Air Pong is perfect for kids and adults of all ages. I've found that 2nd graders and older are better at controlling where the ball goes and don't get as frustrated with the competition of the game.
What is Air Pong?
If you have access to chalk and a balloon, you can play Air Pong. It's one of the first games I teach my students (as part of my hand striking/Four Square unit) because it's something they can do at home.
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You can make player's squares (boundaries) with:
- Sidewalk chalk
- Painters tape
- Large towels or small blankets (laid out like the mats above)
Don't have balloons at home? Get a gallon sized ZipLock bag and blow it up with air.
I designed the game to teach air-striking skills while minimizing arguments. I make sure to print off the rules and post them next to the activity to settle any disputes. You can get a printable version in the Striking Activity Pack below.
Air Pong Rules
You score when the balloon lands in the opponent's square or if the opponent hits the balloon out of bounds.
Serves must be from behind the back line and you're allowed three hits every time the balloon is on your side.
- Non-hits (holds) give opponent the point
- Server is allowed 1 FAULT (2 faults gives opponent the point)
- Whoever won the last point SERVES
- Any SPIKE has to be from inside your square
A Couple Notes
- It's important to have at least a foot or two between squares so spikes become more difficult to execute, creating a more fair game.
- Whenever there is a line, they play to 2 points and the winner stays to face the next opponent.
- Play it with paddles. Don't have paddles? Tape a paper plate to a paint stick or ruler.
- CHICKEN PONG! No hands, only head and feet (included in the Striking Activity Pack)
- Change the size of squares
- Use a more inflated or less inflated balloon
- For next-level players, use an Olly Ball (paid link) or a beach ball (and consider eliminating spikes)
- Put a rope or a bedsheet between the two sides (a couple feet off the ground) and they have to make it over the net. *See below
- Add two more squares and play with 4 square rotations
- Play it by yourself: Make a square or rectangle on a wall with painter's tape. See how many times you can hit it into your target in a row, then try to top your high score. For a greater challenge, make the target smaller.
The other skills required are essential for all games. Two that I focus on the most are:
- Is it obvious? - There can be a lot of ambiguity in games. In baseball, for example, there are arguments about if a pitch is a ball or strike. Whether a player is safe or out. In football, there are debates over what is and isn't a catch, legal tackle, hold, or pass interference. In Four Square, the ball moves quickly and you have to decipher who's square the ball landed in or if it landed in bounds or out of bounds. My solution to this is the Is It Obvious rule. If it's obvious that something happened, we can talk about it. If it's not obvious, just play on.
- Own it - This one is not just a game skill but a life skill. Owning it is the process of being honest with yourself and using mistakes as learning opportunities. Take baseball for example. You tried stealing a base and got caught. Instead of arguing that the defender's foot was off base, acknowledge that maybe you misjudged the timing. Maybe the defense just made an awesome play. In Four Square, you make the best play you can. And when it doesn't work out, just own it. By doing so, you take that experience and grow from it. This is an important step in growing true self confidence. When you can be honest with yourself and grow from mistakes, you show yourself what you're capable of and that you can always be better than you were before... even by just a little.
Beyond that, I also make sure to illustrate how important it is to move your feet. If you're stuck in concrete, Air Pong will frustrate you.