PE ideas for homeschoolers who don’t live on 5 acres


Written by Rozanne Dioso-Lopez of Tomfoolery and Shenanigans.

The dining room table begins to shake.

Someone keeps re-adjusting themselves in their seat.

Then it’s the finger-tapping.

My coffee, previously still, begins to sway in its cup.

Shortly after the table movement, the accusations begin, “Who took my eraser?”

The bickering follows.

And I grab my coffee before it spills and say, “Everybody UP! Time to MOVE!”

A morning of lessons needs to be broken up with time to move their bodies.

Sitting still is an advanced skill and I can always tell when some of my kids have had enough. The restlessness creeps in and they become fidgety and lose focus.

The younger they are, the less they can sit still, which is perfectly normal.

In the past, I have relied on bouts of free play throughout the day to satisfy the need to move around.

Free play is natural when you homeschool. Sometimes they wander outside to the porch to whittle sticks or explore our tiny backyard.

We are city-dwellers. We don’t have acres for them to run. No country lanes to bike for miles. No massive forest trees to climb freely. No logs or rocks to hop across traversing creeks.

Those are field trips that need to be organized in advanced.

My conundrum: how do I keep the spirit of free play but boost their physical activity?


How can I incorporate physical activity into our daily lives?

The following are some suggestions:


Some of these activities may take only 15-20 minutes and can be introduced sporadically throughout the day.

Yoga: We have fun yoga cards that all the kids can do.  Sometimes we make up stories with a combination of yoga poses.

Obstacle Courses/Circuits:  Sometimes all you need is rope for jumping, masking tape to mark out lines and ladders or even hopscotch on your kitchen floor, chairs for a tunnel and rocks for pylons. I have set these up with the kids when I have wanted to do my own workout!

Balloon volleyball: We clear our dining room and stretch a streamer across the room for a net.

Circle time: A daily circle full of ring games and songs with actions is a great way to signal the start of the day.

Dance: In the mornings, I play a happy playlist of songs to wake up my house. Sometimes a tough morning of lessons requires an afternoon dance party.


Walks: On our walks, we play games like “I Spy” or “Follow the Leader” — where one child or parent is the leader and you have to follow how they move and walk for a few blocks.

On “Penny Walks” we flip a coin at each corner to see whether to turn left or right.

A “Neighbourhood Scavenger Hunt” can include a list of floral and fauna you hope to see.

The ages of your children dictate the length of your walk and the complexity of the activity – Red Light/Green Light, Mother-May-I, and What Time is it Mr. Wolf? are all great games to get littles walking a longer distance.

Activity Jar: Some of my children need to get out of their seat and shake the sillies out. Fill a jar with folded up bits of paper with physical movements on them:

  • Crawl like a Cat for 2 minutes
  • Stretch as high as a tall tree and get low as a small rock 10 times
  • Skip rope while you sing the alphabet twice
  • Sword fight with Mama for 5 minutes
  • Crawl backwards as quietly as you can for 3 minutes
  • Move to your choice of music for 5 minutes
  • Imagine you are a gentle breeze moving for 2 minutes (now transform into a ferocious gust for 1 minute)
  • Act out the life cycle of a butterfly (and then act it in reverse)
  • Find a partner and play leapfrog for the length of the house.

The balance of free play and physical activity can also be achieved when you let the kids run the show.

I used an obstacle course to help re-tell the popular fable, “The Hare and the Tortoise.” Although I laid the groundwork for the plan, the older kids set up the obstacle course for their younger siblings and they found creative ways to go through the course — backwards, blindfolded, crawling like the tortoise, etc.


These can be full-day or afternoon activities that can be done with other families or on your own.

Hikes: THE best activity that combines free play and physical activity. We hike with other families and then find a spot where the kids can go off and wander while the parents hang out and chat.

The kids have played games like Capture the Flag and a variety of spy games with their friends in the woods.

Outdoor games: My family loves to play sports so we normally spend some time out at the basketball courts, the soccer fields or just playing a good old-fashioned game of Tag.

If you are low in numbers, arrange a “Sports Day” or “Games Day” with other families.


As my children grow older, physical activity and movement have become a part of their free play and their daily routines.

The key is to be creative and open.

Do it slowly.

Move a little more throughout the day.

Introduce physical activity using what you have.

I use the confines of our small home and local outdoor spaces with the hopes that in the future, the kids will engage in these types of activities independently without reminders and encouragement but because it has always been a part of their lives.

What are some ways you have found to incorporate PE into your homeschool even if you don’t have a big yard?

About Rozanne Dioso-Lopez

Rozanne likes pina coladas and getting caught in the rain (with an umbrella, of course because she’s also slightly neurotic about being prepared). She is just getting the hang of having 5 children, let alone homeschooling them. Her secret? Coffee and a sense of humour. You can read more about her family adventures at her blog, Tomfoolery & Shenanigans, and see her flex her writing muscles at Sense of Story with other mama writers.


