Boost Kids’ Fitness with These 12 Playful Animal Exercises

Young girl doing kids' exercises on a yoga mat

Need a workout for kids this summer?  Challenge your kids’ fitness and train like an animal with workout moves inspired by the animal kingdom.  Animal exercises are great kids’ exercise.  They make functional training fun and imaginative while improving strength, flexibility, and balance.   Here are a few to get you started.

What are Good Animal Exercises?

Most animal exercises make you use your entire body, as well as your imagination.  These aren’t just workouts for kids.  They build strength, balance, and flexibility.  Here are some of my favorites.
Strength - Animal Exercises

Strength Building Animal Exercises

  • Bear Crawl:

    On all fours, crawl on your hands and feet with your butt high and abs engaged.  This is great for building upper back and shoulder strength.

  • Crab Crawl:

    Turn yourself over and crawl on your hands and feet with your butt low.  This builds shoulder mobility, as well as upper body and core strength.

  • Alligator Drag:

    From a forearm plank, crawl one arm forward at a time to move your body across the ground. You can do this with hips lifted or low.

  • Frog jump:

    From a low squatting position, jump forward. Return to your squat.

  • Pointer Dog:

    From an all fours position, lift your opposite arm and leg to reach forward and back. Too easy?  Keeping hips and shoulders level, reach your arm and leg out to a 45 degree angle.  This is great for your core and low back.


Flexibility Animal Exercises

Flexibility Animal Exercises

  • Bunny sit:

    Come into a low squat and hang out, like a bunny sitting on the grass.  Encourages mobility in the low back and hips.

  • Elephant Dangle:

    Bend forward at the hips and let your trunk (arms) dangle beneath you.  Stretches hamstrings, shoulders, and low back.

  • Giraffe Stretch:

    Reach your arms overhead and imagine they are the neck of a giraffe reaching up into the trees.  Lean to one side and the other.  Stretches the shoulders, the lats, and obliques.

  • Pigeon lunge:

    Come into a kneeling lunge and let your front foot turn out, away from your body.  Come low into the lunge, letting the thigh and hip rotate outward.  Stretches hip flexors (on the back leg), and rotators (front leg).

Balance - Animal Exercises

Balance Animal Exercises

  • Flamingo:

    Practice standing on one leg, similar to tree pose, but bringing your knee forward to imitate a flamingo.  You can create variations taking your leg into different positions.

  • Silly Monkey:

    Standing on one leg, bend your standing leg and reach both hands down to the ground. Now lift your other leg high, coming into a standing split.  Too easy, want to play?  Try to take your hands away from the ground one at a time – then reach them out to the side.  You can even work this into a kick up for a handstand.

  • Swimming Shark:

    This is the same as a yoga balancing half-moon. Balancing on your left leg, reach your left hand down to support you as you raise your right leg parallel to the ground.  Your hips should stack above each other to face out. Now reach your top arm up to make the shark’s fin.


How Kids Exercise like an Animal

While you can introduce animal exercises through a kid friendly You Tube video, your kids’ fitness will benefit the most if you have time to play and explore your animal challenges.  Use animal exercises to create a circuit style workout.  You can add them in to a hike, run, or bike ride as well.  You can also create challenges and races (allowing the youngest exercisers a head start).  In planning your workout for kids, a few exercises will go a long way.  Repeating stations several times will allow children to master the movement.  This provides a greater benefit than rapidly cycling through a multitude of movements.   Incorporate different animal exercises throughout your week to build several aspects of your kids’ fitness while you play.

Keep Exercising Like Animals All Summer Long

As your family’s imagination takes off, it’s easy to forget you’re building core strength and muscular endurance.  Animal exercises are great for growing brains, too.  They stimulate nerves and muscles, building body awareness along with imagination. Combine animal exercises with a hike or trip to the zoo for inspiration and adventure.  Nature books and videos from your local library or streaming service can turn these workouts into a day-long adventure for your summer staycation. As you plan your summer adventures,  consider how you can be inspired by animal exercises to build in fitness and fun for your kids.
About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.



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