A reminder for CrossFit coaches and trainers to end ALL classes — not just kids and teens — at the height of fun OR at the right time. Know when it’s time to move to the next thing and keep your people flowing.
With a lot of kids at home because of COVID-19, we thought it’d be fun to give you some warmups and games you can do at home or in small CrossFit kids classes. You can do these as a family or as a coach/trainer with kids ages 7 -12.
We’ll start by listing some fun warmups then move into games you can play with a minimum of 1 – 4 people.
(Can be drawn on the sidewalk with chalk)
Take the kids on a short run in which they must “follow the leader,” and copy whatever the leader (you) does. You can skip, run, run backwards, crawl, shuffle, etc. You should also stop randomly and perform basic movements like squats.
Kids play tag, but the trainer may yell “freeze and ____________” (fill in with any basic movement) at any moment, and to un-freeze the kids must perform 3 reps of the given movement.
Minimum people needed: 1
Minimum people needed: 1
Minimum people needed: 4
Minimum people needed: 4
Minimum people needed: 2
Minimum people needed: 1
Minimum people needed: 2
Minimum people needed: 3
Minimum people needed: 4
This is a basic tag game. When a kid is tagged, they stand with their legs apart (stuck in the mud) and are freed when someone does an “army crawl” underneath them (remind them all that they have to crawl through without touching that person though).
Minimum people needed: 2
Minimum people needed: 2
Daily Questions for Kids CrossFit Classes gives you some lessons you can incorporate into your classes. We typically use these at the end of class as part of our decompression.
5 Things to Avoid with Your Kids + Teens Programs lists the biggest mistakes we’ve seen gyms make with these programs.
Our Kids Program: These session plans give you everything you need to succeed with a kids program (age 7 -12). 30-min classes, each with a fun game to keep kids wanting more.
Our Teens Program: Session plans that make life easier on coaches while building capacity, confidence and resilience in teens.
* To make sure you’re getting the most from these programs during COVID-19, you’ll have a 1:1 call with me (Matt Lodin) so I can make recommendations based on your specific context. The goal is to give you effective advice on how to adjust the programs to meet your needs.
Transitions are tough. Many children, teens and adults alike struggle with the change in expectation, environment, and energy that are often brought on as a result of a transition. One of the most significant transitions our members (of all ages) must go through every time they walk in the door is just that — the simple act of arriving and settling.
If your box is anything like ours, it’s not only a space for strength and conditioning, but it’s also become a social community; a gathering place for like-minded people to decompress, connect, socialize, and be reminded of the many benefits of healthy, active living.
Often, much of this is done in the 10-15 minutes before class, while warming up or mobilizing. As CrossFit has said, “the needs of the elderly and professional athletes vary by degree, not kind.” I believe we can further extend this idea to our pre-WOD rituals as well. No matter our age, goals or reasons for coming to the gym, we all likely enjoy the added benefits of training in a positive, social community. Kids and teens are no different.
So if we all need that time to transition into the space before class starts, to warm up our bodies, and to socialize with our peers, to what degree can we provide this experience for our younger athletes?
If left to their own devices, children and teens will likely begin raising their voices, turning the rig into a ninja warrior jungle gym, using the PVC pipes as lightsabers and, inevitably, someone will end up hurt; hurt ankles, tailbones, heads, hurt feelings… it’s not an ideal way to start a class.
Here are a few ideas to help your younger athletes access the many benefits of pre-WOD bliss:
Teach them a simple, dynamic warm-up
Use class-time to teach a 3-5 part bodyweight warm-up. For older kids and teens, you can make a poster and stick it to the whiteboard before class. For younger kids, you could draw some stickmen and arrows on a poster to remind them. When they arrive early for class, it’s their job to perform the prescribed warm-up.
Ideas for this warm-up include leg swings, inchworms, bear crawl, burpees, shuttle runs, jumping jacks, etc.
