Make Fitness Fun for Kids with Special Needs

Make Fitness Fun for Kids with Special Needs

There’s a reason there are so many motivational channels, blogs and websites out there that try to inspire people to workout. It’s simple: People think that fitness is hard and boring. They feel like they need motivation, or that they need to be tricked into working out. And we know that it can be hard, if you’re not in the right mindset, but that the results and benefits definitely outweigh the initial I-don’t-wannas. For kids, fitness can seem even more daunting, a grownup’s activity. But kids are playing outside less and less often these days, so natural, “fun” exercise is falling by the wayside. For children with special needs, the likelihood of active play is even lower. Here’s how you can make fitness fun for kids with special needs:



Singing is an activity loved universally, regardless of one’s ability to carry a tune. It becomes even more exciting for children, particularly those with special needs, when paired with catchy songs that often come with straightforward dance moves. Songs like “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” not only offer fun but also serve as an ideal warm-up before an exercise routine. The actions associated with the songs provide a way of engaging different parts of the body, increasing awareness and coordination.

Moreover, there are a plethora of other children’s songs like “I’m a Little Teapot,” “Button Factory,” “Hokey Pokey,” “YMCA,” and “The Macarena,” which can be incorporated. These songs all have accompanying movements that double up as engaging physical activities. Utilizing these songs brings enjoyment and physical movements together, making it a delightful exercise experience for children with special needs.



A game of tag can easily invoke laughter and joy while being an effective exercise. It involves running and quick thinking, essentially adding elements of fitness and alertness in a fun setting. For children or clients with mobility concerns, such as those who use a wheelchair or have gait problems, an alternative version of the game, ‘rolling tag,’ can be introduced.

In rolling tag, participants lie on the ground and roll to tag the other person. Although it sounds unconventional, it provides a unique, fun experience and also aids movement and coordination. It’s recommended to play this version indoor to keep the game safe and comfortable for the participants. This simple playful game thus subtly encourages exercise, offering amusement while promoting physical fitness.



The enjoyment derived from a simple swing is universal, appealing to both children and adults alike. Interestingly, swinging is more than just a fun recreational activity – it’s an excellent workout for the core. The action of curling the legs in to swing back and then stretching them out to swing forward is akin to doing crunches in mid-air!

For children or clients experiencing balancing issues, a vestibular swing can be a beneficial option. Besides delivering enjoyment, it also serves as an effective tool to help them find their center of gravity. Therefore, a swing, along with being a source of joy, provides a fantastic opportunity for a core workout while improving the balance.



Jumping, if you’re properly motivated, can be a very fun way for a kid to get exercise. A mini trampoline and some bumping music in the background can make for a pretty fun 20-minute cardio exercise. You can also lay out a rug with letters on it and ask your client or child to show off their alphabet skills by jumping to certain letters. Kids in wheelchairs or with gait issues can sit on trampolines and bounce to engage in both a core and cardio exercise.



Playing catch is an amazing way to exercise hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. You can start off by slowing tossing a large ball to your client or child and getting them to catch it with both hands. If you want to build strength at the same time, you can (slowly) toss a medicine ball back and forth. As this becomes easier, you can throw a smaller and smaller ball back and forth to one another, or even have them bounce a ball off a wall and catch it!


Roller skating, riding a bike, skateboarding — all are fun activities that promote a healthy heart! Those with mobility issues can simply sit on a skateboard and use their arms to push them around. You can create little obstacle courses for your client or child in a wheelchair to make getting their cardio in fun and playful.



Kids love to show off their counting skills! See how high your client or child can count while they exercise. Sure, they can count to 10, but can they count to 10 sit ups? Push ups? Jumping jacks? Counting can turn even the simplest exercise into a fun challenge.


Simon Says!

In the same vein as our previous point, you can make simple, general exercises exciting by asking your client or child to do them ONLY when you “Simon Says!” “Simon says do a push up. Simon says stop or Simon says stand up. Sit down. You lose!” Now, of course, you’ll want to make “losing” a way of encouraging them to try again. Get creative with the prizes and consequences! We do not recommend using food as a prize though.



