Warm-Ups for Kids Before Sports or Active Play

Back of boy juggling soccer ball with field in background
Rebecca Nelson / Getty Images

Before they play sports or stretch, kids need a simple warm-up routine. The best warm-up exercises for kids are easy to do and easy to teach. They set the stage for a good game, practice, or stretching session.

Benefits of a good warm-up include injury prevention and improved performance. That's thanks to increased blood flow to the muscles, as well as improved range of motion and body temperature control.

A good warm-up exercise can consist of almost any light to moderate aerobic activity—something that gets your child's body moving but isn't too physically taxing.

A slower, gentler version of the sport they're about to play is always a good option such as brisk walking or jogging to warm up for running. For example, or some slower laps around the rink prior to hockey practice.

7 Steps to a Good Warm-Up Routine

To create a warm-up routine suitable for kids (or adults), consider a progression like this. You only need five to 10 minutes of warming-up time.

  1. Start with slow and easy forward movements, selected from the list below.
  2. Begin speeding up those same movements and adding some impact (such as jumping).
  3. Add some angles or zig-zags.
  4. Shift to a side-to-side movement pattern.
  5. Include some dynamic stretches.
  6. Perform static stretches after the muscles are warm.
  7. Continue with skill games and drills related to your child's sport or activity.

Types of Warm-Up Exercises for Kids

A simple walk, jog, or march, in motion or in place, can serve as a good warm-up for kids. You can also incorporate any of these kinds of movements:

  • Arm Circles or Swings: Hold arms outstretched from shoulders and turn in small circles, then increase the size of the circles. Or swing arms forward and back from the shoulder.
  • Butt Kicks: Like high knees in reverse. Exaggerate your steps in jogging by reaching your foot toward your rear end (sometimes easier to do when jogging in place).
  • Dancing: Let kids make up their own moves to music they like. For a team, choreograph a simple dance to a beloved song. Then it becomes part of the pre-game ritual.
  • Grapevine: Walk or jog sideways, crossing one foot in front of the other in an alternating pattern.
  • High Knees: While walking, lift knees high in the air. Intensify by adding arm movements, like a hand or elbow touch; or by speeding up the walk to a jog.
  • Jumping Jacks: When you're ready to add some more intensity to your warm-up exercises, incorporate jumping jacks—they involve both arms and legs and add impact to your routine.
  • Side Hops: With feet together, jump from one side of an imaginary line to the other. Or hop on one foot and switch back and forth.
  • Walking Lunges: Step forward with one leg and lower so the knee is at a 90-degree angle and the back leg is stretched out long. Then lift the back leg up and forward so it's bent and in front. Continue alternating lunges while moving forward.
Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Park HK, Jung MK, Park E, et al. The effect of warm-ups with stretching on the isokinetic moments of collegiate menJ Exerc Rehabil. 2018;14(1):78–82. doi:10.12965/jer.1835210.605