As expert Brian Grasso explains, play is a surefire way to get the whole family off the couch in the summer—or any time of year.

You don’t need special equipment or knowledge to have a good time and get some quality exercise in, not to mention encouraging healthy habits and building relationships.

All you need to play fit are:

  • A requirement and a time limit. Yes, everyone has to show up, and it’s just 20 minutes (to start).
  • An appointment. Everyone has to show up at the same time, say, 4 p.m. or right after dinner.
  • A game, or two or three.
  • A willingness to be silly and try new things.

Grasso is CEO of Mindset Performance Institute, founder of the International Youth Conditioning Association (IYCA) to certify trainers to work with young athletes, and former coach to youth and elite athletes in the U.S. and Canada. Following are some of Grasso’s favorite games, drawing on his expertise and time-tested with his own family.


  1. Choose a leader.
  2. Agree on a distance, such as 50 feet, and mark it off with whatever you have—someone’s sweatshirt, a water bottle, a baseball cap.
  3. Positioned at the far end of the “course,” the leader instructs everyone how to cross the distance, with stop and go commands. For example, walk until the leader says stop, then crawl when the leader says go—until she says stop; then walk backwards, and so on.

Obstacle course.

This is what it sounds like; the only equipment you’ll need is your power of observation.

  1. Choose a location with features that will allow you to incorporate those four basic elements: balancing, crawling, bending, and reaching.
  2. Lead the first course. For example, if a park has some trees and a concrete walkway, the “course” could be walk 50 paces heel to toe (balance) on the path, then bear crawl sideways 20 paces (crawl) on the grass, then grab a stick and reach high to the sky and bend down to touch the ground with it five times (bending and reaching). The bear crawl is a great move, on hands and toes, knees bent at 90 degrees but not touching the ground. It can include reaching and balancing. My 12-year-old son decided to add in push-ups.
  3. Ask a kid to lead the next course.

Change of scene.

Playing in the same old backyard? Take it somewhere else (safely, of course). Beaches offer challenging surfaces for running and crawling. Public spaces have interesting architectural features, and when I took the Canadian figure-skating team to do their off-ice tactical practice in a public square in Venice, Italy, the passersby enjoyed their workout too.