Create set spaces in your facility for different activities
Most kids and teens programs will take place after school, which means the athletes will likely need to change, eat a snack and decompress from a long day of listening and sitting. Establish a set space in your facility where they should hang out when they want to eat a snack before class. Items to keep handy here are a garbage can, recycling bin, broom, and dustpan. Trust me on that one. When they have finished eating and checking their text messages, phones and food are left behind, and they head to the warm-up area of the gym. Having these physical boundaries will help the kids stay focused on the job at hand and successfully transition to the next one.
Ensure you are prepared for class before the kids arrive
Get your WOD or session plan written on the board, set up any equipment you might need and brief your assistant before the doors open for the kids. Not only will this make you feel more confident and prepared for class time, but the kids will arrive to an organized space and a Trainer who is ready to greet them. You can then use those 10-15 minutes before class to connect with your athletes like you would any other class! Ask them how their day was, what they had for lunch, what they’re looking forward to this weekend. Establishing this connection before class will set you up for a respectful and engaged session, plus you will have a better understanding of how your athletes are feeling that day.
Have a self-directed challenge or game set up
This is our secret weapon to starting class with happy, focused and warmed-up kids. Either set up a familiar game for them to take the reins on (explain it to the athletes who are changed and ready), or write instructions on the board.
Examples of this include:
Decide on your expectations and be consistent
Once you have decided on a pre-WOD plan for your class, teach them what to do and consistently reinforce the expectation. If they see you letting one kid eat their snack while they watch their buddy hold plank, then they will know that breaking the rules is okay. Consistency allows kids to relax into the environment because they always know what to expect. You will earn their respect and trust, paving the way to a great session once the clock starts.
Establishing a partially structured environment for your younger athletes to engage in as soon as they arrive will greatly improve the experience of your group class. We are Trainers, not babysitters, and we have a lot to offer these kids. Not just how to get stronger, faster and more fit, but how to be respectful in different environments, how to prioritize and prepare for our activities, how to be social and have fun while in a shared, public space.
Enjoy creating a positive pre-WOD space for your kids and teens. They may not directly thank you for it, but I can almost guarantee you’ll thank yourself!
We have a Kids Program that gives you everything you need for 30-minute classes with ages 7-12.
Our Teens Program skills-up teens with 45-minute classes (which include structured warmups) that are fun and keep ’em coming back for more.
Plus, we have other blog articles on teaching kids and teens CrossFit.
Sharing fitness with the younger members of our communities can be fun, rewarding and profitable. So, what are you waiting for?!
Here are three tips to get you started on the right foot:
1. Gauge interest within your membership
It’s a common concern that if you start a kids program, you won’t have enough kids to fill the class. Not only is a 3-kid class a little boring for the athletes, it likely won’t generate enough income to pay for the trainer! So the first step would be to connect with your members. Whether it’s through a survey (try a service like Survey Monkey), a post to your Facebook page, a tally on the whiteboard or a question on the bathroom wall, starting with the folks who already believe in what you’re doing and support your business is a smart first step. Ask them the following:
The results of this Q&A should give you a solid indication as to the level of interest within your box, what age group would be ideal to start with, and, potentially, what schedule (days/frequency) would be ideal.
2. Start small, keep it simple
Good science means controlling the variables. To know whether or not your program is improving the fitness of the children, bringing financial prosperity to your box and creating a positive experience for staff, members and participants, you might want to start with just one age group and observe the results.
→ Choose the age group where you’ll be able to offer a class to MOST of your interested members’ kids. How to best arrange age groups is an important topic, but one for another post.
→ Choose a day of the week, maybe 2, a time, and a price.
→ Roll up your sleeves (or encourage a Trainer on your team to do so) and get ready to have some fun! Don’t worry — most kids won’t bite.
3. Seek inspiration and support
You don’t need to reinvent the wheel with your program; there are a wealth of resources out there to ensure your success. As a start, WUWO offers programming for kids and teens and the CrossFit Journal has great ideas for games and coaching cues. If you’re struggling with details specific to your affiliate or would like further support implementing or expanding your kids/youth programs, please don’t hesitate to reach out! We would love to see you succeed in sharing your passion for fitness with our younger generations.
