Physical education games for children from 3 to 5 years old

Updated July 13, 2018

Physical education lessons provide opportunities to teach young children motor skills, safety rules and interpersonal skills such as turn-taking. Children aged 3 to 5 can be eager participants as you introduce them to a variety of games. Choose games with simple rules that young children can easily understand and remember. Games with continuous action are sure to keep them entertained.

Red light, green light

Have the children line up against a wall. If playing outside, make a line on the ground for the children to stand behind. Select one child to be the "traffic light." Have this child stand about 8 m (25 feet) ahead of the group, with his back to them. When the traffic light calls out "Green light!" the children must run toward him. When he calls out, "Red light!" everyone must stop. The traffic light quickly turns around and identifies any children who are still moving. These children must return to the starting point. The game continues with the traffic light calling out "Green light!" and "Red light!" again. The child who touches the traffic light first is the winner and gets to call out the commands during the next game.

Simon says

Choose one child to be "Simon" and have the rest of the children stand in front of him. Simon gives the children a command, beginning with the phrase "Simon says." For example, children may be instructed to stomp their feet, clap their hands or touch their toes. Simon continues giving the children actions to complete. If he does not begin a command with "Simon says," the children should not follow his instructions and must remain still. If Simon catches any children moving, they sit down. The game ends when there is only one child left standing. In games with 3-year-olds, play the role of "Simon" until the children become proficient with the game, or give "Simon" some help.

What's the time, Mr. Wolf?

Have the children line up against a wall or behind a line. Choose one child to stand about 8 m (25 feet) away from the group, with his back turned. This child is "Mr. Wolf." The children call out, "What's the time, Mr. Wolf?" Mr. Wolf responds with a time to the hour. If, for example, Mr. Wolf replies "2 o' clock," the children must take two steps toward him. They continue asking him what time it is and moving the appropriate steps forward. At any point, Mr. Wolf can respond to their question with "Lunch time!" He then turns around and chases the children, trying to tag someone before she reaches the starting line. Play again, giving another child the opportunity to be Mr. Wolf. Smaller children may need help coming up with times.


This game requires a large playing area, such as a gym. Have the children stand up against a wall. Select one child to be the "octopus." He stands in the middle of the room and calls out, "Octopus!" The rest of the children must run to the opposite wall without being tagged by the octopus. Children who are caught join the octopus in the middle of the room and help him chase after and tag their peers during subsequent rounds. The game ends when all the children have been tagged.

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About the Author

Mother of two, Erin Agnello writes about parenting, relationships, and education. She has been teaching since 2001 and works in special education and early literacy. Agnello holds a B.A. in psychology from Wilfrid Laurier University and a B.Ed. from Windsor University.