Looking for something active for your child to do on a rainy, housebound day? Or maybe you’d just like someone else to be in charge of keeping your child happy, bouncy and engaged for a while (while you have a quick cuppa and watch)?
There are loads of online classes, live-stream sessions and video workouts aimed specifically at children – based on yoga, football, Zumba, action songs, keep fit and more. But it’s not always easy to find out which ones are free, and which are the most suitable – and the most fun – for your child’s age and stage.
So, we’ve selected some tip-top free activity sessions here, making sure there’s something for every small person aged from 3 months to 13 years – including a couple where adults are most definitely included, too!
Here’s our pick of the best online exercise classes for babies, toddlers, preschoolers and older children…
1. Tumbletots at Home
What is it? Live 25-minute sessions on Facebook, hosted by Tumbletots, who specialise in physical play classes for children ages 6 months to 7 year old. They stream at 10am each weekday morning – with a special session just for babies at 3pm on Wednesdays. Don’t worry if you miss them or the timings don’t work for you: all the classes are available to watch anytime on IGTV and YouTube.
Age: Toddlers and preschoolers – and babies on Wednesdays
What’s good about it? It’s not a slick, studio production but it’s friendly, well-paced and well-planned, with plenty of exercises and familiar action songs (from 5 Little Speckled Frogs to If You’re Happy and You Know It) to keep your child bouncing happily about.
Anything else I need to know? Charlotte the presenter does use props to add a bit of extra fun. You can buy a Tumbletots At Home pack, £12 which includes all the props used in any session but Charlotte always suggests things you can find around the house to use a substitutes (a teacloth to wave in the air, instead of a streamer, for example).
2. PE for babies with the Baby Exercises and Activities App
What is it? The UK version of the popular Baby Exercises and Activities App has a YouTube channel where you can watch a few of the 60 videos on the app – each one demonstrating simple, stimulating exercises to do with your baby.
Age: 3 to 12 months
What’s good about it? The videos are very short (they want you to whet your appetite for downloading the app, natch) but definitely clear enough to get you going. We like the Flying Baby (pictured above, for 3 to 6-month-olds) and How to Teach your Baby to Crawl (for 6 to 9-month-olds) which showcases a baby-friendly take on that classic playground game, the Wheelbarrow. There’s also How to do Tummy Time (for 0 to 3-month-olds), which neatly explains the best way to help your baby develop their neck, shoulder and back muscles.
Anything else I need to know? The app itself is free but be warned that you’ll need to pay in-app (between £3.50 and £5.50) to access most of the exercises, which are packaged into separate sections for 0 to 3-month-olds, 3 to 6-month-olds, 6 to 9-month-olds and 9 to 12-month-olds.
3. PE with Jo
Pic: The BodyCoach TV/YouTube
What is it? Home-workout (and healthy-eating) king Joe Wicks, dad to toddler daughter Indie and baby son Marley, does a 30-minute morning PE show for kids (and parents – oh yes!) on his Body Coach TV YouTube channel. It streams at 9am every weekday morning – and you can watch videos of any sessions you miss.
Age: Toddler to teens – and parents, too
What’s good about it? It’s a great and energetic way to mark the beginning of a new day at home. Joe’s taken into account that lots of us will be doing this in a (possibly cramped, possibly slightly messy) lounge and the exercises tend to be very much on the spot and contained. You’ll also get to do fun stuff like rub-your-stomach/pat-your-head coordination (remember that?). It’s good to find a workout the whole family can do together – though we reckon the moves are probably a little too complicated for most toddlers and preschoolers. Just don’t wear yourself out too much by 9.30am…
Anything else I need to know? Joe’s wife Rosie fronts up some of the workouts – with Joe (in natty suit and tie) directing the moves from the sidelines, while he recovers from having minor surgery on his hand.
4. Cosmic Kids Yoga
Cosmic Kids Yoga/YouTube
What is it? A whole YouTube channel of yoga-based exercise videos for children, including a Yoga Disco and yoga based on movies (Yoga Trolls or Yoga Harry Potter, anyone?) and popular children’s books.
What’s good about it? There are lots of videos – of varying lengths and for different ages – to choose from, and new ones are uploaded every week. Smiley presenter Jaime explains all the moves clearly, in front of lots of lovely animated backdrops. We like the Arnold the Art Yoga Adventure for younger children and the epic 30-minute Frozen Yoga Adventure for Elsa-obsessed older ones.
Anything more I should know? The Cosmic Kids Yoga channel also has a really nice 8-minute guided relaxation video, called Peace Out, that’s specially designed to help children let go of their worries.
5. 5 a day Fitness
Pic: 5 a day Fitness/YouTube
What is it? High-energy, low-impact fun fitness videos from PE educationalists 5-a-day TV, designed originally to be used in schools and nurseries. They last about 5 minutes – and there are even ones in French and Spanish.
Age: Preschoolers and primary-school children.
What’s good about it? There aren’t very many of them (you’ll need to subscribe – via the website – to see more) but what’s there is good stuff, aimed particularly at children in the 3 to 9-year-old age range. We like their Big Jubilee Dance (pictured, above) because it takes you through different dance moves from decades past, starting with the 50s and moving on up to doing the robot from the 80s and ‘big fish little fish’ from the 90s. Your kids will be super impressed when you show them your moves with this one, we reckon (or maybe not…)
Anything else I need to know? These aren’t super-slick productions and some of the vids are several years old but we reckon they still admirably do the get-up-and-enjoy-moving trick.
