How Do You Make a Warm Up Fun?

warm up game

When children come into their gymnastics session they are often keen to get going on the exciting stuff such as apparatus. It is important to teach children from the get-go why we do a warm-up and how it is vital before doing gymnastics to ensure we don’t get hurt!

A great way to make a gymnastics warm up more fun is by introducing a game into the pulse raiser, here I will be listing five gymnastics warm up games for younger children and five that are more suitable for older children.

Gymnastics Warm Up Games For Younger Children

Bean Game

The bean game is an excellent choice if you are working with children from ages 3 up to around 10, sometimes even older children will have a laugh with this one!

This game is about memory, and acting out the names of the beans with your body! So when your coach shouts out a bean name, the first child to do it will get a point. This keeps the kids engaged, having fun, and keeps their concentration whilst they are warming up!

Here are examples you can use for the bean game, and what the actions are to it, though you can always switch these up and change the movements around!

Jelly Bean– Standing up wobbling around like jelly

String Bean– Stand tall in straight shape arms to ears on tiptoes

Broad Bean– Stand as wide as you can in a star shape

Baked Bean- Tuck up in a ball on the floor as small as you can

French Bean– Hands on hips and say ‘oo la la’

Jumping Bean- Jumping up and down

Runner Bean– Running on the spot

Beans on Toast– Laying flat on back in a star shape

Run through all of the bean shapes before starting the game then you can begin! I would go through a couple of rounds and stop when the children are warmed up and ready for a stretch out.

Traffic Lights

Traffic lights is an excellent warm up game for both younger and older children due to its versatility. Though there are of course only three colours on a traffic light, you can bend the rules for this game and add as many colours as you want, just be mindful of the age range you are working with, as they may struggle to remember all of the colours.

The rules of the average traffic light game would be the following;

Red– Stop

Amber/Orange– Walk

Green– Go/Run

But this is gymnastics, after all, so you want to make it a little bit more interesting and fun for the kids when you can see they are starting to get a bit bored, change up the exercises or add a new colour to mix it up a bit and get a bit harder! 

When switching out exercises and choosing your own, try and stick with the theme of red means stop, orange slow, and green is go. Here are some examples I like to do to change it up a bit and make it more gymnastics-inspired.

Red– Freeze in star shape (or any gymnastics shape!)

Amber/Orange– Tip toe walks, or any other walks gymnasts often do on the beam such as kicks, side walks, knee taps

Green– A faster pace skill such as chasses, skipping, cat leaps 

If you are working with a younger class such as ages 4-8, I would stick with the three colours, but change the exercises when needed, with slightly older children I would start to bring in more colours for them to remember!

Shape Game

warm up game

The shape game is an excellent game to get children warmed up and teaching them the basics at the same time!

This is another versatile game where you can decide on what shapes and how many you do depending on the age range of the class you have.

For younger children, I would start with three basic shapes and see how they get on, if they find it easy, gradually add more shapes to the list or introduce one they may not have done before.

The rules of the shape game are when the coach shouts out a shape, the gymnasts get into that shape as quickly as they can. For example tuck, star, straight. Whoever gets into the shape first gets a point, similar to the bean game, but swapping the beans with gymnastics shapes!

As this is a warm up game it’s good to keep the children moving between rounds. Instead of having the gymnasts stand and wait for the next shape introduce a pulse raiser to do between each round such as jogging, skipping, jumping, etc!

There are many shapes that can be added to this game, but make sure all children in your class are safely capable of doing the shapes you come up with. 

Here is a list of some gymnastics shapes that are suitable for this game for younger children;

Star, Tuck, Straight, Straddle, Pike, Butterfly, Front support, Back support.

Simon Says

For this game, instead of getting children out where they can get cold, I would start each child with 10 points, if they get an action done they get a point deducted so the child with the most points at the end wins!

Simon says is another game on our list that is very open and flexible, you can use your own gymnastics-inspired movements to theme the game more towards the sport, as well as switching it up now and again to catch the gymnasts out!

The rules of Simon says are;

The coach is ‘Simon’ if the coach was to shout out ‘Simon says.. Touch your toes’ the gymnasts do the action. If the coach was to only shout out ‘Touch your toes’ the gymnasts do not do the action.

If a gymnast does the action when the coach does not say Simon says, they get a point deducted! Do remember logging points for games isn’t compulsory!

With this game, you can use many gymnastics shapes, stretches, and pulse raiser exercises. Avoid using any full gymnastics moves as remember this is a warm up game to play prior to a stretch out, so you don’t want to risk doing any moves that could pull a muscle before they are properly stretched out!


This warm up game is slightly less gymnastics-inspired but still a great one to get your younger kids engaged and having fun, ready for the session ahead.

The rules of the pirates game are as followed;

Scrub the deck- Scrub floor on all fours

Climb rigging- Running high knees with arms ‘climbing rope’

Captains coming- Stand and salute

Walk the plank- Walking in a straight line

Submarine- Lay on back with one leg up

Hit the deck- Lay on tummy

Sharks- Sit hugging knees, feet off the floor

Now a lot of these moves can be altered slightly to link to gymnastics! For example, you can have your gymnasts walking on their tiptoes when ‘walking the plank’ or holding an arch shape on their tummy for ‘hit the deck’.

For this game I would start with about three or four commands, not to overload the children with information as they will forget some and become frustrated and bored! 

As with all games, judge your audience first, trial how you are getting on with a small number of commands then gradually add more and more.

If you find that this game isn’t quite warming up your gymnasts, add some pulse-raising cardio in between each round as you would for the shape game. For example, have the gymnasts jogging on the spot until they hear the next command.

