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5 Fun Running Games for Kids

Sandy Wallace
May 25, 2017

If you're hosting a group of kids, help them burn off some energy and keep them happily entertained. Try these running games for kids. They're great exercise, too!



You'll score big when you add some running games for kids into the mix at your child's next party or play date. Running games are a great way for kids to burn off steam, share some laughs and learn how to get along together.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that children ages 6 to 17 have at least one hour of exercise each day, which should include aerobic, muscle-strengthening and bone-strengthening activities. And running isn't just good for the body, it turns out.

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"Not only does physical activity help a body grow ... but it has been shown through research that physical activity helps the brain 'grow' by creating new pathways for learning," says Mary Soave, a physical therapist in Howell, Michigan. Soave, who has more than 30 years of experience working with school kids and holds a doctorate in pediatric physical therapy, adds that activity improves cardiovascular and respiratory systems."Movement for periods of 20 minutes or longer increases the amount of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a chemical in the brain which acts as a 'miracle grow' for the neural pathways in the brain," she says. "Motor activity increases the neurotransmitters that help regulate the emotional system." Aside from all these health benefits, running is fun.

Running can also be a way for kids to get started on some important social developments, such as teamwork and healthy competition. Janis Meredith, the author of sports parenting books, including 22 Ways to Let Kids be Little in Youth Sports While Helping Them Grow Up, says, "Kids learn from the competitive nature of active games.Youth sports are also a wonderful way for a child to learn life lessons, including how to deal with difficult people and perform under stress." You don't need to sign your kids up for a team just yet, but you can get at least get them out there running for now!

Here are five fun running games for kids that you can try:

  1. Get Wet With Water Balloon Relays
    You'll need one plastic Frisbee and one lawn chair per team along with a bucket filled with water balloons. Mark start and finish lines 20 feet apart. Kids form teams of five. The first child in each team grabs a water balloon from the bucket, balances it on the Frisbee, runs to the lawn chair, places the water balloon on the chair, plops onto the balloon until it pops and runs back. handing the Frisbee to the next child on the relay team. All players race the same way to the finish line. The first team to complete the relay wins.
  2. Fill the Bucket for More Wet and Wild Fun
    You'll need plastic cups, beach buckets and water for this game. Mark start and finish lines 20 feet apart. Kids form teams of about five. Set an empty beach bucket for each team at the finish line. Each child starts with a cup filled with water. Kids from each team run one at a time to the bucket and pour their cup of water into the bucket. After each child takes a turn, the team with the fullest bucket wins.
  3. Roll a Hula Hoop
    For this race, you'll need two hula hoops. Set start and finish lines 20 feet apart. Each team lines up with half of the team at the start line and half at the finish line. The first child on each team runs as fast as possible while simultaneously rolling the hula hoop out front. At the finish line, the child rolling the hula hoop passes it to a waiting teammate, who then rolls the hoop back to the start line. The first team to complete the relay wins.
  4. Cartwheel Away
    Mark start and finish lines 10 feet apart. Kids line up in teams at the start line. Say "ready, set..." and then each child cartwheels to the finish line, then turns and runs back. The first team to finish wins. (If kids aren't proficient cartwheelers, try forward rolls.)
  5. Hop to It
    You'll need 10 empty shoe boxes. Mark start and finish lines 20 feet apart. Set up two parallel obstacle courses with five boxes on each course, evenly spaced between the start and finish lines. Kids form two teams. Each child runs as fast as they can, hopping over the boxes along the way to the finish line. Then they run back, hopping the boxes again and tag their teammates. The first team to finish wins.

Running games are exciting ways for kids to come together, have fun and de-stress.

Want to keep the fun going? Try these 8 Active Games for Kids.

Sandy Wallace enjoys family life and sharing tips for finding joy in daily life and making family memories. As a sports mom, she has spent many hours watching, coaching and playing sports with her kids.

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