6 Equipment Ideas For Socially Distanced PE Lessons

pe equipment social distance

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we think about space.  For example, I cannot watch a movie or TV show without silently commenting on how they are not properly socially distanced. Nor can I watch and see how they are not wiping down surfaces, wearing masks, or wearing gloves. Then, when I start to think about how to teach PE in a socially distanced world, my brain virtually explodes. What an overwhelming notion.

While I am not going to discuss what PE may look like when we return, the focus of this post is to share some ideas for what equipment may work best in a socially distanced physical environment as well as some activities that might be most safe. These ideas assume that you are doing individual activities in large spaces, and students are six feet apart. Plus, it takes into account you are following state, school district, and school health policies for safety, including groupings of students. Of course, what works in your space is different than what might work in someone else’s space.  Thus, these ideas are meant to get you thinking.  Below are equipment ideas with some links to the equipment as well as general activity ideas for the equipment.

Wipes, Masks, Hand Sanitizer, Oh My

It goes without saying that PPE, including masks, sanitizer and wipes, are the newest and latest must-have in any classroom, but mostly pe when students are shedding germs like students often do. While your school or district may purchase these for you, it is always best to have your own stash handy for the child who does not have a mask, or when the situation arises, the school’s supplies run thin. Be self-sufficient for the sake of everyone’s health and well-being. You are going to need these for keeping common areas and equipment clean!

Playing Cards and Exercise Cards Galore

Individual activities are probably going to be crucial when teaching a socially distanced class.  You will need to keep students apart, and individual work is the most simplistic way is to put them in their own bubble. Individual work is especially true for younger students who are not well versed in personal and general space. Playing Cards and also Exercise Cards come into play with younger children.

You can use the cards as a whole group activity or let students use them individually.  For example, perhaps you have students go through a set of physical movements using movement cards, and they work on their own.  Or, maybe you have the exercise cards upfront and show them to the whole class one at a time while you demonstrate.  Then you use the playing cards, so you pick a random card, and whatever number that is, that is the number of times students do the exercises. These tools are handy for minimal group instruction or individual instruction.

exercise cards

Hula Hoops

Whoever thought a simple circular hula hoop would be so timely? The Hula Hoop is great for 1) keeping students in their own space and from bumping into each other and 2) using them for individual exercises and skill teaching.  For example, you could do a lesson on prepositions with each student having their own hula hoop.  You can teach over, under, in, out, though, and around using just the hoop.  Moreover, you could do games of Jacks inside the hoops with small groups of students. Jacks are another versatile and must-have tool.

Floor Tape, Cones, and Poly Spots

Depending on your state’s health requirements and school district rules, you may be able to have students in small groups of 3-5. If you can, this is great. Whether you can or cannot, Floor Tape and Cones are going to be paramount to a successful socially distanced program.  They will help you set boundaries in which to keep students.  Plus, you can put tape down across the gym floor to mark six feet space markings. Poly Spots are great for having students stand in one place or to mark off areas. You can also use these to help with spacing in protocols such as lining up or squads where you space students out by six feet using ploy spots to mark where to stand.   Floormax is another option as well, but this is more permanent.  If you do not wipe this off after a few days, it becomes hard to remove.  But, seeing as how we may be in this situation for a while, that may not be a bad thing.


Electronics are going to give you the versatility and flexibility you need to keep students apart and safe. In an age when individual and small group activities will rule the roost, if you have an LCD projector and a computer set up or a Promethean board, it can be a considerable asset. You can use it to show videos, PowerPoint presentations, do interactive activities via GoNoodle and other websites or apps, and games and slides like the ones found here. Plus, if your school has tablets to use, you can set those up to make different centers with prerecorded instructions. Also, electronics like heart rate monitors, stopwatches, Plickers, and similar devices are good for helping students track data points on their own.

Gym Mats

What better way to set boundaries on spacing than to have each student on their own gym or yoga mat? Yes, you will have to keep these continuously clean. Nonetheless, they are great for keeping students apart, giving them a sense of safety, and giving students a place on which they can do individual activities.

Other Suggested Equipment:

While there is a plethora of other equipment that can be used to socially distance, this lot of equipment offers the most flexibility and versatility. For example, balloons are another excellent individual learning tool. You can use the ideas mentioned for individual or small group work that will ultimately keep students as safe as possible in line with the school’s safety plan.

Have any ideas for suitable equipment for socially distancing?  Tell us below!

About the Author:

literacy in physical education

Charles Silberman is a physical education and health teacher with 18 years of teaching experience. He has become a leader and advocate for incoming physical educators by running workshops on teaching in limited space at staff in-services and conferences, assisting with new teacher orientations, and other initiatives. He has experience writing curriculum from scratch and writing published information specific to physical education in state and nationally recognized publications and websites. Charles has also created a niche as a physical education specialist who fuses technology and primary instructional subjects into physical education lessons.

View all of his Professional Development courses at the S&S Worldwide online school.

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3 thoughts on “6 Equipment Ideas For Socially Distanced PE Lessons

  1. You should really stop using the term “social distance” and instead use the term “Physical Distance” in it’s place. I believe the term “social distance” is easily misunderstood as “to avoid and keep away from others” which will lead to even further mental depression and anxiety. We are having enough difficulties as it is.
    Plus, the term “Physical Distancing” is by far more accurate.
    From now on, say “Physical Distancing” as a way to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

  2. Pingback: 5 Game Ideas for a Social Distance Activity Program - S&S Blog

  3. Good ideas. I am adapted PE teacher and my students do not understand how to line up and have difficult time knowing how to wait. I have used poly spots for years and they work. I also use visual cards, pictures for they do not read or understand verbal directions. Created many over the years. School laminators are going to get a workout this coming school year, you can wipe down the cards and use again. We are lucky we have one at our school.

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