Get the entire family up and moving with these fun ball games inspired by Nike PLAYlist! They’re the perfect way to make practicing sports skills fun for kids!
This year my husband and I had to get a little creative when it comes to getting my son to practice sports. With everything going on right now, there are just not the same opportunities to play sports and to be as active as normal. That’s why I’m so excited to be partnering with Nike to share how they can be a great resource for parents looking for help getting kids moving!
Plus, I’m sharing some super easy ball games I created for our partnership that you can use along with ideas from Nike PLAYlist to make being active more fun for the entire family!
If you need more ideas than I’ve got here, Nike PLAYlist is a great new resource for parents full of creative episodes and segments designed to inspire kids to both move and use their imaginations while being active. Things like a yoga pose staring contest, pro sports stars doing sports tricks in The Replay, and even more games you can do with items from around the house!
But first, let’s back up. Let’s talk about why we had to get creative.
Does this sound familiar? You ask your kid if they want to play a sport, and they say yes! You sign them up, pay the league fee, and volunteer to bring the snack.
Then when it comes time to practice at home, go to practices, or even go to games, it’s like pulling teeth because your kid says it’s not fun.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had that conversation with my 7-year-old over the past year as he’s started playing sports. He wanted to play because other kids were playing, and he wanted to see his friends.
The problem is he doesn’t like to practice. Playing catch is boring. Doing soccer drills is boring. Shooting baskets is boring. To this kid who lives for playing with other kids, practicing sports skills is boring.
So we’ve gotten creative and came up with all sorts of games that incorporate sports skills. Instead of practicing sports, we’re playing games.
And it’s working.
This week he got his first hit in baseball ever. He’s passing better than ever in soccer. And he’ll join in a neighborhood game of Knock Out with his friends instead of saying he’s bad at basketball and watching from the corner.
Since it’s working for us, I thought it might be helpful to share some of the games that we’ve been playing so you all can use them at home!
Before you start playing, let kids pick out athletic clothes they feel comfortable in! If they’re comfortable, they’ll be more likely to want to put them on and play! Nike has a great selection of comfortable kids apparel in every kid’s favorite color and style!
We let my son and his cousins pick out their own clothes for the games and it was pretty hilarious to see how much the clothes they chose fit their personalities perfectly.
My nephew went with a full-on bold neon yellow outfit with Nike Dri-FIT Elite shorts, a limelight Nike Sportswear t-shirt, and a pullover basketball hoodie. And the most colorful Nike Air VaporMax 2020 shoes he could find to match. He’s not the most outspoken kid, so I love that he could still show off his personality through colors and designs.
My niece, our tomboy meets sassy girl, on the other hand went with a more subtle approach. Nike Pro tights in gray, a Nike Dri-FIT training t-shirt in black, and solid white Nike Air Max 270 shoes. The only real color for this girl was in the small rainbow stripe on her Nike Sportswear Heritage full-zip hoodie.
And then there’s my son. He loves simple, comfortable, and the color red. So it was only fitting he chose black Nike Sportswear pants that feel like sweat pants to him, a red Nike Sportswear t-shirt, and a red and black Nike Sportswear Full-Zip Hoodie. Plus matching red and black Nike Jr. Phantom GT Academy IC soccer shoes.
Now let’s talk about those ball games I promised! Six of them – all designed to make sports fun, to customize to your kids’ skill levels, and to get the entire family involved!
You can watch a quick sneak peek in the video below!
1 – Basebowl
In this fun game, kids practice batting, running bases, and bowling with a hint of friendly competition!
- Bowling pins (or water bottles work too!)
- Baseball bat
- Place your bases like you would see at a baseball diamond. Have one kid start batting at the home plate.
- Set up your bowling pins somewhere out of the way of the runner. Have the second kid stand 10-20 feet away (depending on the child’s age) with a bucket of baseballs.
- Have an adult or an older teen pitch so that the pitches are fairly accurate and controlled for the level of the batter.
How to Play:
Pitch the ball to the batter. As soon as they hit it, they should start running and the other kid should start bowling baseballs at the bowling pins trying to knock them down.
The batter should keep running bases, trying to score as many runs as possible, before the bowler can knock all the pins down. As soon as the bowler knocks down all ten pins, the runner stops.
Switch your batter and bowler and play again.
If you want to turn it into a little competition for older kids, have them keep track of how many runs they score and the kid (or team if you want to put them in teams) who has the most after they each bat three times wins.
Don’t stop there! Use those same bowling pins to practice soccer skills in this fun Nike PLAYlist SportsLab footbowling game! It’s a super fun alternative for your little budding soccer stars!
2 – Throw Down
In this fun game, kids use balls to hit down targets to make their teammates complete silly sports themed challenges.
- Plastic cups
- Football or basketball (use whatever you’re trying to practice)
- Silly challenges – print a list here
- Misc items from around the house you can put cups on (buckets, boxes, coolers, ladders, chairs, etc.)
