1. Do a circus routine Encourage your child to practise being a clown (for costumes, use ping-pong balls for a big red nose, colourful oversize clothing, some funny glasses and a big hat), an acrobat (who does cartwheels, somersaults and handstands), a juggler (you could use three large pom poms). If there are a group of children, each can perform their own ‘speciality trick’ before ending with a human pyramid as the grand finale.
2. Skipping games For group skipping games, two people turn a long skipping rope while one does the jumping. However, if there is only one person to turn and one to jump, then tie the other end to a tree. There are lots of games, rhythms and songs to go with them – try Salt and Mustard, where a number of children can jump into the revolving rope singing “salt, mustard, vinegar, pepper” – when they say pepper the rope gets faster and faster. The last person to successfully jump the rope is the winner and gets to turn the rope next.
3. Three-legged race We’ve all done these – if you’re with someone your own size, then well and good. If not, you’ll be in for plenty of laughs – and falls.
4. Stuck in the mud Decide on the boundaries, then one person is ‘it’. She must chase the others around and try to touch them; if you’re ‘tagged’ (even a little bit), then you must stand with your arms in the air and your legs spaced apart. You can only be freed by someone crawling through your legs (they are safe while doing so). When everybody is ‘stuck in the mud’ with no one left to ‘freeze’, a new person is ‘it’.
5. Dancing Watch a music video, then copy the moves. Try doing a range of different music styles – jazz, classical, rock ’n’ roll, country ’n’ western and blues.
6. Carnival of the Animals Saint-Saëns’ wonderful Carnival of the Animals suite of music is great for toddlers – have them dance in the style of the animals that appear in each of the 14 movements; there are tortoises, elephants, kangaroos, as well as fossils and pianists – imagine how they walk!
7. Pillow fight Pull out the biggest, fluffiest pillows, and go for it – the only rule being that nothing except the pillow hits another person, and make sure the area for the ‘fight’ is clear of any hazards.
8. Play dodgeball If you have a group of children visiting, divide them into two teams. One forms a large circle and throws a big soft ball at the other team inside the circle, who dodge the ball being thrown at them – if they get hit they must join the other team and join in throwing the ball. The last player left in the circle is the winner.
9. The box walk Use two shoe boxes that will fit on your child’s feet, then have her put one foot in each box as though they are skates. Play or sing ‘The Skaters Waltz’ as the child ‘glides’ along.
10. Obstacle course Set ‘stations’ around the garden with three or four hula hoops (which your child will have to jump from one into the next), a skipping rope (skip 10 times), a few cardboard boxes (to use as ‘bases’ to run/somersault/hop/or cartwheel between), a ball (to be thrown into a hoop), and a run of chairs (set so their legs form a tunnel to crawl through). If it’s a rainy day, simply vary the routine for an indoor course. For younger children, simplify the actions they need to take at each station.