'jump,' without first saying 'Simon says,' players must not jump. Those that do jump are out."
Simon Says helps the young kids to learn listening skills and pick up on small verbal cues. It's a great game that combines movement, listening, and intelligence. When one of the kids wins the game, you can keep playing by having them host the next round of Simon Says.
- Jump Jump
The game Jump Jump is a combination between Simon Says and Funny Running. The game's goal is to get to the other side of the gymnasium as quickly as possible; however, the steps and movements are limited by the PE teacher. The PE teacher can shout, "One Jump!" and all the kinder kids take one jump towards the opposite wall. If a kid tries to do several jumps when you specified "one," they are out of the game (which helps to keep the young kids honest).
There's a twist to the game that helps keep the kids from becoming too eager as they cross the gymnasium. If the PE teacher shouts, "Monster!" all the kids have to turn around and run back to the safe wall. If the PE teacher can tag any of the kids, they are out. This twist makes the game slightly more challenging because the kids want to make it to the winning wall, but every step takes them closer to the monster.
The game called "Monster" has several different names. It is also called Sharks and Minnows, and Zombie Tag. For a kinder PE lesson, the name "Monster" is the most fitting. To play Monster, line up all the kids on one side of the gymnasium. Tell them that the goal is to make it to the opposite side and choose one kid to start as the monster. The monster will stand in the middle of the gym and wait. The PE teacher blows the whistle, and all the kids will run straight towards the monster. As the kids run by, the monster will try to tag as many people as possible (which can be harder than it sounds). After everyone who wasn't tagged makes it to the winning wall, the tagged kids become new monsters, joining the original monster in the middle of the gym. Then, the round starts again. With every round, the line of monsters increases until there are more monsters than kids. When the final person is tagged, the game is over.
Monster is a fun game for kindergarten kids because it encourages them to run and have fun. It introduces them to the idea of running back and forth across the gym, but they don't realize that they are running. Monster is one of the best games to introduce physical exercise without overdoing it.
- Simple Sports
You can entertain young kids by getting out a variety of simple sports. In different areas of the gym, set up a variety of easy sports. Some great sport ideas for young kids are:
- Hacky Sack. The game hacky sack only needs a few hacky sacks. The kids can practice throwing them back and forth or hitting them on their shoes and try to juggle them like a soccer ball.
- Nine Square. Nine Square is a variation of four square but allows more kids to participate. The court can be modified to fit the scenario, making it a perfect game for kinder kids.
- Tag. At the end of the day, tag is a classic game that you can always introduce to your kindergarten class. Most kids already have a concept of how to play tag and will be excited when you mentioned playing tag during class.
- Hula Hoop. Young kids love to hula hoop. Hula hoop helps young kids to develop essential motor skills and build muscle memory. It's a great physical activity for kinder PE.
- Frisbee. Not all kinder-age kids will be able to play frisbee successfully. However, learning how to throw a frisbee at a young age can ensure that kids learn to build muscle memory that will help them later in life.
- Jump Rope. Jump rope is an active way to get the kids running, jumping, and having fun with each other.
When teaching how to play sports, your goal should be teaching each child a new skill. Sports in kindergarten shouldn't be competitive or difficult. PE teachers should focus on the needs and abilities of their students. If students are having problems with a game, don't force it. Instead, introduce an easier way to play.
- Obstacle Course
Obstacle courses are a fun way to get the kids engaged in an activity. An obstacle course is when the kids have to navigate a series of obstacles to get to the other side. Here are some ideas for your obstacle course:
- Crawl under or over a row of chairs.
- Jump into hula hoops that are set up in a line.
- Walk on a balance beam.
- Climb over a large bean bag.
- Throw a beanbag into a basket.
- Somersault from one point to another.
Obstacle courses ensure that kids have fun and use their imagination. Obstacle courses are fun because you can repeat them several times and have them walk through the course in different ways. For example, you could tell them, "Run through the obstacle course like a mouse."
- Scavenger Hunt
For an easy activity, set up a scavenger hunt during the PE class. Before class starts, place a bunch of items around the gymnasium. Then, write on a board which items the kids need to find. This reminds the kids of Easter egg hunts and ensures that they're engaged and running around the gym without realizing that they're engaging in quality physical education. Scavenger hunts are fairly easy to set up and are the perfect activity for keeping the students happy.
- Sidewalk Chalk
All kinder students love playing with chalk. Chalk can be used on sidewalks and easily washed off at the end of the day. As an easy off-day for the students, hand out buckets of chalk and lead them to an empty sidewalk within the school grounds. Then, have the kids have fun writing and drawing on the sidewalk, letting their imaginations run wild. Most kindergarten-age kids can draw on the sidewalk for hours.
Drawing with chalk has a wide variety of benefits for young kids:
- While playing with sidewalk chalk, kids develop color recognition, sorting, and matching skills.
- Playing with sidewalk chalk can be one of your child's first experiences with coloring and writing.
- By allowing them to color and create their own designs with sidewalk chalk, they begin to love art and appreciate its importance.
Introduce chalk drawing to your PE class to help them learn important skills. Sidewalk chalk gets the kids out into the air and out of the gymnasium.
- Secret Spy
Secret Spy involves physical activity and memory, which helps the kids to practice remembering details about the room that they are in. Learning this skill can help them later in life. Here's how to play Secret Spy. First, secretly choose one child to be the secret spy. Then, have all the kids run to a corner of the room. After everyone is in a corner, tell the kids to turn around and look at the other corners of the room. The kids should try and remember who is in the other corners of the room. After 30 seconds, the PE teacher blows the whistle, and the kids need to leave their corner and run to the middle of the room. After another 30 seconds of running around, they all return back to their original corner, except for the secret spy. The secret spy chooses a new corner of the room (and is the only one to change positions). The rest of the kids have to try and guess who left their corner. If they can't remember, you play another round. The secret spy tries to stay undetected for as long as possible.
Secret Spy is a fun game for kids of all ages; however, it's the perfect PE activity for kinder kids because it teaches them locomotor skills while also helping them to practice their spatial awareness.
- Playground Activity
A physical education teacher should make sure that their students are having fun. Rather than organizing an activity, let the kids have supervised activity on the playground. The kids will get plenty of exercise running around and playing on the equipment, even if it's not an organized activity. PE teachers don't have to organize every activity; sometimes, the best activity for a kindergartner is just to play with their friends in a way that helps them to build muscular endurance. Letting the kids simply enjoy playing on the playground will encourage the kindergarteners to form healthy habits and learn better fitness habits.