- Cut and tape silly challenges to plastic cups. Or print them out on full sheet label paper then use the labels like stickers to add them to cups.
- Place random items from around your house in a large space outdoors, on a court, or somewhere else you don’t mind balls flying around. You could also set this up on a playground or swingset if it’s empty.
- Place plastic cups on top of the items with the labels facing the players so they know what they’re aiming for.
- Either tape, draw, or just designate a line to throw behind. You can have one line or multiple lines for different ages of players.
How to Play:
Pick the first person to throw. I recommend doing youngest to oldest to keep things easy.
Depending on what skill you’re trying to practice, the first person should either throw a football or bounce pass a basketball to try to knock down a cup target. If they knock down a cup, the person behind them in line has to complete the challenge before taking their turn.
If they knock down multiple cups in one throw, the person behind them in line has to complete all the challenges either separately or together (watch the video in this post for a fun example of three challenges done together). Here’s a quick sneak peek at the craziness that happened!
There are two sets of challenges in the sheet you can download in the supply list above – ones that are more on the silly side and ones that are more movement based (e.g., quick feet, squat, etc.). You can do all of one kind depending on your goals for the game or you can combine the two!
Once the player completes their challenge, it’s their turn for a little target practice! They then get to throw to try and knock down a challenge for the player behind them.
Keep playing until all the cups are knocked down or until you feel like stopping.
Take this game one step further by trying Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis’ Nike PLAYlist SportsLab Throwback game that uses smaller targets!
If your kids are doing distance learning, homeschool, or a hybrid learning model this year – use Shake Ups, The Replay, and SportsLab games from Nike PLAYlist along with these game ideas to do at home PE. They’re so fun, they won’t even realize it’s still part of school.
3 – Soccer Croquet
In this fun game, kids practice their soccer kicks and touches while trying to finesse the ball through a croquet course setup with cones!
- Soccer balls – one per person
- 20 cones
- Set up the cones in a large grassy area like a croquet field, using two cones in place of a croquet tunnel. Not sure how to set up a croquet field? I’ve included an image below to show you cone placement. Space the cones close enough that kids could potentially kick their ball through in one kick but far enough that it’s still challenging to get it through in one kick.
- Have all kids stand at the beginning of the croquet course with their own soccer ball at their feet.
How to Play:
Pick the first person to go. They get one kick to try and get it through the first set of cones. If they make it through, they get to kick again and move on through the course. If they do not make it through, they leave their ball where it is and it’s the next person’s turn.
The next person now does the same – they try to kick the ball through the first set of cones.
The only difference from the first player is that if their ball touches another player’s ball, they get another kick (only one extra kick even if it touches another player’s ball AND goes through the cones). This can make it easier to get the ball through the cones as they go along the course and more kids and balls are added to the mix.
Let everyone have a turn then you repeat, going back to the player who started. Kids have to get their ball through all of the croquet cones and back to finish the course.
Once they’ve finished the course, take it up a notch and see if your kids can do the soccer trick Sam Kerr shows off in this Nike PLAYlist The Replay episode!
Have adults explain the rules of the game without balls before you get started. If it seems too complicated for younger kids, get rid of the “get another turn if you touch another person’s ball” rule.
4 – Rebound 500
In this rebounding remix of the classic game of 500, kids try to get to 500 points by shooting baskets and rebounding!
- Basketball hoop
- Give one person the ball and have the rest of the players stand in the basketball key like they would be rebounding.
How to Play:
Pick the first person to shoot. This person will continue to shoot baskets until someone gets to 500 points.
Before shooting, the player should say either 100, 200, 300, 400, or 500. This will be the number of points the shot is worth.
Then they shoot – if they make the shot, they get the points themselves. If they miss the shot, whoever gets the rebound (either in the air or after it hits the ground) gets the points.
Give the ball back to the original shooter and do it all again. Kids keep track of their total points and whoever gets to 500 points first gets to be the next one to shoot. If the shooter gets to 500 points first, everyone’s points reset and it starts a new round.
The only other rule is that the person shooting must be at the free throw line or further back (except really young kids). That way there is room for rebounding and the possibility of them missing is greater.
After you finish rebounding, try out this fun Nike PLAYlist SportsLab DribbleScotch game to work on other basketball skills in a fun way!
5 – Famished Famished Fielder
Kids come alive in a fun baseball version of a popular kids board game!
- Large bucket
- Small bucket (one per team)
- Baseball glove – one per person
- Split players into pairs, ideally one younger kid with an adult or older teen to help control things a bit. Have each pair take a small bucket and their baseball gloves and go stand in a corner of a large space.
- Fill the large bucket with baseballs.
How to Play:
Once each pair is in their own corner of the space, it’s time to play. An adult or teen who ideally isn’t playing – they can just hustle back to their corner if they are playing – dumps the bucket of baseballs in the middle of the space.
