10 Running Games for Kids to Get Them Off The Couch and in the Yard

It seems that children, by nature, tend to love being outside and playing.  However, as they are introduced to video games, tv, music, naps, ipods, etc . . . they tend to set being active and outside to the side and start to embrace a less active lifestyle.  Helping children to again love being outside and running can be pretty easy and in general is simply a matter of the parents actually taking the kids outside. We have discussed the role of parents in creating healthy habits in children here. Below is a list of 10 running games for kids that parents can use to help their children love the outdoors and begin to embrace running.

For a fun read regarding the importance of helping kids embrace nature and outside play check out this book: Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Defect Disorder, By Richard Louv it is an insightful and informative read on the topic and will help to encourage parents to implement outdoor and running games for kids.  Read it for free HERE on Google Booksor BUY here on Amazon.

10 Fun Running Games for Kids – From Couch to Yard

  1. Red Rover – this simple “old school” game can be played with children of all ages but you will need at least 6 children or so to actually make the game work. To play set up two lines of kids standing parallel to each other, clasping hands.  One line says “Red Rover Red Rover Send _______ on Over”.  The childs name that is called leaves their line and runs full speed at the other line and tries to break the chain of clasped hands in the other line.  If the child does not break the chain, they become part of that line.  If they do break the chain, they go back to their line and select a player from the other line to join their team. This is a fantastic game for all ages.  Taz played at 2 years old with his older cousins and had a fantastic time. Though the kids are not running the entire time they are outside and do have to run intermittently.
  2. Tag – Everyone loves tag.  Kids seem to be able to play tag without ever stopping.  To play simply choose one child to be “IT” they run around and try to tag the other children.  When a child is tagged, they become “IT”
    1. Freeze tag – this is a variation of tag where those who are tagged must freeze and are not able to move until another child unfreezes them by tagging them or going under their legs. The “IT” child wins if they are able to freeze all the children.
    2. Shadow tag – Shadow tag is really the same as tag except that instead of tagging the person the “IT” individual tags the childs shadow.  Tag is a great running game as it is really an endless game that requires a lot of running for the child and can really wear out an active child.
  3. Capture the Flag – a great organized way for kids to play this game involves two teams with separate sides and forts.  Each team has a flag (this can be a shoe, shirt, or anything small).  Teams try to get the flag from the other side without being tagged.  For more detailed rules click here. Children do have to run a lot in this game so it is good to help kids begin to enjoy playing outside.
  4. Relay Games – this is where parents can really use their creativity.  Find a large field, bring some toys and create games for kids that require running. Wheel barrow races, water balloon toss, obstacle course, etc . . . really parents can use their imagination all you really need to do is set very loose ground rules that include running or jogging, and allow the kids to use their imaginations to run and burn energy.  This is a good way to introduce children to running without them even knowing it.

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    Taz Playing Baseball

  5. Soccer – the important thing about playing soccer with kids is that at first you don’t stick to closely to the rules.  Just bring a cheap soccer ball (or any ball) for that matter and let them practice kicking.  They will learn how to run and develop coordination all at the same time. We were shocked the first time we actually gave Taz a soccer ball and let him go loose at the park.  He took off! It was as if he always knew how to play. You can pick up a ball for a couple buck at Walmart or Academy Sports.
  6. Red Light – Green Light – a great game for younger children.  It works best if an adult is able to play and kindof lead the game.  The person who is it stand with their back to the other kids.  They turn their back to the kids and say Green Light allowing the kids to take steps toward the IT person.  The IT person turns around at any time and says RED LIGHT.  The kids must stop moving. If the it person notices movement the child must go back to the starting line. A child wins if they make it all the way to the IT person.  This does not involve an enormous amount of movement but will help kids develop an interest in movement games.
  7. Kick the Can– Kick the can is an amazing game for kids and adults alike.  It is best played with older kids and at night.  Rather than try to exlpain this fun game I will refer you to this website here to read the rules. This game involves a lot of movement and running and kids will really enjoy it . . . I still do!
  8. Races – I realize this is pretty generic but kids love to race.  They love to win and they can all be taught how to lose graciously. You can get creative as a parent and build fun racing courses or just race specific distances.  You only need 1 child for this and can have them race the clock or you can have a lot of kids play.  If you buy a cheap set of cones you can set up little racing courses and require the kids to bear crawl, army crawl, run backwards, etc . . . at each cone and time them one at a time.  I have always been amazed at how easy it is to get kids running when you make it a race.DSC_0338-e1402492147690
  9. Duck Duck Goose –  this running game really needs no introduction.  I will say that if you are playing with younger kids (under 4) I have found that it is important for parents to just let go of the rules and let the kids have fun running and playing together.
  10. Sardines – sardines is like reverse hide and go seek that is way I included it on this list.  Rather than just one person hunting for everyone – everyone hunts for one person so there is much more running by everyone.  Younger children can play this game but I have not tried playing with anyone under about 5 years old.
  11. Go to a Track, Baseball, or Soccer Fieldokay I guess you get a bonus game – we have talked in other posts about how important it is that parents bring their kids with them when they go running.  This may sound oversimplified but I have experienced it time and time again with my own kids, nieces and nephews, and friends kids that to get kids out and running all you really need to do is provide them with the space.  They will develop their own games they will use their imagination and they will run and play.  Just find a park with a nice field and let the kids go wild.

If these games are incorporated into a childs life at a young age they will become habit and kids will begin to seek outside time to be able to play.  However, if you are just starting out or trying to help a couch potato child learn to love the outdoors . . . just be patient.  Don’t give up after just trying one game.  Start with one game and move on if your child doesn’t enjoy it.  Just get them outside and be patient as they learn to run and play.  It is just like teaching them to like new foods.  Provide the opportunity and let them develop their preferences.

What Running Games do You Play With Your Kids?

This is obviously not an exhaustive list of every running game out there for kids. But this is a nice range of games for various groups and ages.  The important thing is to get outside and try these games today.   If the weather is bad you can play some of these games indoors too.  Remember, the important this is to spark the interest in fitness and activity.

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