7 of the Best Warm Up Games for Very Young Athletes

Teach Kids Concepts & Skills With These Games

Let’s face it. Coaching very young children can be fun and immensely entertaining, but it also has its particular challenges that if not properly managed can leave you tearing your hair out.

Very young children, aged 5 years or under, have no or only limited experience of the formalities of school and therefore may struggle with some concepts that we take for granted when coaching older age groups. These include:

  • Recognizing the boundaries of an activity area
  • Responding to a signal
  • Finding a partner
  • Forming a circle
  • Forming a group
  • Lining up

These are all concepts and skills commonly needed for participation in a coaching session. Young children often need to be taught these concepts, and what better way to do so than through warm up games? A warm up game for very young children needs to be fun, simple, vigorous and easy to explain. If it also teaches a concept that makes the coach’s job easier later on – all the better!

The games described below, whilst being fun and allowing the children to experience and develop a wide range of movement skills, are all designed to teach the children an important concept.

The first two games teach the children to respond to a signal. “Boundaries” is game that teaches children to identify the boundaries of an activity area. The final four games teach the children how to form pairs, groups, circles or lines.


Each game requires that the coach set up a large square playing area with ground markers. The children move about the playing area performing an activity specified by the coach e.g. walking, hopping, jumping, or whatever the coach decides is appropriate. (Very young children also like to mimic animals!) The six games then progress in slightly different ways, as outlined below.

Game 1: Signals

On the coach’s whistle, the athletes must sit down as quickly as possible. Sitting down can be replaced by kneeling, lying down, balancing on one leg, etc.

Game 2: Statues

On the coach’s whistle, the athletes must “freeze” and are not permitted to move again until the coach gives the appropriate signal.

Game 3: Boundaries

On the coach’s whistle, the group must quickly find their own spot on the boundary of the playing area.

Game 4: Pairs

On the coach’s whistle, the athletes must quickly find and stand with a partner. Repeat this activity, with the children finding a different partner each time.

Game 5: Groups

The coach blows the whistle and calls out a number. The children must form a group the size of the number called. e.g. If “5” is called, groups of 5 must be formed. Coaches need to make sure they have a solution if children are “left over” once the groups have formed. This, of course, will occur if the whole group is of a size that cannot be divided by the number called. The coach can join in to form a group if needed or even make themselves worth 2 or 3 if required.

TIP: If your following activity requires groups of, for example, six, make “six” the final number that you call for this game.

Game 6: Circles

On the coach’s whistle, the whole group must quickly form a circle.

 Game 7: Line Up

Prior to beginning of this game, provide one or more children with something that designates them as a “leader”. E.g. Marker, ribbon, sash, etc.

On the coach’s whistle, the group must quickly line up behind the closest leader. Change the leader/s for each new game.

Each of the above games lends itself to the coach using “count downs”, where, immediately after blowing the whistle, the coach begins to count, as an indication of how long the group takes to get organised. A stopwatch can be used instead of counting. Counting or timing is used by the coach to encourage the group to try to get faster with each successive effort.

Can you add to the list?

I would love to hear if you have any favourite games that work well with very young athletes. let me know by leaving a reply/comment.

If this post helped you please take a moment to help others by sharing it on social media. If you want to learn more I encourage you to leave questions and comments or contact me directly.

Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes, and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on TwitterFacebookLinkedin, or via email. Check out Coaching Young Athletes on YouTube, the Coaching Young Athletes podcast, and the Coaching Young Athletes E-Book Series.

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One thought on “7 of the Best Warm Up Games for Very Young Athletes

  1. Robert Kijewski says:

    Very neat warm up exercises!!! Great way to learn and warm-up!!


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