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Warm-Up Exercises for Kids: 12 Fun Activities, Stretches, and Games

Posted by Jordan Snider on May 9, 2024 4:19:09 PM

Warm-up exercises are vital to any physical activity — especially for kids who love running, jumping, and playing!

Warm-up exercises for kids

These exercises help get their bodies ready for action, ensuring they can have fun and stay safe at the same time. 

Whether it's a day of basketball, an afternoon of volleyball, or some activities at a cheer camp, warm-ups are a must. 

We’ve compiled a list of warm-up exercises, stretches, and even some fantastic warm-up games that kids can use to get them ready for activity.

But first, let's dive into why these warm-ups are so important.

Why Are Warm-Up Exercises Important For Kids?

Warm-up exercises are crucial in any physical activity, particularly for children who are full of energy. These initial movements get the heart rate up while also setting the stage for a day of safe, enjoyable, and beneficial play. 

Here's why incorporating warm-up exercises into children's routines is so important:

Benefits of Warm-Up Exercises 

  • Getting the blood flowing - Warm-up exercises gently increase the heart rate, pumping more blood to muscles. This increased circulation delivers vital oxygen and nutrients, preparing muscles for the demands of more vigorous activity.
  • Preparation for physical activity - Beyond the physical, warm-ups also prepare children mentally for the activities ahead. They signal to the body and mind that it's time to transition from rest to activity, helping kids focus on their movements and the game ahead.
  • Reducing injuries - Jumping into strenuous activity without a proper warm-up can lead to strains, sprains, and other injuries. Warm-ups increase muscle temperature and flexibility, making muscles more resilient and less prone to injuries.
  • Improved performance and enjoyment - A good warm-up can significantly enhance a child's performance in physical activities. When kids feel prepared and their bodies are ready to move, they can run faster, jump higher, and play harder. Plus, with reduced risk of injury and discomfort, kids are more likely to enjoy physical activity, fostering a positive attitude toward exercise that can last a lifetime.

The 8 Best Warm-Up Exercises For Kids

Ready to get started?

These eight dynamic warm-up exercises for kids are perfect before any activity — let’s look at how you can use them.

Jogging in Place

  • Stand tall and start jogging lightly on the spot. Lift the feet just a few inches off the ground, focusing on a quick pace.
  • This exercise kickstarts the cardiovascular system, warming up the whole body gently and effectively. It's an excellent way to begin any warm-up routine, as it gets the heart pumping and muscles moving.

High Knees

  • While jogging in place, lift the knees as high as possible, aiming for waist height. Encourage kids to place their hands in front and try to touch their knees to their hands.
  • High knees build coordination and strengthen the legs while elevating the heart rate. This exercise is known for improving lower body power and agility.

Butt Kicks

  • Jog in place, then kick the heels up towards the buttocks with each step. Encourage a quick pace to maximize the quadriceps' stretch.
  • Butt kicks warm up the legs and stretches the quadriceps, which is ideal for preparing the body for activities that involve running or fast movements. This exercise also helps improve flexibility and speed.


Jumping Jacks

  • Stand with feet together and hands at the sides. Jump up, spreading the legs to the side while simultaneously raising both arms above the head. Jump back to the starting position and repeat.
  • Jumping jacks are a full-body exercise that improves strength and endurance. They engage both the upper and lower body and help to enhance aerobic capacity and coordination.

Arm Circles

  • Extend arms out to the sides or in front at shoulder height. Rotate the arms in small circles, gradually increasing the size of the circles. Perform in both directions.
  • Arm circles enhance shoulder mobility and warm up the upper body, preparing kids for throwing or lifting activities. This exercise also helps in strengthening the shoulder muscles.


  • Step forward with one leg, lowering the hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle. Make sure the front knee is directly above the ankle. Push back up to the starting position and switch legs.
  • Lunges promote balance and strengthen the muscles in the legs and hips. They are essential for developing lower body strength and stability.



  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend the knees and lower the body as if sitting back into a chair, keeping the chest up and knees behind the toes. Push back up to standing.
  • Squats build strength in the legs and core, emphasizing balance and proper form. They are foundational for a wide range of physical activities and sports.

