The ‘Main Event’ Lets Kids Spar In An Epic Shadow Boxing Match

But don't worry, they won't get close enough to actually hit each other.

by Brett Ortler
Originally Published: 
An illustration of two boys sparring in a ring

‘The Main Event’ is a fast-paced shadow-boxing game that gets kids moving, active, and laughing. It’s also safe, as the boxers spar from different corners of the room. It’s perfect for those never-ending winter Saturdays when all you want to do is hibernate, but your kids are overflowing with a seemingly bottomless reserve of energy. How many other activities for kids let you provide Howard Cosell-inspired play-by-play?

Prep Time: None

Entertainment Time: 10-15 minutesEnergy Expended by Child: Substantial

What You Need:

  • An open space with enough room to keep your contestants separated.
  • A couch, where you call sit comfortably to call the action.
  • A timer or stop watch.
  • Optional: A bell, scorecards, and a numbered sign to announce the upcoming round.

How to Play:

Start by making sure your two combatants are standing in different corners of the room, and that any potential obstacles in the middle are picked up or moved. Then, doing your best “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” imitation, announce the matchup and have one kid “enter” the ring by holding their arms in the air and telling you their “ring” name. Encourage them to choose something silly, and then spontaneously give them a boxing nickname to go with it. Our kid chose “Fox!” so I called him the Flying Fox and listed off his height, weight, and hometown. Do the same for the other contestant before calling out Round One. If you want to make things more real, ring a bell to begin and end each round.

Before you start the match, however, you’ll need to explain the rules: This is a pretend fight. No punches that connect will be thrown. They’ll only be hitting the air, and they can’t go anywhere near each other. If need be, delineate “a line” on the floor in each corner that that can’t cross or they’ll be penalized. It may take a little bit for them to get used to, but once they do, they’ll enjoy showing off their “moves.”

Once the “bout” begins, start a 30-second timer and give them a play-by-play of the action, complimenting their uppercuts, haymakers, and inevitably, the wild kicks and toddler-street-brawl caliber moves that follow. Don’t be surprised if things deteriorate into full UFC. To keep them extra active, in between rounds, you can assign them “training” tasks to keep warm — I had them pantomiming jump rope, clapping their hands, and so on. Then proceed to the next “round” and call out that action.

One way to keep it interesting is to give colorful names to the moves they’re showing off. After each round, announce the judges’ scores — I just call out a random series of numbers but you can create score placards to hold up — and then announce the winner at the end of the ‘fight.’ To prevent any actual fisticuffs from resulting when I announce it, I dub it a split decision, and they’re often quick to take me up on the notion of a rematch, helping them burn even more energy. Or alternate winners back and forth and let them spar all afternoon, just make sure to end on a tie.

Wrap Up:

While it isn’t exactly The Thrilla in Manilla, the Main Event is a simple, safe way to get your kids moving indoors. It’s funny, halfway decent exercise, and gives you an excuse to have your kids jogging in place while you sit and Alexa plays the Rocky theme on a loop.

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