In today’s One Minute Q&A: When working with out of shape adolescents with limited mobility, where do you start?
We end every kids class with a 5 minute game and then a few minutes for decompression and the daily questions. So at the end of the game, we get the kids to circle up, take a few breaths, quiet down and then we always ask two questions:
1). What movements did we work on today?
2). The lesson question (changes day-to-day).
This question is asked every day so that kids can review and learn the names of movements. Kids should raise their hand and can only share one movement so that other kids get a chance to share as well.
This question changes every day, but usually focuses on just a few topics: nutrition, games, movements. You can theme each week around a specific topic or subtopic if that makes is easier to plan or more fun for the kids. Here are a few examples of how that would look:
Day 1: What’s the healthiest thing to drink in the world?
WATER! Remind kids that this is what we should be drinking the most of!
Day 2: Should we drink Gatorade and sports drinks?
No, those drinks have a lot of sugar and water is ALWAYS the better choice for our bodies.
Day 3: Should we drink a certain amount of water every day?
No, just drink when you’re thirsty.
Day 4: We talked about how sports drinks are full of sugar, what do you guys think about juices like apple juice and orange juice?
Those are also very full of sugar. It’s better is to eat the actual fruit. Eat the apple or eat the orange!
Day 5: Did you drink more water this week?
Encourage kids to pack a canteen of water for school or other activities. Ask kids if they chose juice or sugary drinks over water this week.
Day 1: We want to eat fruits and veggies that are the colors of the rainbow! Who can think of any fruits and vegetables that are red?
Red apples, cherries, grapes, pomegranates, raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, beets, radishes, bell peppers, tomatoes.
Day 2: Who can think of any fruits and vegetables that are yellow or orange?
Apples, apricots, cantaloupe, grapefruit, lemons, mangoes, nectarines, oranges, papaya, peaches, pineapples, tangerines, butternut squash, carrots, bell peppers, pumpkin, squash, corn, sweet potatoes.
Day 3: Who can think of any fruits and vegetables that are green?
Avocados, apples, grapes, honeydew, kiwi, limes, peas, artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, green beans, celery, cucumbers, spinach, lettuce, bell peppers, zucchini.
Day 4: Who can think of any fruits and vegetables that are blue or purple?
Blackberries, blueberries, grapes, plums, raisins, eggplant.
Day 5: What is your favorite color, and did you eat any fruits or vegetables this week that are that color?
Let kids choose their favorite color (red/orange/yellow/green/blue/purple) and then tell you what fruit or vegetable they ate with that hue. OR ask kids this question: What’s your favorite vegetable or fruit you ate this week? When they raise their hand and give a reply, you can follow-up with “What color was it?”
Day 1: What are examples of protein and why should we eat protein at every meal?
Eggs, chicken, beef, ham, turkey, etc. We can think of bodies like a race car – protein would be all of the parts that make the car like the engine, doors, seats, etc. just like our muscles and bones are what make up our bodies. Eating protein at every meal helps build and repair our muscles and body and keep it strong! Protein is super important!
Day 2: What did you eat today that was protein?
Ex: eggs for breakfast, meat in a sandwich, chicken, etc.
Day 3: What do fats do for our body and what are examples of good fats we should eat?
If we were a race car, fats would be the gas. Every car needs gas to run and our bodies also need it throughout the day. Good fats also help our brain! Examples of good fats or foods that have good fats are avocados, nuts, fish, eggs, olive oil, etc. Examples of foods that have bad fats are chips, most fast food such as McDonalds, doughnuts, etc.
Day 4: What have you eaten today that was a healthy fat?
Ex: eggs for breakfast, avocado, handful of nuts, etc.
Day 5: What did you have for lunch today? What is one thing that you could have had that would have been healthier?
Ex: baby carrots instead of chips, water instead of soda or juice, etc.
Day 6: What are example of carbs and what do carbs do for our body?
If we were a race car, carbs would be the special racing fuel. Whenever we need our body to work really hard such as when we workout or when play sports, carbs are great! Examples of good carbs fruit, rice, sweet potatoes, etc. Examples of bad carbs are soda, chips, candy, etc.
