As summer winds down to a close and the air gets cooler, it’s important for kids to keep physically active. No matter the weather or time of year, exercise is key to maintaining their health and staying energized.
Running games for kids are an excellent way for children to move their bodies, have fun and make new friends. And when made into a thoughtful activity, they can also help build critical skills such as collaboration, coordination and creativity.
While it can be a blast to run without direction or stick to ol’ reliable (tag, you’re it), young children benefit from structure and rules to guide their play. With that in mind, we’re sprinting through five fun running games for kids to keep them active, engaged and healthy this fall.
Game 1: Obstacle Course Challenge
This is a classic game that’s endured the test of time and will keep kids happily entertained for hours. To play, gather and set up as many obstacles as you can and have each player navigate them to the best of their abilities. Some possible examples include:
- Chairs – Have them alternate between climbing over and crawling under to maximize the game’s versatility.
- Rope – Lay it out flat and have kids walk across it in a straight line—or string it taught and low and have them limbo or crawl underneath.
- Hula hoop – Space each hula hoop out a few feet apart and have kids jump from hoop to hoop. If they land in between, send them back to the beginning to start again.
These are but a small smattering of the potential obstacles you can use to create a zany course for each player to enjoy. One of the best parts about this great game is its adaptability—you’re free to use whatever you have on hand to create new challenges. Whatever the obstacles you choose, you’ll be helping your kids build coordination as they clamber across the course, running, jumping, crawling and enjoying themselves. Whether you are looking for outdoor games or party activities, this fun game is sure to entertain any kid.
Game 2: Nature Scavenger Hunt Run
This fun running game is best played in wider, more open outdoor spaces with a variety of natural scenery surrounding you. Parks and fields are all optimal places to give this outdoor game a go.
To start, simply gather two or more kids and give them an object to seek out. Some potential ideas can include:
- “Find me a maple leaf.”
- “Look for a flat, gray rock.”
- “Grab a stick that’s more than two feet long.”
The aim of the game is to be the first person to return with the requested item. This scavenger hunt not only tests their running and searching skills, but also teaches kids to slow down and think carefully as they seek out specific items in the heat of competition.
Game 3: Relay Races with a Twist
We all know and love classic relay races: one runner sprints to their teammate before handing off a baton and hoping they’ll outrun their opponents. While there’s nothing wrong with this original rendition, kids will have even more fun if you throw a wacky twist on the rules of this fun game.
Like other outdoor games, relay races can be adjusted to suit the limitations of your space and equipment. Get a couple teams of kids set up in an area suited for running and try out some of these suggestions:
- Robot relay – Like a normal relay race, except kids must run with stiff, robotic movements as they move the baton to one another.
- Rewind relay – Instead of running face-first as usual, participants must spin around 180° and run backward while racing toward their teammates.
- Roly-poly relay – Drop down to the ground and roll across the grass for this race! Like normal relays, the first to move the baton to the end wins—just be careful not to drop it as you spin your way to victory.
Relay races don’t just teach kids about collaboration, but they can also help them become more innovative. Have your kids design their own relay rules and play them with their friends to keep the fun times—and creativity—rolling.
Game 4: Color Splash Dash
A splash of color awakens the senses and adds to the fun of any run. For this routine race with a vibrant twist, runners pelt each other with tinted paints and powders to add to the excitement as they sprint toward the finish line.
With the rising popularity of color runs, it’s not too difficult to find premade products purposely created for splashing on fellow runners. If you want to make some of your own, however, you can try following these natural formulas:
- Red – Mash and heat hibiscus or rose petals, beets or tomatoes and allow to cool to add red to your run.
- Pink – Boil down periwinkle or onion skins with water to produce a pretty pink projectile.
- Yellow – Boil marigold petals or mix turmeric with rice flour for a brilliant golden blast.
- Green – Simply boil down some leafy greens such as spinach or cilantro and press them into a paste for a venerable verdant hue.
Game 5: Storytelling Relay Adventure
Like normal relay races, storytelling relays test kids’ running abilities. They also exercise their mental capacities and creative skills, however. To run a storytelling relay:
- Divide kids into teams of at least four and space them out in standard relay race fashion.
- Have the first runners sprint to their teammates from the starting line. Instead of handing off a baton to their team member, however, they’ll make up a few lines that serve as the foundation for their relay story.
- As the runners race to their next team member, they’ll think up a few lines to add to the tale, telling them the whole story as it grows and evolves over the course of the race.
- After the final runners cross the finish line, they’ll share their team’s stories in their entirety—usually to raucous laughter and ear-to-ear smiles.
Storytelling relays are akin to the running version of Telephone—something is bound to get lost amidst the haste and confusion, but that’s half of the fun! If you’re looking for fun party games for young kids, this is a great game to try.
Safety Measures and Tips
Running games are best played in wide, open spaces where it’s difficult for young children to careen into one another. Remember to not push kids past their abilities and take plenty of breaks to minimize their risk of injury. Keeping key items such as water, sunscreen and basic medical supplies on hand is also essential to ensure a safe, healthy time for everyone.
The Value of Raising Physically Active Kids
Establishing healthy fitness habits from a young age helps children avoid the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle. Particularly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes the increased risk of childhood obesity associated with inactivity, which in turn raises kids’ risk of developing conditions such as:
- Sleep apnea
- Bone and joint problems
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
Thankfully, numerous studies have found close links between increased exercise and reduced childhood obesity. Furthermore, physically fit children are five times less likely to develop obesity as they become adults who are, in turn, at a higher risk for numerous health issues.
The CDC recommends at least one hour of exercise a day for children ages six and up. So, to keep everyone healthy and active, consider playing some of these running games after school’s out for the evening.
Run, Don’t Walk, to Enroll in Camp Galileo
Running games are key ways of keeping fit during the school year. When it comes to having a physically active, meaningful summer, however, there’s no better place to race to than Camp Galileo.
Our mindset-growing program pulls from the worlds of STEAM exploration, collaborative play and creative thought to inspire kids to envision and create a better world. We instill confidence, resilience and an ability to think outside the box in our campers—all while giving them the unforgettably fun camp experience they long for!
Browse our programs today and get ready for an exciting, healthy summer at Camp Galileo.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing Childhood Obesity: 5 Things Families Can Do. https://www.cdc.gov/
National Library of Medicine. Physical activity and obesity in children. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21836171/
National Library of Medicine. Organized Sports, Overweight, and Physical Fitness in Primary School Children in Germany. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3603420/
National Library of Medicine. Predicting adult obesity from childhood obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26696565/
Government of India. Holi with Natural Homemade Colours. https://blog.mygov.in/holi-with-natural-homemade-colours/