Gymnastics Warm Up Games For Older Children

Stuck In The Mud

Before choosing this game, ensure you have a big clear floor area. If you have a smaller gym where the floor area isn’t full size I would avoid playing this game, the kids will likely want to use the whole gym including around apparatus for this game, I would avoid this as there are a lot of trip hazards that the kids will forget about when running from a tagger!

There are many versions of stuck in the mud, but the main rules are; there is one chase, if you are tagged by the chaser you must freeze and become ‘stuck in the mud’ until you are let free by being tagged by another player.

If the chaser has caught all the players and they all become stuck, the chaser wins! 

Ensure to swap out the chaser now and again to mix it up, or even have two chasers if one is struggling to get everyone!

Now there are many versions of this game and loads that can have gymnastics added into it too! Here are some examples;

Star Shape when tagged- crawl through legs to free

Front support when tagged- crawl under or bunny hop over to free

Arabesque balance when tagged- duck under the leg to free

Straddle sit when tagged- join feet to feet to their straddle to free

You can also change the game around to make it more difficult by having the gymnasts skipping or bunny hopping instead of running, not only does this mix up the game but it makes it more challenging and makes their body work that bit harder!

Shape Game (Advanced)

The shape game is one of the best gymnastics warm up games for all ages in my opinion. From preschool-aged children to teenage classes, this game can be altered to suit all abilities.

When having a class of older children I would get stuck straight in and start with five gymnastics shapes, gradually as the game goes on add more shapes and swap some out for some more challenging ones. Here are some examples of some more complex shapes you can use with older children;

Dish, Arch, Plank, Squat, Arabesque, V balance.

Another way of making the shape game more advanced for older children would be to make the game into a questionnaire, and they answer your questions with the shape. Here are some examples of questions and shape answers;

What is the shape you pass through in a straight front? – Arch

What is the opposite of an arch? – Dish

An ab exercises on your elbows – Plank


The rules of bulldog you have one catcher or ‘Bulldog’ and all the other gymnasts are the runners. The bulldog starts in the centre on a line (if you have one) and all runners must run across the line to the other end without getting tagged by the bulldog, who cannot come off his/her line!

If a gymnast is tagged, they then join the bulldog at catching the others! The last runner left wins!

There are many ways to make this game more difficult and a few ways it can be made to link a little bit more to gymnastics! Here are some examples of what the gymnasts can do instead of run (including the bulldog);

Bunny hops, Bear Walks, Crab Walks, Front Support walks.

This is a great gymnastics warm up game as it gets the pulse raised nice and fast and the kids love it!

Add On

Though add-on is a great gymnastics game and can also be used as a warm up game, I would recommend only using it in a small class, or if you have a bigger class separate them into small groups of 4 to 5.

The add on game is a gymnastics-inspired version of ‘I went to the supermarket and i bought a…’. Gymnasts start with one move, the next gymnast repeats that move then chooses their own to add on. Keep going around the circle until somebody forgets! Be prepared that gymnasts have a good memory, so you might need to end the game before it actually finishes!

As this game is being used for a warm up i would encourage the gymnasts to still be moving whilst they are waiting their turn with just light exercises such as jogging, bouncing on the spot or heel raises.

Ensure to explain that the moves the gymnasts do in the game are warm up/ conditioning moves, not actually gymnastics skills as they aren’t warm yet! Here are some examples of some moves that can be used for an add-on game as a warm up;

Jumping Jack, Burpee, Sit up, V sit, Rock to Jump

Indians and Teepees

The first thing you need to do when playing Indians and teepees is pair up the gymnasts, if you have a mixed age range ensure that younger children go with older, or smaller go with taller.

Whoever is smaller in the pair is an Indian, and the taller is a teepee. All Indians make a circle and sit down, the teepees then stand behind their Indian in a wide stance.

If the coach calls teepees all the teepees must run around their Indian then around the full circle until they are back at their Indian, and then around their Indian one more time. Whoever is the last back is out, or in this case, as it’s a warm up they lose a point, or the fastest gains one.

When the coach calls Indians, all the Indians crawl through their teepee’s legs, run around the whole circle, then crawl back through their teepee’s legs to sit down.

This is a fun game that gets the children warm and ready for the session but also works as a great team-building game.

There are many ways to alter this game to make it a bit more suitable for a warm up. Here are some examples;

  • Change running around to another pulse-raising exercise such as high knees, bunny hops, jumping, skipping, etc.
  • When teepees are waiting their turn have them do ankle raises to keep them moving
  • When Indians are waiting their turn have them doing a floor exercise such as crunches, bicycles, dish hold

How To Keep Young Children Engaged in Warm Up 

When warming up young children it’s important that they are engaged as they can lose concentration if they are bored and miss out on some important exercises that will avoid any possible injuries.

As mentioned beforehand, a game is a great introduction to a session, and especially for little ones it gets them engaged and having fun straight away.

When moving onto stretching after a pulse raiser, there are many things you can do with young children to ensure they are focused and joining in.

Talk about their day

Most little ones love to chat! Use the stretch out as a time to let them talk about their day and school activities, or what they did at the weekend. Ask questions to the not so confident children to encourage them to speak, keep encouraging the children to stretch as they talk though!


There are many stretches you can do in gymnastics where you can pretend you are something else, this encourages the little ones to use their imagination and makes the warm up a lot more fun! Here are some examples;

Arch- have the children imagine they are superman

Happy cat and Angry cat- big smile on happy cat and grumpy face on angry cat

Butterfly- flap their legs and pretend they are wings

Seal and cat stretch- these are the names of these stretches, so have the kids imagine they are that animal!

The main thing in gymnastics, especially with youngsters, is that they are having fun! I hope you can use some of these ideas to mix up your gymnastics warm ups and maybe come up with some of your own!

Scroll to Top