Day 7: We want our carbs to have a lot of healthy vitamins and minerals in them. What have you eaten today that is was a healthy carb?
Ex: rice, sweet potatoes, fruit, vegetables, etc.
Day 8: Why aren’t potato chips and cookies healthy snacks?
Potato chips and cookies are bad carbs and have a lot of unhealthy fats and don’t have the vitamins that fruits and vegetables have.
Day 9: What is an example of a healthy snack?
Vegetables (baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, celery with almond butter, etc.), fruit (oranges, apples, grapes, etc.), etc. Challenge kids to take one of the items mentioned to school with them the next day as their snack.
Day 10: What three things do we want at every meal?
Protein, good carbs, and good fats! Review what each of those are.
Day 11: What would a healthy breakfast look like?
Protein, carbs, and fat. Ex: eggs and oatmeal, yogurt with granola, omelette, scrambled eggs with vegetables, etc.
Day 12: What would a healthy lunch look like?
Protein, carbs, and fat. Ex: chicken and vegetables and sweet potato, a sandwich with meat and a lot of vegetable, etc.
Day 13: What is the best meal to skip?
NONE! Our bodies need breakfast, lunch and dinner to keep us strong, happy, and healthy!
Day 14: What is your favorite vegetable?
Have them ask their parents to cook/prepare/pack that vegetable for them this week.
Day 15: What is your favorite healthy treat?
Talk with your kids about how sugar can make us feel, and the difference between a healthy treat (bananas with peanut butter, berries with cream, apples with cinnamon and almond butter, fruit smoothies and pops, etc.) and a junk treat (ice cream, doughnuts, cake, etc.).
Day 1: What is your favorite game that we play in class?
Day 2: What is your favorite movement (squat, deadlift, situp, etc.)?
Day 3: What movement do you dislike the most?
Talk with your kids about how this is showing their weakness. That’s why we don’t like it. Have a discussion about working on weaknesses, instead of just focusing on strengths.
Day 4: Why is it important to workout? How do you feel after you workout?
Day 5: What is your favorite movement that we practiced this week?
These are just a few examples of the many different questions you can use in kids classes. In the end, we’re just trying to keep it fun for kids and make it a little easier for parents to get their kids to eat healthier.
Starting a kids or teens program isn’t for everyone. But if you’ve never considered it, or you’re on the fence, this article might help you determine whether either program would impact your gym’s membership or culture.
Adding a kids or teens program to your gym’s calendar is one more way to serve your membership, and we’ve learned that the two programs are pretty easy to sell if your gym has a lot of parents. Pricing for a Kids/Teens program can vary due to any number of factors, but should not be as much as a typical adult membership. A great starting place is around 60% of an adult membership, and family/sibling discounts are strongly recommended. Membership prices should be adjusted depending on how many classes are offered each week, the pricing of other kids programs in your area, the opportunity for homework/tutoring following class, and length of classes.
If your gym can become an integral part of any family’s daily routine, you will help that family create habits that will lead to a lifetime of health and fitness. This is huge! Which is why getting an entire family to invest their time, effort, and finances into your gym almost guarantees increased client retention and decreased turnover.
When people are searching for a new gym or box, they often start with what is most convenient — the gyms closest to home or the office. Parents look for gyms with childcare, choosing to skip your gym entirely if you don’t have it. One way to set yourself apart from the other gyms — that are convenient to drive to and include childcare — is to offer a kids or teens program. This way, you’re not just offering a room where their kids can sit or play. Instead, you’re giving parents the opportunity to get a workout in while their kids get their fitness on too. And that will make you the clear winner of your area.
Kids and teens are not getting as much physical activity at school as they used to, which can contribute to trouble focusing on academics and poor retention of that schoolwork. There is a growing body of evidence which suggests that following rigorous exercise, focus, understanding and retention of academic subjects increase. This is why it is strongly recommended that immediately after kids or teens class is done, they do some homework for 20-30 minutes.
