Mix high energy with individual coaching to help kids learn to love exercise.
Kids naturally love to move. Why not take advantage of their innate urge to wiggle? This kickboxing class not only helps kids strengthen their muscles and hearts; it also teaches body awareness, coordination and balance. You’ll even provide an environment that builds self-confidence; however, students won’t know that! They’ll just remember how much fun they had and will spend the rest of the day showing everyone the cool moves they learned in class.
The following nine-part class structure alternates high-intensity work with a martial-art-style focus. Reuse this format as many times as you like, offering a fresh combination weekly. This will provide your class with both variety and stability.
FORMAT: cardio-interval kickboxing class for children 3 and older
TOTAL TIME: 45 minutes, with each segment taking approximately 5 minutes
EQUIPMENT NEEDED: handheld kick-and-punch shield
MUSIC: Any beats-per-minute selection is optional and, if used at all, should be included only as background in the high-energy sections where you’re not introducing new moves or correcting form. Turn the music off to minimize distractions when kids need to focus and listen to your cues.
Rules Customized for Kids:
- Rule #1: Children grow tired and bored with an adult-style cardio-blowout class. They respond best to bursts of energy alternating with slower segments that focus on form.
- Rule #2: Routine gives kids a sense of security. Design a class in which the basic structure stays the same. Change little details here and there on a regular basis.
Note: Stress to your young participants that the purpose of kickboxing class is to make their bodies stronger and not to punch and kick one another. To make sure all participants have plenty of room, ask them to extend their arms out to the sides and turn a full circle. Prevent collisions by helping smaller kids find spots that give them plenty of room to move. You may need to constantly remind children to stay in their positions during class.
Alternate basic body weight moves with dynamic flexibility and balance. Keep the pace strong and interest high. Give exercises fun names—kids will forget they’re working hard. Who wants to do a bunch of squats? Instead, pretend to sit in an exploding chair! Doesn’t that sound like fun?
Moves and cues. Run through these moves 2–3 times depending on the stamina of your participants:
- roof raisers (boxer shuffles with arms pressing to ceiling)
- balance chairs (squats)
- firecrackers (jumping jacks)
- shooting stars (plyometric jumping jacks)
- tallest-tree reach (balancing on one leg and reaching to ceiling)
- motor boat (simulating a speed bag and singing, “Motor boat, motor boat goes so slow . . .”)
- motor boat with heel shuffles
- cat lunges (side-to-side inner-thigh stretches)
- exploding chairs (jump squats, counting 3, 2, 1 . . . boom!)
“We need to get our bodies nice and warm so our muscles are ready to punch and kick.”
You’ll use these kicks and punches later to build a combination. Slowly teach the setup and execution for each move. Pick up the pace as form improves and confidence increases.
Teach the following:
- front kick
The children will be ready to move again after you’ve taken them through the introduction. Take the moves you just taught and go through them at a faster pace, adding dynamic movement. Focus on fun over form. Don’t worry if kids use the wrong arms or work 4 beats behind—just keep the energy up.
Moves. Repeat each drill 4–5 times before advancing to the next one.
- Do repeater jabs while shuffling across room, and then race back to start position.
- Do alternating knees, going from superslow, as if underwater, to running in place with high knees.
- Cue 4 alternating knees and 4 alternating kicks. Move across room after a few reps.
- Perform 4 right (R) hooks and 2 shooting stars, then 4 left (L) hooks and 2 shooting stars. Repeat.
As they calm down from the “high” of hard work, the kids will be excited to see what it feels like to “connect” with their punches and kicks. Have them sit against the wall so they can watch and learn as they await their turn. Give them individual coaching as they punch and kick your handheld shield.
Moves and Cues. Try the following:
- Practice as a group: front kick, R, L, R, L.
- Take turns on bag: front kick, R, L, R, L.
- Practice as a group: 4 jabs R, 4 jabs L.
- Take turns on bag: 4 jabs R, 4 jabs L.
- Practice as a group: hook R, L, R, L.
- Take turns on bag: hook R, L, R, L.
“Use correct form. This will deliver more power than punching and kicking as hard as you can.”
Make sure everyone takes a drink of water, but don’t stop for too long or it may be difficult to regain control; 1–2 minutes should do. Share with the kids how important it is to take care of their bodies in order to grow strong muscles and avoid getting hurt.
Now that the class has the fundamentals down, it’s time to put moves together. Practice slowly with each lead side. When the combination looks good, cue the kids to move across the floor while doing the combo and then to run back to the start position several times with each lead side, bringing the energy level to another peak.
Combo. Jab R, hook L, knee R, front kick R.
Kids love it when you ask them if they’re ready to learn a special skill. Break down the move slowly, increasing speed as form improves. When they’re ready, cue them to move across the floor using their new special skill, which is a roundhouse kick.
Insert the roundhouse kick into the combination. Practice with all R leads and then all L leads. Next, practice going directly from R lead to L lead. Class culminates with students taking turns doing the new combo in front of the group. Encourage participants to cheer each other on.
Special skill/combo. Jab R, hook L, knee R, roundhouse L (alternate lead).
Bring the class into a big circle for some light stretching. Give students a small souvenir (stickers or stamps) to reward them and remind them of their accomplishment. It’s also fun to end with a “goodbye ritual,” such as high-fives, a special handshake, or hands in for a “1, 2, 3, hi-ya!”
Tell participants individually what they did well and how they’ve improved. Kids love being acknowledged for their efforts and will appreciate knowing that you’ve paid attention to their hard work.
- deltoid stretch across chest
- chest stretch, hands clasped behind back
- seated straddle stretch for hamstrings