Getting active as a family is a great way to spend time together while modeling healthy behaviour – which can encourage kids to be active at other times.
A great activity that can be done indoors or outside by kids and adults alike is jumping rope! All you need are a few jump ropes and the possibilities for fun physical activity are endless. Jumping rope is an activity that is only medium impact however it is equivalent to running in calories expended. Plus coordination, rhythm, speed, agility, endurance, strength, power, cardiovascular fitness and bone density can all be improved with the turns of your rope. And once kids start, they don’t want to stop!
Before you get started, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure safety for all:
1. Make sure all participants have athletic shoes on that are fastened tightly.
2. Use space that has enough ceiling clearance if indoors (garage or basement) with a hard, smooth surface (hardwood, tile, low pile carpet and asphalt all work well).
3. Move any obstacles away so that there is enough space around the group – for single rope skills, allow arms length distance between each person.
4. If using a driveway, park on the street if possible. Or visit the local school playground.
Jump ropes can be found in a variety of styles, lengths and qualities. Generally, beaded ropes work best outside and for beginners as it is easier to control the arc of the rope as well as hear when the rope hits the ground. Speed ropes (also known as licorice style ropes) are a great all round rope which can easily be adjusted for length between different users by placing knots in the cord below the handle.
Generally, the length of the rope is based on the participant’s height. People new to jumping rope (especially younger children) may need a longer rope as they often hold their arms higher than waist height. More experienced participants may hold hands at hip height and will need a shorter rope. A rope that is too long will hit the ground in front of the jumper (rather than under feet). A single rope should come up to the arm pits of the participant when standing on it with two feet.
I’ve included a variety of skill ideas to get started. Once the basics are mastered, have fun creating new ways to move in the ropes!
For kids under 6:
Kids this age generally do not have the coordination to turn their own rope while jumping. So focus on skills that are performed where the child is only jumping (and not turning too). Some ideas include:
–‘Big Little’: Have an older child or parent jump rope with the younger child jumping inside the rope facing the turner. Use the cue ‘one, two, ready, go’ before starting to turn the rope. Be sure to have the turner call out when to jump. Using a double bounce (adding a little “rebound” jump between each jump over the rope) helps too. Once the child is comfortable jumping, they can be challenged to turn in a circle, touch the ground, raise knees and many other footwork skills.
– ‘Under the Moon’: Using a double dutch length rope (12 or more ft long), have the child stand at a right angle to the rope – but not so close as to get hit when it is turning! Call out, ‘one, two, ready, go’ so that on go, the child runs under the rope to the other side without jumping. Fairly quickly they will be able to figure out when to run through on their own.
– ‘Wiggly Snakes’: Have the turners wiggle the rope on the ground. The child’s goal is to jump over the wiggly rope without touching it. Encourage the child to use a two-foot jump.
– Some younger children may also be able to turn one long rope if the other turner has experience. Some may also be able to jump one long rope too (see long rope ideas).
Jumping rope is like any other activity – it needs to be broken down into component parts for success! I usually teach a 5 part break down. Younger kids can do most of these progressions too.
1. Two foot jump without a rope – with feet together, take low (1 inch/2.5 cm) jumps off the ground with light, balanced landings. Make sure heels are put on ground most of the time to protect the Achilles tendon. Clapping or music can help everyone have a consistent jump.
2. Turn the rope without jumping – standing with upright posture, place both handles of the rope in one hand. Turn the rope at the side using the wrist. Make sure no part of the hand is on the rope cord.
3. Turn the rope beside while jumping – this is where most beginners need to spend a few minutes as coordinating the jumping with turning is harder than it looks! It is important that a low, two- foot jump is used. Clapping or music with a steady beat can help with the coordination.
4. Turn the rope to toe catch – place rope behind body and initiate turn overhead but don’t jump yet. Simply catch the rope at the toes.
5. Ready to jump – try one jump, then two, then five, and so forth.
Even with the basic two-foot jump, you can challenge each other on how many jumps you can do in a row with no misses – or set a time frame of 15-30 seconds to see how many jumps you can do in that time (often the kids win!)
There are lots of footwork skills that you can try too – the key is to ensure the landings stay light and low to the ground, with footwork inside the frame of the body. Some ideas include: slalom (feet together, jump to right then jump to left), bell (feet together, jump forwards then to back), jumping jax (feet together then feet apart), scissors. For more experienced jumpers, try at a faster pace or turn backwards or try one foot skills (jump on one foot, alternate feet, kick feet, lift knees, etc)! Challenge each other with how fast or how many can be done. Kids love to make up a routine with a few skills to share with you!
Here is a great way to really work together as a family.
Start with one long rope – ideally older children and/or at least one adult turns. The key to turning is to maintain a steady rhythm of the rope hitting the ground (this helps jumpers) with an even arc of the rope. Again, clapping or music can help. Turning initiates at the elbow with a circular motion.
To enter the rope, it is easiest to stand beside a turner. The jumper enters the rope right after it hits the ground (so they have lots of time) and should go right into the centre of the rope. The turners can cue the jumper to go into the rope with ‘one, two, ready, go’. If the jumper has difficulty jumping in time, practice jumping beside the rope as it is turning. Turners can also call out ‘jump’ to assist. To exit, the jumper leaves the rope right after jumping it – going out beside the turner’s shoulder.
If there are four people, you can play a game of chase – one jumper enters the rope to jump once then exits. The second jumper then enters to try to tag the first jumper. The jumpers travel in a figure 8 path in and out of the ropes, and so forth.
Footwork skills can also be done while jumping in the long rope. A single rope can also be jumped while jumping in a long rope (do a few jumps in the long rope first before starting to turn the single rope), but this is advanced!
When one rope turning and jumping is mastered, try adding a second rope for double dutch! Key points: jumpers must jump twice as often so it helps to have them jump beside the ropes first to succeed at the rhythm. Since the ropes turn inward alternately, turners will be forced to use their non-dominant hand so will need to focus on ensuring a circular turning motion.
Challenge your family to see how many jumps each person can do in the long rope(s) and add up the score – see how it improves over time.
Have the kids set up some challenges for the adults.
Most of all have fun. Just jump!
Liz Way is a former Canadian national jump rope champion who has been teaching kids and adults how to jump rope for over 20 years. She also likes to jump rope – especially double dutch – with her husband and two daughters (3 and 6).