Kids and teens can become so specialized in a certain sport, at such an early age, that some general fitness becomes necessary for building overall athleticism and improving injury prevention. Kids and teens who are not interested in traditional sports can also become too specialized in one domain by choosing to only run, bike, etc. And if they don’t play sports, they face an additional problem: inactivity. Attending just 3 classes a week can have a huge impact on a kid’s or teen’s fitness and athleticism, whether they play sports or not.
Squats, sit-ups, jump rope, pushups, deadlifts, pull-ups. Imagine how skills like these can change a life. Families have told us about their kid crossing the monkey bars for the first time, and their teen crushing it at the mountain climbing gym because of their increase in strength. The impact you can have on a kid or teen (and their family) is crazy awesome.
These programs help develop assertiveness, a positive attitude toward challenges, self-confidence, resilience, responsibility and teamwork. Classes also give kids and teens a sense of accomplishment in an environment of community and accountability.
The average parent’s nightly routine is centered around preparing dinner, getting their kids to do their homework, and then enjoying a little relaxation. The stressful nights are the ones when you cannot get your kid or teen to focus on their schoolwork. What should take 30 minutes turns into nearly 2 hours of nagging and frustration. We have witnessed first-hand how encouraging kids and teens to do homework or to study immediately after a fitness session can have a profound impact on a family’s nightly routine.
If you think it’s impossible to get kids on board with this, look at it this way: Post-workout study sessions are more efficient (kids work faster) and more effective (there is a boost in retention). What they get in return is more free time when they get home. Which is really what they care about.
If you want to be even more helpful to parents, and give them some major wins, run the kids or teens class simultaneously to the adult class so that the extra time the kids and teens have at the end can be used for school work. Even if the students are not finished with their studies when their parents’ workout is over, they can always finish at home, or their parents can do some mobilizing or stretching while they wait, which is a lot better than wasting time fighting with their kid at home.
Talking deadlifts over dinner with my kid? Yes, please.
Every CrossFitter or fitness-loving parent wants to show their children that fitness is fun — it doesn’t have to be a chore. And that’s the goal of every kids or teens program. An added bonus is that families get to share a new activity, and, as coaches, we love to hear families compare times and scores.
Links and Resources
This post is sort of a mashup of “how to start a kids or teens program” and “things you should know before you launch a kids or teens program.” I’ve already discussed the benefits of these two programs in another post, so I won’t spend time on that now. Instead, I want to give you a checklist of things you should do or consider before you put kids or teens classes on your gym’s calendar.
The certifications I am going to discuss are for CrossFit gyms only. This is because I’ve never worked in a gym outside of CrossFit, so I don’t have the experience to speak about what other gyms should do. But if you’re a CrossFit affiliate, read on.
As a CrossFit affiliate, you need to join the CrossFit Kids Registered Programs (discussed below) or, at the very least, hire L1+ coaches who have taken the CrossFit Kids Trainer Course.
CrossFit Kids Registered Programs are CrossFit affiliates recognized for their completion of both the Level 1 Course and the CrossFit Kids Trainer Course. To join the CrossFit Kids Registered Program, trainers are required to pass and maintain an annual background check, take and pass the CrossFit Kids Course, and your affiliate must enroll in additional insurance. You can learn more here.
Give your insurance provider a call and ask if children are covered in your policy. Sometimes they are, and sometimes you have to upgrade your plan.
Make sure parents sign a legal waiver on their child’s behalf BEFORE they take their first class. For teens, have both the teen and the parents sign the waiver. In other words, cover your a$$.
Sessions can be run without any additional equipment, but in order to offer the best classes possible, we suggest you get the following:
Pricing for a Kids/Teens program can vary due to any number of factors, but should not be as much as a typical adult membership. A great starting place is around 60% of an adult membership, and family/sibling discounts are strongly recommended. Membership prices should be adjusted depending on how many classes are offered each week, the pricing of other kids programs in your area, opportunity for homework/tutoring following class, and length of classes.