As soon as the bucket is dumped out completely, one player from each team runs out and fields a ball and tosses it to their teammate who is standing at the small bucket.
The catching teammate should place the ball in the bucket.
If the catching teammate doesn’t catch the ball, they can go run after it and put it in their bucket or just move onto the next ball their teammate is fielding.
All teams continue fielding, catching balls, and placing them in their small buckets until the balls have all been fielded. Take note of how many balls each team fielded that round.
Players on each team then switch places and play it all over again, this time with the second player fielding and the first player catching the balls.
Alternate Option: Need a game you can play indoors? Try this sock flinger Nike PLAYlist Shake Up idea instead!
6 – Balltleship
No matter what ball skills you need to practice, kids will love practicing as they throw, bounce, and bump balls across the net to sink other player’s plastic cup ships!
- 17 plastic cups per team
- One ball – volleyball, basketball, or football (choose based on what you want to practice, let kids choose each turn, or change it up throughout the game)
- Net (optional)
- Give each team 17 cups and have them place plastic cups on their side of the net to create “ships.” Each team should create a 5 cup ship, 4 cup ship, (2) 3 cup ships, and a 2 cup ship. Space the cups about a foot apart from each other within the ships.
- Once done, teams should stand on their side of the net and get ready to play!
How to Play:
Give the starting team a ball and have them send it over the net using the sports skills you’re trying to practice.
- Volleyball – have one player toss to the other and that person bump it over the net.
- Basketball – have older players bounce pass the ball over the net and younger kids chest pass over the net.
- Football – have kids throw the football over the net.
The goal is to try and sink the other team’s cup ships by hitting them with the ball. If the ball goes over the net and hits a cup either directly, on a bounce, or rolling, the ship is hit and that cup is taken out of play. If all cups in one ship are hit, that ship is sunk.
After one team takes a turn throwing, the other team gets a try.
Keep playing until one team has sunk all of the other team’s ships.
Make it easier for younger kids by trying out this Nike PLAYlist Battleshots SportsLab game that’s similar but with hula hoops instead of plastic cups!
Tips & Tricks
Over the past six months as we’ve come up with quite a few of these different ball games, we’ve also found some things that work well and others that don’t. So I’m sharing a few things that will hopefully help you get your kids thinking sports are fun again!
Don’t reinvent the wheel. While I personally enjoy making up games, you don’t need to. There are TONS of resources out there for you that already have fun ways to get kids moving. Nike PLAYlist is one of our favorites because the episodes are short, the kids in each of the segments are engaging, and the the activities are ones you can join along with or replicate at home right away without having to go out and buy a bunch of stuff.
Plus, you’ll be amazed how after watching the fun PLAYlist episodes and segments your kids may start coming up with their own creative ideas to make getting active more fun!
Get teens involved. While these games were designed for kids, teens can be super helpful when you don’t have other adults to help with more difficult parts of the game (such as catching in Famished Fielder). They can also be good examples of how to do things like box out in Rebound 500 or how to have a positive attitude when you lose.
And what kid doesn’t look up to older teens and want to be like them? I know my son adores his older cousins and will do anything they are doing even if it’s something he wouldn’t dare do for us! Plus the teens might even have fun!
Play with others. While you could certainly play these games with one kid, they are even more fun with other people. Grab siblings, teammates, or neighbors and play together. Kids are way more likely to want to play ball games when they feel like they’re also getting to hang out with other kids!
Mix it up. Try out different games all the time and build on what works with your kids. If they love throwing footballs in the balltleship game, try this football tic tac toe Nike PLAYlist Shake Up next!
Get comfy. Make sure that kids are comfortable when they’re playing. Just like at the beginning of the school year when they get new school clothes, let them pick out some sports clothes they love. Nike has tons of colors, fabrics, designs, sizes, and shapes that kids will love in their kids selection. What they pick, they’re more likely to play in!
And make sure they’re not too hot or too cold playing outside. I know our worst experiences with my son and sports have been when he’s freezing – wear or bring layers so they can adjust as needed!
Grab a bag. While you’re getting new clothes, grab a duffel bag to keep their shoes and equipment in. It’s way easier to get out and play when things are kept all together in one place!
Play at their level. These games, and sports in general, are meant to be fun. Adjust games to your kids’ levels as needed by moving lines appropriately, using smaller balls (these Nike Skills ones are great), and swapping equipment to match the sports you want to work on.
Kids playing football? Throw footballs. Kids playing volleyball? Have them set volleyballs in balltleship instead. Playing tennis? Use a racket to hit balls at targets in throw down. The possibilities are endless – I just gave you a start!
Meet them where they are now, not where you want them to be and you’ll be amazed at how far they’ll get. Plus, you’ll have happier kids who enjoy playing!
Get help. Not every parent is a sports junkie. Nike PLAYlist has tons of resources for parents whose kids want to play sports – movement activities for the whole family, coaching tips, ideas to get moving at home, and more! Let the experts fill in the gaps.