  1. Great ideas here! I also love to find creative ways to keep the blood pumping. Some things we do:

    – Take a morning walk EVERY DAY. Even if it’s only around the block for two minutes, the fresh air and space to RUN is vital.
    – Wheelbarrow challenge: this is a real workout, and can be done inside easily.
    – Use the stairs! They are a great cardio tool! Up and down a few times is easily done in a suburban house.
    – ‘Simon Says’ – I use this as a quick tool when my kids get brain freeze, or when they get the wiggles. Choose energetic options, including quick changes such a sit down, stand up, hop five times, lie down, jump up!
    – Get a rebounder. One of those small exercise trampolines is perfect for a city dwelling homeschooler! My kids love it – as soon as they get stuck on a math problem, they jump for a few minutes and soon remember the answer!
    Dene Morgan’s latest post: The elusive love of learning

  2. Excellent ideas! When we lived overseas in a concrete jungle, we made use of dance parties often. Not only did it get our hearts pumping and burn off extra energy, but the music had a way of lifting our spirits, too. Thanks for the suggestions!
    Hannah’s latest post: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Surviving December

  3. This. Is. Brilliant.
    When we first started homeschooling, I pictured my kids sitting in a tree, reading a book, and doing school on a picnic blanket on the warm days. I guess I forgot that we live in a condo, and we don’t even have access to a tree to read in on a regular basis 😉
    I love these ideas!!
    When we need a little indoor inspiration, we turn on Just Dance on the Wii 🙂
    TwoCowgirls’s latest post: A Hindu Temple and Christmas In Italy

  4. Wonderful ideas! I’m going to try some of these. My grandsons need lots of physical activity so I’m always trying to think of ideas that incorporate movement throughout the day. Some other activities I use with them include counting (by 1s, 2s, or 10s) while jumping on the mini trampoline in the den.
    We use the stability ball for balancing or rolling around the house. Rolled up pairs of socks can be used for shooting baskets into a drawer or for “snowball” fights.
    Nancy Taylor’s latest post: B is for Bethlehem – Book Study

  5. These are great ideas! We live in the city in an apartment and daily walks save my sanity. We bring the camera along when we walk and try to take interesting pictures.

    • A camera is a great idea! That would be an amazing for some of my kids who really dread leaving the comfort zone of our home, especially in the colder months. They can focus on interesting details around them and see things in a different light.
      Rozanne’s latest post: handwriting – a love story.

  6. “Amen” to the one who said jumping/bouncing! That’s the best way for my boys to get their wiggles out. We have an old foam mattress that is now in three pieces and they bounce-bounce-bounce all over those! To get outside we take scooter walks and do races and periodically we take a hike. Nothing beats calling some friends and asking if they’d like to meet at a park to get their wiggles out, too. We also belong to a sports co-op of sorts. It’s a huge group and there are different seasons where the kids learn different sports (soccer, basketball, badminton, baseball, etc); parents are the coaches and it’s all free just based on volunteer hours.

    • My fourth cannot stop moving. We had put her in a 2-hour gymnastics class at one point because she needed to get her wiggles out pretty intensely. We also had one of those mini-trampolines too. Right now we have a chin-up bar hanging on a door frame that she swings and climbs on like a monkey bar. I love the idea of a sports co-op!
      Rozanne’s latest post: handwriting – a love story.

  7. Love this article. Perfect timing as I am working to find ways to get my bookworm/TV-loving 9-year-old to move more. One thing that is working great for us is inside chase. It’s always me vs. my kids and sometimes they lap me, but it’s great fun and good for quick bursts.

    • We like a game called “Eagle Eye.” I am the eagle and I sit in one spot and the kids have to hide with “one eye” on me. I have to find them from sitting in that spot. I like this game because I don’t have to move. LOL! This may work for you too indoors!
      Rozanne’s latest post: handwriting – a love story.

  8. Love it! We have a small living space and these ideas are a great reminder of how to burn some of that energy off (especially as it gets colder). We have a tumbling mat that we unfold on some days, or the kids will practice karate forms or yoga. I like the obstacle course idea. And nothing beats a walk. Fresh air does wonders for wiggling kids. Your writing draws me right in – I think the eraser incident happened this morning…

    • Thanks Sophia! I feel like the colder months are more of a challenge for even me to move too! I always forget how great we all feel after being outside especially if we had been cooped up due to illness or cleaning, etc. Sometimes I want to get rid of all our furniture and have wall to wall tumbling mats!! I think that would save everyone’s sanity sometimes. 🙂
      Rozanne’s latest post: handwriting – a love story.

  9. These are wonderful ideas. Thanks so much! I have four and am wondering how the heck I’m going to keep them active. We live in the burbs with few trails or open areas nearby.

  10. Geo caching is a great thing to do and turns any walk into a treasure hunt! They are everywhere! There is a free app and a website for finding ones near you.

  11. We have a really large yard but my kids are wimpy about “cold” weather (they started life in the hot South and we moved to New England last year). So they won’t go outside for very long in cooler weather. For inside PE – at one point, I found some PE cards with an action for every letter of the alphabet – I don’t have a link for the source anymore, but anyone could come up with their own list. My kids love anything related to the alphabet. I’m trying to find a good mini-trampoline for indoors but the ones I’ve found online don’t have very good reviews – they fall apart in a very short time. Any suggestions?
    treen’s latest post: MHC co-op – fall session

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