When was the last time you played Twister? It’s actually a pretty serious workout, and it’s crazy, silly fun! Think yoga but game-ified. The newer version of the game doesn’t just tell the players, “Right hand on red.” It also has commands like, “Hop on one foot,” “Hold on your left foot in the air,” and offers the spinner the opportunity to come up with fun commands of their own.



Swimming is probably one of the most intense full-body workouts you can get, regardless of your age or abilities. Swimming laps, doing different strokes, or playing Marco Polo or Chicken are all great ways to stay active in the way, and a fun way to get fit.



Stretching is a wonderful way to cool down after a workout. Deep stretching burns in the best way and provides an instant rush of endorphins when you could out of them. This simple exercise doesn’t feel “fun” in the active, running-around sense, but it symbolizes relaxation and the end of playtime. It makes for a much smoother transition!

Benefits of Fitness Fun For Kids With Special Needs


Engaging in fitness activities that are fun can provide numerous benefits for children with special needs. Some of these benefits include:

– Improved physical health: Engaging in fun fitness activities can help improve strength, endurance, coordination, and overall physical fitness for children with special needs. This can lead to better motor skills development and increased energy levels.

– Enhanced social skills: Fitness fun activities often involve group or team settings, providing opportunities for children with special needs to interact with peers, communicate, share experiences, and develop social connections. This can improve their social skills and boost self-confidence.

– Increased focus and attention: Participating in enjoyable physical activities can help children with special needs improve their ability to concentrate, follow instructions, and stay focused. Regular exercise has been shown to have a positive impact on attention span and cognitive function.

– Improved emotional well-being: Engaging in fitness activities promotes the release of endorphins, which are natural mood elevators. This can help reduce stress, anxiety, and depression in children with special needs. It also provides a positive outlet for emotions, and can increase overall happiness and self-esteem.

– Development of important life skills: Fitness fun offers the opportunity to learn and practice essential life skills, such as teamwork, sportsmanship, goal-setting, perseverance, and problem-solving. These skills are transferable to various areas of life and can contribute to long-term success and independence.

– Sense of inclusion and belonging: Participating in fitness fun activities allows children with special needs to feel included and accepted within a group or community. This sense of inclusion can boost their sense of belonging, self-worth, and overall well-being.


Want to Make Fitness Even More Fun?

Whether you’re a personal trainer, a group fitness instructor, or a parent of a child with special needs, you can take playtime to the next level by getting a fitness certification through Strong Education. Our courses cater to every type of learning style, and the workouts we teach are explicitly targeted to those with special needs, improving flexibility, balance, endurance, strength, motor skills, and more.


Strong Education teaches personal trainers and service providers on how to adapt fitness and nutrition for children, adolescents, and adults with autism, Down Syndrome, and other disabilities through our online adaptive special needs certification course.

Tell us where to send your FREE guide:

Enter your Email to Receive a 10% OFF Coupon and Download a FREE Sample Exam

Floating 10% Coupon Form

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
  • 10% off coupon for any certification program
  • Preview our multiple choice sample exam
  • Be the first to know about new monthly adaptive courses
Sale Extended! SAVE 25% & Start for $1!
email tick

Thank you for your interest in Special Strong

One of our local special strong trainers will reach out to you shortly.

Please take a look at this video to know more about what to expect in a training class. Also join our Facebook and Instagram community where we highlight stories of our clients overcoming challenges to live an abundant life. We hope to highlight your story soon.

email tick

Thank you for your interest in Special Strong

One of our local special strong trainers will reach out to you shortly.

In your area we provide virtual in home training. Please take a look at this video to know more about what to expect in a training class. Also join our Facebook and Instagram community where we highlight stories of our clients overcoming challenges to live an abundant life. We hope to highlight your story soon.

Thank you for your submission. Check inbox for coupon code.