6. Andy’s Wild Workouts
Pics: Andy’s Wild Workouts/iPlayer
What is it? Ten CBeebies video workouts, viewable on iPlayer or YouTube presented by Andy ‘Odd Socks’ Day. The workouts are about 6 to 7 minutes long and each one has a different animal theme.
Age: Under 5s.
What’s good about it? Andy’s wacky upbeat style is very engaging, and the use of real nature footage turn these workouts into little lessons in wildlife, too. We like that he always includes a warm-up and cool-down, and we have a special soft spot for the Under the Sea workout with its wiggly octopus and snappy shark.
Anything else I need to know? Other ‘wild’ themes include Beach (baby turtles) and Arctic (arctic foxes and eider ducks).
7. Michelle’s Zumba kids class
Pic: Michelle’s Zumba Kids & Dance Parties/Facebook Vorster/Facebook
What is it? A live Zumba kids class hosted on Zoom on Wednesdays at 4.15pm by instructor Michelle Vorster from Michelle’s Zumba Kids & Dance Parties.
Age: Primary-school-age and up
What’s good about it? As Zumba combines exercise with dance, this is a high-energy activity to get your kids up and moving just as the afternoon droop threatens to set in. Michelle’s a great teacher – with a background in professional dance (she used to be a backing dancer for Mis-teeq and Samantha Mumba).
Anything else I need to know? To access the class, you need to message Michelle on Facebook just before the class starts to get the Zoom link.
8. Rising Stars football skills sessions
Pic: Rising Stars Activities/YouTube
What is it? A 30-minute live kids’ footie session on Rising Stars Activities’ YouTube channel, running every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1pm. You can watch the videos later, if you miss the live session.
Age: Primary-school – there are separate sessions for Reception/P1 to Year 2/P3 and Year 3/P4 to Year 6/P7.
What’s good about it? It’s a well-paced, nicely judged skills workout that could be done indoors (in a good, clear space) without endangering the living room windows too much. Coach Eliot answers questions from kids taking part in the live class as he goes along, which gives the whole session a lovely, friendly and informal feel.
Anything else I should know? Sessions are free but Eliot’s promised to send any money you’d like to donate straight to the NHS Imperial Health Charity COVID-19 Relief Fund.
9. Calm Skies Yoga class
Pic: Calm Skies/Facebook
What is it? A live Zoom yoga class for kids, hosted by Calm Skies yoga school at 10.30am on Wednesdays and Fridays.
Age: 3 to 8-year-olds
What’s good about it? Calm Skies founder Carly is a primary school teacher, as well as a yoga instructor, mindfulness teacher – and mum. Her cute, curly-haired kids join in beside her in her live class, which integrates storytelling, games and music with yoga, offering not just exercise and entertainment but also relaxation – a good combination at the moment.
Is there anything else I should know? To access the class, you need to request the link and password from the Calm Skies Facebook page before the Zoom class starts.
10. Tekkers Tuesday
What is it? A footie challenge, released every Tuesday, from Match of the Day Magazine’s skills expert, Stobbsy – who also demonstrates the tricks and skills you need to do it. The challenge could be anything from rabona flicks to overhead kicks to crazy keepy-uppies. If you missed a challenge, you can also access the video ‘vault’ of previous ones.
Age: Primary-school age
What’s good about it? The challenges are really fun and actually quite tricky. Our favourites so far have been Fire-50 (50 keepy-uppies on alternate feet without straying outside a small circle around you) and Wall Ball (keep the ball up against a wall 10 times without it touching the floor – harder than it sounds!)
Is there anything else I should know? Once your child reckons they’ve nailed the new challenge, you can video their attempt and send it in to MOTD. And if you’re lucky, the magazine may share it on their #TekkersTuesday highlights reel, giving your child glory, stardom and something good to remember about lockdown!
11. Family Zumba party
Pic: Intershape studio classes/Facebook
What is it? A 45-minute Zumba party for all the family, streamed on the Facebook page of fitness centre Intershape Fitness Studio every Friday at 5.15pm. You can also return to watch it as a video later.
Age? All ages.
What’s good about it? The class features lots of the latest chart songs and the Zumba dance moves are shown step by step, so it’s great both for beginner adults and for children who have never Zumba’d before.
Anything else I should know? Amanda the teacher, with her pink headband (and 1 pink shoe and 1 black shoe) is quite something – a proper force of Zumba nature – and will really make you laugh.
12. Yoga for Kids with Animals
Pic: Smile and Learn/YouTube
What is it? A 4-minute follow-along YouTube video from Smile & Learn, an educational platform for 3 to 12-year olds, in which an animated Zen the cat, Yogi the dog and Namaste the cobra teaches children simple yoga poses.
Age: 3 and up
What’s good about it? The cartoon figures are super engaging for your children to follow along to (we particularly like Colin the Bee, who teaches deep breathing) and the slow pace works well, particularly for children who struggle to follow live streams.
Anything else I should know? There’s also a cute 4-minute Sun Salutation video on the Smile & Learn channel, with (of course) a friendly animated sun, as well as the other cartoon characters.