When you’re first kickstarting the program, or running a pilot program to see if your members truly want this type of offering, it’s also a good idea to significantly discount the membership or offer it for free. Usually a free week is enough to sell parents on the program; in fact, we’ve continually experienced a 90% retention rate with kids who come to the whole free week. Some gyms do offer the first month for free, but we recommend against this. It can devalue the program and contribute to its failure. For one, gyms have to wait significantly longer to see any revenue. Secondly, with a free week (versus a free month), we’ve also found that parents are more committed to bringing their kids to class, as there is more urgency to take advantage of the free classes and really see if the program is a good fit for their family.
From a coaching standpoint, the goals and priorities of adult classes are very different than kids/teens classes. In adult classes, the focus is usually centered around intensity and making sure each client gets an appropriately difficult workout. But when you’re coaching kids or teens, intensity needs to be one of your last concerns; instead, you should prioritize safety and quality movement above speed or load.
The goal is to teach kids and teens that fitness is fun because if they see it as a chore or something that’s too hard or competitive, they will quit. Which is why you need to establish a culture that praises good, safe movement over more weight or reps.
With kids and teens, you have the opportunity to shape their entire idea of fitness. You can show them that fitness is fun — it doesn’t have to be a chore. By avoiding some of the most common mistakes gyms make, you can keep kids and teens happy and make the most of each class.
Having a lesson plan for each and every class is essential to running a successful kids or teens program. If you show up to a room full of kids and try to “wing it” with a brief outline, it will be much harder to make the class valuable and to keep the kids having fun. With kids and teens, there is a tight margin for error — and things can spiral out of control quickly. Each class needs a clear structure and must flow smoothly and efficiently, with as little transition time as possible. That can only happen when you use a well-thought-out plan.
If a class is too long, kids will get bored and burn out. We want kids to be excited every single day for class, and this means we need to leave them wanting more. For kids (ages 7-12), 30 minutes is usually the right amount of time, and that can extend out to 45 minutes for a teen class (ages 12-18).
The game is how we create a link between fun and fitness so that kids see the gym as a place they want to be. ALWAYS play a game to end a kids class. Games don’t have to be elaborate, just fun and challenging! Some great examples are dodgeball, waiter tag, sprinting tic-tac-toe, musical med-ball chairs, and spinning angry birds. Games are also a great opportunity for the kids to learn good sportsmanship and build camaraderie within the members of the class.
Making sure kids are having fun while getting some exercise is our top priority. We want kids to increase their fitness, learn better movement patterns, and reach their greatest potential, but if we make that process an unenjoyable one, none of the kids will stick with it long enough to see those results. For kids classes, weights should be light to none (definitely no prescribed weights) and never pushed on them. Competition should not be highlighted. Workouts are almost always run as an AMRAP and aren’t recorded so that all kids begin and finish together and can focus on their form rather than finishing before other kids. For teens, there still aren’t any prescribed weights (as the emphasis should be on proper technique) but we do track their workouts and weights to see progress.
Immediately after rigorous exercise, kids are primed, focused, and ready to learn. That is the optimal time for them to work on some homework, especially in subjects they are struggling with. Have kids and teens bring some schoolwork with them to class so they can capitalize on this great opportunity to get their work done. We have witnessed first-hand how encouraging kids and teens to do their homework, or to study, immediately after a session can have a profound impact on a family’s nightly routine and the child’s academic success!
In adult classes, the coaching focus is usually centered around intensity and making sure each client gets an appropriately difficult workout. But when you’re coaching kids/teens, intensity needs to be one of the last things that is dealt with, instead prioritizing safety and quality movement above speed or load. You, as the coach, need to establish a culture in which better and safer movement is highlighted and praised, and more weight or more reps is not glorified.
Some other strongly recommended guidelines:
Links and Resources
Warmups & Games for CrossFit Kids
Daily Questions for Kids CrossFit Classes
How to Start a Kids or Teens Program
Why You Should Start a Kids or Teens Program at Your Gym
A Look at Our Kids Program
A Look at Our Teens Program