Kids don’t usually line up to do squats and lunges, but they’ll happily walk like a crab or run faster than a wave! Trick your littlest clients (aged 3–12) into getting a great workout with this quick-moving format packed with cleverly themed exercises.

Kids’ Beach Boot Camp Details

Goal: to engage kids and keep them moving while they have fun and feel successful

Total time: 55–60 minutes

Equipment needed:

  • inflatable beach balls (or balloons), one per student
  • 10–20 foam yoga blocks
  • 3–4 light medicine balls
  • 1–2 steps with extra risers
  • 16 yoga rings (also known as Pilates rings)
  • 5–6 foam rollers

Note: Most of this equipment is commonly found in large gyms, but you can improvise if needed.

Music: kid-appropriate music during the obstacle course (optional)

Additional notes:

  • If a kid is slowing down, he may be ready to rest on the sidelines.
  • If a child is goofing off and distracting others, she may respond well to a “job.” Let her help blow the whistle between stations or lead a set of jumping jacks.
  • Give simple corrections on form, but remember a love of movement is more important than a perfect pushup.
  • Come up with your own theme, or try “Back to School,” “Spring Fever,” “Elf Training” (Christmas), “Olympics,” “A Day at the Zoo,” a movie, or anything your imagination can inspire!

Introduction (5 minutes)

Set the theme for the day and let the children know you’re taking them on a trip to the beach without leaving the room. Be a total goofball, talk like a surfer, pretend to “hang ten” on a yoga mat—whatever it takes to make them laugh. Work hard to learn the names of kids you don’t already know.

Warm-Up and Stretch (5 minutes)

Tell the kids that in order to spend the day at the beach, they first need to travel from home, going all the way through the city. Have them run around the room in a circle. When you call out “red light,” they freeze; “green light,” they go. Create an engaging story that includes things they encounter on the journey. Give the kids these cues:

  • Side-step right.
  • Side-step left.
  • Crawl.
  • Roll.
  • Slither on your belly like a snake.
  • Skip.

Once they’ve reached the “beach,” they need to stretch. Hold the following stretches for 20–30 seconds each, and use imaginative cues that stay with the theme; for example:

  • Do a standing quad stretch “like a seagull on one leg.”
  • Do a hamstring stretch while “looking for keys that have dropped in the sand.”
  • Do a calf stretch while pretending to ride a surfboard.

Drills (5 minutes)

These drills are designed to be fast-paced and get little hearts pumping. Alternate higher-intensity drills with lower-intensity drills, and keep each one under 30 seconds. Cycle through the drills two to three times, allowing a short rest between cycles. Use imaginative cues to keep interest high and giggles flowing.

  • Run in place with high knees, “as if running in deep sand.”
  • Bear crawl “like a dog sniffing for dropped hot dogs.”
  • Do flip jumps: Face the front and then jump 180 degrees in the air to face the back of the room, “like a flag snapping in the wind.”
  • Have fun with crab kicks: Place hands and feet on floor, belly up, bottom off ground, and kick with alternating legs (fast or slow). Pretend to be “a crab digging a new hole to hide in.”

Strength and Balance (10 minutes)

The kids release a lot of energy in the first section of class, preparing them to slow down, focus and learn in this next segment. Once you’ve explained each exercise, set a goal for repetitions—between 10 and 20, depending on the age of your students. Try the following moves and cues:

  • Stationary lunges: “Be a surfer riding a wave and ducking under the curl.”
  • Pushups: “Pretend you are swimming and duck-diving waves.”
  • Wide squats: “Look for cool seashells and pick them up.”
  • Starfish crunches: “Lie on your back, arms and legs spread wide. Bring hands and feet together in the middle, reach toward the sky, and then lower back to the ground, just like a starfish.”
  • Plank: “You are a pencil fish, swimming just below the waterline.”

Obstacle Course (20 minutes)

Take time to clearly explain and demonstrate all of the obstacles. If you have an experienced participant in class, ask this child to run the course once through so the other kids see it in action. Change stations every minute and allow transition time. Run the course twice.

Station 1: Wall Jump

Pass out yoga blocks and challenge kids to build a “wall” they think they can jump over, either with a running jump or straight up and over, both feet together. Cue: “Imagine you’re leaping a fence to get to your secret beach.”

Station 2: Beach Volleyball Spike and Block

Lift a light medicine ball overhead and slam it to the ground (spike). To block, indicate a spot high on the wall (mark it with painter’s tape) and challenge kids to jump up and touch the spot. Give three different options to accommodate kids of all ages and heights.

Station 3: Crab Burrow

Set up a step with enough risers on each side to allow kids to “army-crawl” beneath. After crawling through, kids flip into crab position (hands and feet, torso facing up) and move in a big circle back to the step where they flip back and army-crawl under again, channeling their inner crab.

Station 4: Hot Feet and Inchworms

Set up yoga rings in a staggered line, two wide and eight long. Run the kids through the rings (think military truck-tires course), pretending their feet are on hot sand. On the way back, tell them they are inchworms: Have them walk hands out into high plank, walk feet in to meet hands, and repeat until they make it back to the yoga ring course.

Station 5: Zigzag Challenge

Set up five to six foam rollers (standing on end), arranged in a zigzag pattern. Challenge kids to run through them as if they were dodging people on a crowded boardwalk, without touching the rollers or knocking them down.

Game (10 minutes)

Everyone loves a game, and by now your kids will be ready for a break in structure. Challenge each of them to keep a balloon or inflatable beach ball off the ground for as many consecutive hits as possible.

Cool-Down and Final Stretch (5 minutes)

Sit in a circle and lead the following:

  • seated hamstring stretch
  • butterfly stretch for inner thighs
  • chest stretch
  • triceps stretch