Running Games for Kids

1
Running Games for Kids

kids running in park
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Most kids like to run, but many get bored running laps around a track or a gymnasium. Planning organized games that involve running is a great way to get kids to exercise, while still having fun. Whether you’re looking for running games for a sports practice, physical education class, a birthday party, or just to play in the backyard, here are some games that are always a big hit with kids.

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Pony Express

kids relay race
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The fastest I’ve ever seen my 8-year-old daughter run during track practice was when we had the kids play this game. It’s a lot of fun and really brings out the kids’ competitive spirit.

What’s needed: A marked circle either on a field or in a gym; two relay batons (optional)

How to Play:

  • Divide kids into two even teams.
  • Each team forms a line on opposite sides of the circle.
  • On your command, one kid from each team starts running around the circle (in the same direction). The goal is to get back to their line and tag (or pass the baton to) the next person on their team without getting caught on the runner on the other team.
  • Once the runner reaches his team’s line, he tags his teammate’s hand and then that kid starts running around the circle, while trying to avoid being caught by the other team’s runner. Kids can also use a baton to pass to the next runner.
  • The first team to get all of their runners around the circle once wins.

3
Scavenger Hunt

girls running
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I did this game with the first to third graders on my track team on they loved it. They were so excited about finding the next item on the list, they seemed to forget they were even running.

What’s needed: List of items to find.

How to Play:

  • Write out a list of items that can be found in the area where the kids will be running. When I write my lists, I make some of the items specific (i.e., a water fountain) and others vague (i.e., something that starts with the letter G), so the kids can get creative with their answers.
  • Start with the first item on the list and run to that destination.
  • Once you get there, move on to the next item on the list.

4
Capture the Flag

kids running outside
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I remember playing (and thoroughly enjoying) this classic running game as a kid. My own kids love it whenever they play it during gym or at camp.

What’s needed: Cones or other markers to mark field; two flags or bandanas (can be placed in a cone)

How to Play:

  • This game should be played on a field or in a gymnasium. Divide kids into two even teams.
  • Mark the middle of the field or gym with several cones or markers. Place each team’s flag about 50 feet from the middle of the field or gym.
  • When you blow or whistle or say “go”, each team runs to the other side of the field and tries to grab the other team’s flag.
  • If a player is tagged on the opponent’s side of the field, he or she goes to jail (a designated area on the side of the field). You can only be rescued from jail if a teammate frees you.
  • You can play for a designated amount of time and say that the team who captures their flags the most times wins the game. Or, play until one team reaches a certain number of points (scoring one point each time they capture the flag).

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Where to Run Next?

kids run
Christopher Futcher/Getty

I play this game with my kids’ track team and all the kids, from first to seventh graders, enjoy it. They have so much fun that they end up running hard intervals without even realizing it.

What’s needed: Small pieces of paper with different landmarks or locations written on them.

How to play:

  • This game is best played outdoors, in an open area with different landmarks or locations that the kids can run to.
  • On small pieces of paper, a coach or other adult writes down the names of different landmarks in the vicinity, i.e., bleachers, goal post, backstop, equipment shed, long jump pit.
  • Put the pieces of paper in a small bag, such as a brown paper bag or a running belt.
  • One kid pulls out a piece of paper and reads the location. Then they all have to run to that location.
  • Once everyone reaches the destination, a different kid pulls out another piece of paper. When I play with my kids’ track team, we keep going until each kid has a turn picking the destination (and even the older kids are insistent that they all get a chance to pick!).

6
Sharks and Minnows

kids running in park
Ty Allison/Getty

This game is similar to capture the flag, except you’re just trying to avoid getting tagged and not trying to get a flag.

What’s needed: A rectangular open play area (field or gym) with boundaries marked with lines or cones.

How to Play:

  • Identify 1-4 kids (depending on size of the group) as sharks. Everyone else will be minnows.
  • The sharks stand in the middle of the field and shout, “Fishy, fishy, fishy, come swim in my sea!”
  • The minnows line up on one end of the rectangle and respond by saying, “Sharky, sharky, sharky, you can’t catch me!” Then the minnows start running across the field to the opposite boundary line and try to avoid being tagged by a shark.
  • If a minnow is tagged, he or she becomes a shark and also tries to tag other minnows.
  • When there are only one or two minnows left, they become the sharks in the next round.

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