26 Challenging Activities That Will Make Your Child More Physically Competent
Parents are always looking for new activities for kids to do, especially activities that gets kids moving or thinking. While kids are participating in sports at astronomical rates, I suggest balancing that out with individual activities. Bonus points if kids are doing challenging activities that require self-mastery.
There’s a lot of adults walking this Earth who have no idea how to use their body. They lack coordination, their motor skills are pitiful , and they’re weak (both physically and mentally).
Strength of body and mind comes through the practice of engaging in physically and mentally challenging activities on a regular basis. Health is intricately linked to this. Actively using your body and mind is a state of living. Not using your body and mind is a state of dying.
When is the last time you spent a lot of time mastering some new challenging skill? Most adults feel they don’t have the time or patience anymore. That’s unfortunate.
We need to teach kids from a young age to take on challenging activities and conquer them. That should be a habit that kids carry with them into adulthood.
While mentally challenging activities are good, I think it’s best to combine activities that are physically and mentally challenging at the same time. This improves gross motor skills, coordination, speed, strength, balance, and agility while offering the mental benefits of patience, problem solving, overcoming failure, and perseverance.
So here’s 26 ideas to get your children started that fit that bill. Depending on your child’s natural ability, these could give them goals and “something to do” for years to come. And they’ll pick up a ton of great skills in the process.
- Hop on a pogo stick. it’s difficult. It requires balance and coordination. It’s frustrating. It’s a great challenge.
- Walk on stilts. Like the pogo stick, walking on stilts is challenging in many ways and requires developing some unique balance and motor skills.
- Alternative Cycling. Avoid training wheels. Teach kids using a balance bike, then a real bike, and then migrate to a unicycle for complete balance and motion mastery.
- Walk a slack line. Slack-lining is becoming really popular. It’s basically a bouncy line attached to two trees or polls or whatever is handy. First you learn to balance on the line, then to walk across it, and then to do some really fun and crazy things.
- Rock climb. Not only does rock climbing require a lot of strength, agility, and technique, but it’s mentally demanding. It also can teach kids about overcoming fears (such as heights) and putting trust in others (such as the person on the other end of the rope).
- Martial Arts Sparring & Grappling. Martial arts requires significant strength, speed, agility, body mechanics, mental toughness, and technique mastery. Of course, the side benefits are that your child learns how to defend themselves and assert confidence. I published a list of the top five martial arts for self defense fitness at Rebooted Body.
- Ice skating and rollerblading. Ice is slippery and the skates are skinny. Rollerblades are similar. Don’t let your kids escape childhood without learning to manage their body on thin moving tools attached to their feet.
- Jumping rope. This one is a given in most households, but I didn’t want to leave it out. Jumping rope requires good stamina, timing, and coordination.
- Do an unassisted pull up. An unassisted pull up is a pull up where there is no machine or person to help you. It requires significant upper body strength as well as core strength.
- Perform a muscle up. Once your child masters pull ups, encourage them to graduate to muscle ups, an exercise that very few adults can do.
- Climb a rope. Rope climbing requires a lot of strength but there’s also good technique involved. It’s also requires facing a fear of heights.
- Do tricks with a yo-yo. Learning to use a yo-yo and do tricks with one is fun, but can be extremely frustrating as well. It requires coordination and a lot of practice. It’s also a great way to teach physics lessons.
- Do a kip up. A kip up is where you lay on your back and spring to your feet without the use of your hands or knees. It’s wonderful for teaching the concept of momentum while making your child more physically competent. It also requires great perseverance and agility.
- Do a backflip. Lots of kids do cartwheels. Very few can do a backflip. Not only does it require a lot of explosiveness in the legs, agility, and spatial awareness, it requires a lot of trust in your teacher, spotter, and yourself.
- Navigate a hike with a map and compass. Great life saving skills can also be fun and unique challenges. Teach your kids how to read a map and use a compass and then go get lost in the woods together. See if your kids can get you home alive.
- Juggle. So frustrating. And so beneficial to coordination. Great stuff.
- Start a fire without modern tools. Again, teach kids how to survive. Make it fun. This takes a TON of physical and mental stamina.
- Hit a target or hunt with a bow and arrow. Even if you don’t hunt, teaching kids how to use a bow and arrow is beneficial. It requires strength and coordination. It’s also a great opportunity to teach about flight.
- Hit a target with a spear. A spear isn’t quite as sophisticated as a bow and arrow. But it’s great fun for kids and teaches them a classic survival technique. Bonus points if they make their own spear.
- Swim using a butterfly stroke. Lots of kids can swim. Not lots of kids can properly do the butterfly stroke. It’s all coordination and strength. It’ll make your kids amazing swimmers.
- Float on top of the water. This requires a lot of self-trust and is a great way to teach the concept of buoyancy. It’s also a great survival tool.
- Dead Man’s Float and drown-proofing. Once they’ve learned to swim and can do the basic float, progress to the dead man’s float and drown-proofing. Great survival and water-competency skills!
- Shoot pool. Another wonderful way to teach physics, coordination, patience, and touch. And it’s fun. And if your kids are ever chronically unemployed because you suck at unschooling, they can get rich hustling people in pool halls.
- Throw a football (properly). There’s a very specific technique to this that requires a lot of coordination and patience. If you have a daughter, take note: girls that can throw a football can throw anything.
- Do an unassisted handstand. Learning to walk on your hands is is physically demanding and requires advanced spatial awareness, core strength, and body control. Fun stuff.
- Surf. Surfing has a very steep learning curve. But the joy that comes with succeeding at it is well worth it and will provide a lifetime of enjoyment for your child.
You get bonus points for doing these things with your kids rather than just trying to teach them or send them to someone to be coached. For many of these you’ll have to be the student right along with them. Fun times!
This is just a list to get your kids started. I’d love for you to add any ideas you have to the comments section!
Because this is the internet, I have to write a disclaimer statement: Don’t be an idiot. Don’t teach your kid how to do a backflip on concrete. Don’t drown-proof your child who can’t swim and hates the water, scarring them for life. Know your child and their limits. Make sure they’re completely engaged, having fun, and participating voluntarily.