Family Resources
Family Physical Activity Center

“Family Physical Activity Center,” Family Home Evening Resource Book (1997), 317

“Family Physical Activity Center,” Family Home Evening Resource Book, 317

Family Physical Activity Center

A family physical activity center can help children and youth develop physically and also help the whole family achieve and maintain physical fitness. It can also provide inexpensive recreation close to home.


In a family council or home evening, discuss what you might do to develop a family physical activity center. First, find a small area, outdoors or indoors, which you might use. Visit a park, school playground, health spa, or athletic club for ideas. Consider equipment that will help family members work on balance, flexibility, strength, coordination, and endurance. Include items for the ages of your family members. Try to find inexpensive ways to build your center. You probably won’t need everything listed below. A few versatile items may be all you can afford and all you have room for. And remember: you can build it over several years’ time, getting one piece of equipment at a time.

  1. Make an overhead ladder from two 2-by-4-inch (5-by-10-cm) boards, 8 feet (about 2.5 meters) long, and several lengths of 1-inch or 1 1/8-inch (2.5- or 3-cm) dowels. Hang it from basement ceiling joists or install it on posts outside.

  2. Make a balance board from a small log 12 to 16 inches (about 30 to 40 cm) long, and a cleated board 10 inches (25 cm) wide and about 24 to 26 inches (61 to 66 cm) long.

  3. Hang a climbing rope (even if it is short) from ceiling joists in the basement. It can also serve as a swing where children use their arm and shoulder strength to hang on instead of sitting on a seat. It can also be mounted outside from a tree limb.

  4. Make a chinning bar out of three lengths of 1 1/2-inch (about 4-cm) galvanized pipe and a bag or two of concrete mix.

  5. Make a shinny pole or fireman’s pole out of a 10- to 12-foot (about 3-to 4-meter) piece of 2-inch (5-cm) galvanized pipe and a bag of concrete mix.

  6. Make a tire vault by burying one-third to one-half of a large truck tire in the ground.

  7. Make tire trees from 12- to 14-foot (about 3- to 4-meter) logs about 10 inches (25 cm) in diameter with three sets of four used passenger car or truck tires mounted up the log so that they overlap a little. Putting two tire trees close together allows children to jump from one tree to the other. Installation in the ground should be firm.

  8. Make a log walk (balance beam) from a pole 6 to 8 inches (about 15 to 20 cm) in diameter and about 12 to 14 feet (about 3 to 4 meters) long. Mount it on two hewn-out small pieces of log.

  9. Make a log jam using varying heights of logs 10 to 12 inches (about 25 to 30 cm) in diameter. Mount them vertically in an irregular arrangement, side by side.

  10. Make a trapeze bar out of four eyebolts, two short pieces of chain, and about a 30-inch (about 76-cm) piece of 1 1/4-inch (about 3-cm) dowel. It can be mounted from basement floor joists, outside on an A-frame, or from a tree.

  11. Make beanbag targets from plywood to look like clowns, animals, or trees. Bags can be tossed through holes shaped like mouths, eyes, or fruit.

  12. Mount a dart board on a cloth-covered piece of celotex 4 feet by 4 feet (about 1.25 meters by 1.25 meters). Then there is less chance that darts will hit walls and floors.

  13. Make a jumping board out of a 10-by-42-inch (about 25-cm-by-1-meter) piece of hardwood. Mount a 2-by-4-inch (5-by-10-cm) board securely under both ends.

  14. Tumbling mattresses or mats

  15. Sit-up or abdominal slant board

  16. Basketball backboard and hoop

  17. Tire swing

  18. Volleyball and badminton standards and net

  19. Stationary bicycle

  20. Jogging trampoline

  21. Weights

  22. Ballet bar and mirror

  23. Gym scooters

  24. Tetherball pole

  25. Skip ropes

  26. Any other device for exercising muscles in which the resistance can be progressively increased

After you have decided which items you want to make or buy, work toward having them installed. Encourage regular use of the equipment.