Frog Jumps

  • Start in a squat position, leap forward or upward, reaching the arms forward or overhead. Land back in a squat position, and repeat.
  • Frog jumps increase lower body strength and agility, making them a playful and effective way to prepare for activities involving jumping. They also enhance cardiovascular fitness.


4 Fun Warm-Up Games For Kids

Making warm-up enjoyable and engaging for kids is imperative to instill a love for physical activity. Games transform the notion of warm-up from a routine task into an exciting adventure.

Children can improve their physical abilities by incorporating playful elements while genuinely enjoying the process. Let's explore some familiar warm-up games that prepare kids for further activity, teach valuable skills, and encourage a positive attitude toward exercise.


  • Put on some upbeat music and encourage kids to move freely, expressing themselves through dance.
  • Dancing encourages freedom of movement and creativity. It offers a cardiovascular workout that's so enjoyable it feels more like play. It helps loosen the muscles and raises the heart rate in a natural, joyful way.


  • One child is 'it' and must tag another player, who then becomes 'it.' The game can be played with various rules to increase the challenge.
  • Tag builds speed, agility, and spatial awareness. The excitement of the chase ensures kids are warming up without even realizing they're exercising, making it a perfect blend of fun and fitness.

Red Light, Green Light

  • One person plays the traffic light and stands at one end of the play area. When they say "green light," everyone else moves towards them until they say "red light," at which point everyone must freeze.
  • This game teaches reaction time and self-control and provides an easy way to warm up through varied movement speeds. It's terrific for improving listening skills and quick stops and starts.

Follow the Leader

  • Lead the group in a series of movements (jumping, stretching, running in place) that everyone else must mimic.
  • Follow the Leader encourages kids to pay attention and mimic movements, promoting flexibility, balance, and coordination. It's a creative way to incorporate various warm-up exercises into one continuous activity.

Simon Says

  • One child is 'Simon' and gives commands to the others. If Simon says, "Simon says jump," everyone jumps. But if Simon just says "jump" without the prefix, those who jump are out.
  • Simon Says develops listening skills and quick reaction times, with the added benefit of warming up through varied movements. It encourages mindfulness and attention to detail while keeping kids active.

Kids Warm-Up Exercise FAQs

Are there risks associated with kids' warm-up exercises?

While warm-up exercises are generally safe, there are some risks if exercises are not age-appropriate or if children perform them incorrectly. 

Supervising young children is important to ensure they're performing movements correctly and not overexerting themselves. Choosing exercises suitable for the child’s age and fitness level can minimize risks.

In fact, there are more risks associated with not warming up before activity!

What types of exercises can be done with limited space?

Many warm-up exercises require minimal space and can be performed almost anywhere. 

Jogging in place, high knees, arm circles, stretching exercises like toe touches, and reaching for the stars are perfect for small spaces.

How often should kids do warm-up exercises?

Kids should do warm-up exercises before any type of physical activity, whether it's a sports game, a physical education class, or just playing in the park. A good rule of thumb is to incorporate a brief warm-up session anytime they transition from a state of rest to physical activity. This helps prepare their bodies and minds for the activity ahead and reduces the risk of injury.

What are some common mistakes to avoid while warming up?

One common mistake is skipping the warm-up altogether, leading to muscle strains and injury. 

Another is not spending enough time warming up, which doesn’t give the muscles enough time to prepare for vigorous activity. 

Additionally, performing exercises too quickly or with improper form can also be

Counterproductive and potentially harmful. To maximize the benefits of warm-up activities and minimize the risk of injury, you’ll want to ensure they are done at a moderate pace and with attention to the correct form.

Warm-Ups Are Key to Safely Enjoying Physical Activity 

A great story needs a good introduction, and every play session or sports activity requires a proper warm-up. It's the unsung exercise hero, quietly ensuring every jump, sprint, and game is more enjoyable and safer.

Remember, successful warm-ups are engaging and consistent. By incorporating games, stretches, and exercises that kids enjoy, you're preparing them for physical activity and teaching them valuable habits for a lifetime of health and fitness.

And who knows? With warm-ups this fun, kids might start looking forward to them as much as the games that follow!


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