11 Fun Running Games for Kids
Whether you have kids or you yourself are a kid at heart, running games are a fun way to fit physical activity into your day without feeling like you're doing a workout. Here are 11 to try.
Running games for kids — and kids at heart — are designed to help boost physical fitness levels as well as self-esteem 3. They also allow families to exercise together through play, rather than making running feel like a dreaded PE activity. While some kids enjoy competitive track and field games, others prefer casual relay races and tag-based games. Due to the large variety of running games for kids, it’s easy for your child to use his imagination to make up his own running game 3. Here are 11 options to try!
1. Hide and Seek: Sardines
Nothing says “run” more than a classic game of hide and seek. But why play the traditional hide and seek when you can do it in reverse? Sardines is a variation of the traditional game of hide and seek — one that is played backwards. One person runs and hides while all the other players cover their eyes and count. When one of the seekers finds the hider, he quietly joins him. Soon everyone is crammed into the hiding spot and the game ends. The last player to join the group becomes the next person to hide. You can also use flashlights to add an element of excitement after sunset.
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2. Tag and Tag Variations
Tag gets kids running without even thinking about exercise. In the classic running game, one child is “it” and tries to tag another person to be “it.” But this version can go pretty quickly and leave someone out. Here are two alternatives:
- Toilet Tag: If the child is tagged they have to get into “potty position” (squat, freeze and hold a hand in the air), says Chrissy Carroll, triathlon coach from Snacking in Sneakers 5. Another child can unfreeze them by “flushing the toilet” (aka pushing down the hand in the air).
- Everyone Is “It”: Have the kids get in one area of the yard and set a timer for three minutes. Since everyone is it, the kids try to tag each other. Players must keep count of everyone they tag. After time is up, you can declare a winner based on how many tags each player got.
3. Relay Races
You don’t have to be a kid to enjoy relay races. In fact, several versions of these old-school games make an appearance at many grown-up parties. Here are two options:
- Balloon Pop: Blow up several balloons and place the inflated balloons in a pile 10 feet away from the start. Each player runs to the center, pops a balloon by sitting on it and returns to the start to tag their teammate.
- Three-Legged Relay: In a yard or field, mark off the start and finish lines. Divide the players into teams of two. Have them stand side by side and tie adjacent (inside) legs together using a bandanna or scarf. The three-legged pairs must work together to reach the finish line.
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You can’t talk about running games without including soccer. It doesn’t even have to be a formal game with official rules. You can simply get a group of kids together with a soccer ball, set up two makeshift goals and let them have at it. Or try this twist:
Set up an area that is 10 yards by 20 yards and have all of the kids go inside the grid. Give each child except one a ball placed at their feet. The child without the ball has to kick the balls until all of them are out of the grid at the same time. When they kick the ball out of the grid, the other players can go and retrieve their ball until all of the balls have been kicked out at the same time.
5. Butterfly Running Game
This running game is designed to help keep your kids active and entertained. Find an open field or playground and set up cones in the shape of a butterfly. This butterfly can be as large or small as you want, although it should be big enough to let kids run and jog around it for a decent amount of time 1.
This particular butterfly shape should be symmetrical with a straight line down its center. This center line is called the “sprinting lane” while one side of the butterfly is the “jogging lane.” The other side of the butterfly will be the “walking lane.” Have your kids start to jog around one side of the butterfly shape, and then have them sprint down the center of the butterfly before walking around the other side of the butterfly 1.
6. Capture the Flag
This classic running game will build your child’s agility as well as overall running skills. Take your child and her friends to a field and divide the field into two. Mark midfield with several cones or markers. Break them up into two groups of five.
From here, have each team place their flag 50 feet away from the center of the field. On your whistle, have each team try to run and grab the flag on the other side of the field. If a player is tagged on the other side of the field, that player must go to “jail.” You can only be rescued from jail if a teammate frees you. The team who captures the most flags by the end of the allotted time is the winner.
7. Candy Hunt Game
Sometimes it takes a bit of a bribe to get kids interested in running. The candy hunt game is best for younger kids who need a little push and motivation to get excited about running 3. Take a group of kids to an open field and spread out a variety of individually wrapped candies on the ground. Each kid is allowed to pick up one piece of candy before returning to the starting line. Once they have dropped the candy off at the starting point they can return to grab more candy. The child who has retrieved the most candy in the allotted time is the winner.
8. Red Light, Green Light
If you have at least four kids, this running game is a “go.” Choose one player to be “it.” This one stands at one end of the playing field while the rest of the players stand in a horizontal line at the opposite end. When the child who is “it” calls out “green light,” the other players run as fast as they can toward the “it” child. At any point while the players are running, the child who is “it” can yell out “red light,” and anyone who fails to stop completely must return to the starting line. The first person to reach the end line is the winner and becomes “it.”
9. Flip the Cones
If you want a running game that encourages friendly group competition while allowing children to work individually, give “flip the cones” a try. Spread a bunch of disc cones out over a field, with half of them right side up and the other half upside down. Split the children into two groups. Assign one group to try to get as many cones as possible right side up and the other group to get as many as possible upside down.
Allow the kids to play for a few minutes and then blow a whistle to stop. Choose one kid from each team to count the cones and see who won. Since the cones are ready to go, they can play again. The amount of time you allow for each round is dependent on the number of cones you have and the age of the kids. Younger kids need more time than older kids to turn the cones over.
10. World’s Largest Hopscotch
Natasha LaBeaud Anzures, co-founder of 2nd Recess, says this running game sets an epic challenge: conquering the world’s longest hopscotch 4. Using chalk, draw a large hopscotch (up to 100 jumps) with spaces for single- and double-leg hops as well as different elements like fire, water and dragons that the kids have to jump over.
Then set up a small field where the kids can run around after finishing each set of the hopscotch. This creates a circuit for continuous movement for the kids. Have the kids line up in one straight line behind the first hopscotch square. One at a time, they go through the world’s longest hopscotch and then run around the course until they return back to the start of the hopscotch. Have the runners repeat this circuit multiple times.
11. The Captain’s Run
The captain’s run is a type of fartlek running game that uses a whistle to tell runners when to speed up 1. A fartlek is a type of run where athletes practice running at different speeds (jog, run or sprint). With this game, runners practice staying in a group (a straight line) while jogging. Natasha LaBeaud Anzures says this game is meant for kids ages eight and up 4.
To get started, create a large loop (approximately 200 meters) that runners can go around. This works best on a field or a large yard. When the group hears the whistle the last runner in line sprints to the front of the line. Continue this until each person has at least two times sprinting to the front. If the group is large enough, you can create two lines and have groups run in opposite directions around the loop.
What Do YOU Think?
Do you have a favorite running game to play with kids 3? How about a group activity that gets kids and “kids at heart” up and moving? Comment below and let us know what you have going on to stay active in a fun way!
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