Fun Running Games for Kids

You can lead kids to the park, but you can’t make them run – that’s the challenge for parents across America. To stay healthy, kids should get at least an hour of aerobic exercise per day with running or similar high-intensity activities at least three times a week. Fun running games for kids provide children with a fun way to get the exercise they need.


When kids run, they work the muscles throughout the body, from the thigh muscles to the lower back muscles. As they work harder, the heart pumps faster to deliver more oxygenated blood to the muscles. 

All of these processes burn more calories, the energy kids get from food that the body can store as fat if not burned off. All of this exercise helps to strengthen a kid’s heart, circulation system, and muscles. It also prevents the buildup of excess fat. 


Running games encourage children to get more exercise. Asking a kid to simply run doesn’t capture his imagination or make him think of running as a fun activity. However, incorporating running as part of a game greatly improves the odds kids will participate. Treating running as a serious sport for young children has potentially negative effects. Training too hard and pushing children to win races can risk injury or psychological problems.

However, disguising exercise like running as a game, eliminates the need for serious training. So what are some of the best running games for kids?


Capture the flag is a neighborhood classic game that will transform any large open area, yard, or cul-de-sac into one big, rowdy playing field. 

Divide kids into teams. Kids of ages 7 on up can play, and if mixed ages are playing together it’s okay, just as long as younger kids and older kids of each gender are distributed evenly on both teams.

The yard or open field is halved, like a soccer field. Each has a unique “flag.” When the game begins each team has five minutes to hide the team’s flag. 

Teams call out when their flag is “hidden” and then members of each team try to cross into enemy territory to capture the flag. If tagged when out of their home turf, players must stay captured on the other side in jail. This game is great for building friendships and getting families and neighborhood kids active together.


If you have a mid-sized group of kids, a large outdoor space like a playground, and a few willing adults, use the format of a scavenger hunt to create a checklist of errands kids will need to “run.” Pair up kids so that they compete as teammates. 

Suggested activities: 

  • run two laps around the yard
  • find a twig with four leaves
  • touch the large oak tree in the corner and run around it once in each direction
  • touch something blue
  • skip a lap around the basketball court
  • do 10 jumping jacks.


Kids love the idea of growing up to be a heroic firemen, saving lives. Take advantage of the allure of the team of firemen by using the concept to frame a fun running game that’s also a team-building activity, teaching kids as they run that a team is only as strong as its weakest link.

Children are grouped into just two teams and given a scavenger hunt around a school, backyard, or neighborhood. The activities must be completed while all members of the team are holding on to the same piece of rope. Each rope must be long enough to allow kids to move and run freely but not so long that it drags on the ground.

Establish different landmarks that the kids have to make it to or take a picture of. The first team to touch all the landmarks is the winning team.


This was one of my all-time favorite running games to play as a kid. You need at least four people to play and a ball. Read how to play Running Bases.


This is one of these most classic, fun running games for kids of all ages. One person the traffic light and stands at one end. The rest of the kids stand about 20-50 feet away depending upon their age.

The traffic light turns their back to the rest of the kids and chants “RED LIGHT, GREEN LIGHT, 1, 2, 3.” and quickly turns around.  While their back is turned the kids move closer to the traffic light. If the traffic light sees the kids moving they have to go back to the starting line.

Continue playing until one kid tags the traffic light when their back is turned.


Have a group of kids pair up, giving each group one balloon. Create a start and finish line, having each group stand next to each other at the starting line. 

From here, have them stand with a balloon balanced between their backs. On your mark, have them run to the finish line, attempting to cross the line as quickly as possible without dropping the balloon. The last team to cross the finish line is the losing team.


Line up with a group of friends or competitive racers at respective starting points on a track. If you do not have a track, measure out 50 yards on a field, placing start and end cones on the ground. 

Have a judge stand at the finish line to decide who will cross the line first. On his mark, everyone must sprint as quickly as possible to the finish line. The fastest racer will win the game.


Mark off a start and finish line 20 to 30 yards apart. From here, divide a group of people into two teams. Give a baton to the first person in each line. On your mark, have them run to the finish line, rotate back around, and run home. Have them pass off the baton to the next person in line and repeat the pattern until everyone has gone. The first team to get everyone across wins.


You need a large group of kids for these fun running games. Mark off each side of the field as land and water.  Pick two kids to be sharks to start.  All of the rest of the kids are minnows.

The minnows stand on the “land” part of the field and the sharks stand in the “water” part of the field.  The goal is to get all of the minnows into the “water”, across the middle of the field to the opposite boundary line of “land” without getting tagged by a shark.

If you get tagged by a shark, that minnow becomes a shark and tags other kids on the next round.  The winner is that last minnow that was not tagged.


This is a fun game! You need to create colored flags using felt or colored ribbons. Hide them in different locations.  The kids need to run and go find all the flags. You can do teams or individual play.  

You can change it up – the kids have to find the flags holding hands with their teammate the entire time.

Read more about the different variations of the Outdoor Flag Hunt.


Need some fun running games for kids at a birthday party? Try a candy hunt. Get five different kinds of candy and glue them to a piece of cardboard.  Hide the rest of the candy all over the vicinity or outdoor space in plastic bags (so the bugs do not get into the candy).

On GO the kids have to run and five one of each of the five pieces of candy.


This is a variation of freeze tag. Mark off boundaries – a gym floor or a backyard. One player is the tagger. The rest of the kids run around the yard. If you get tagged you have to freeze in place with your feet spread apart like you are “stuck in the mud”.

Another player can unfreeze you by crawling through your legs. Continue playing and then switch who is it.


Separate children into two teams and set markers around the field or gymnasium in a random pattern with some facing up and some facing down. These markers need to have two distinguishable sides so children can easily tell the difference between ones that face up and ones that face down.

You can use:

  • puzzle pieces
  • blocks
  • old magazines
  • cones

One team will be assigned to the upward facing markers and the other team will be assigned to the downward facing markers. When you signal the start of the game, the upward-facing team tries to flip all the markers so they face upright, while the downward-facing team tries to flip all the markers downward. Whichever team gets all markers flipped in the corresponding direction wins.


The American Heart Association points out that inactive kids usually grow to become inactive adults. Low levels of physical activity could set your child up for future health problems, including obesity and heart disease.

 The AHA also lists several key health benefits kids can get from physical exercise such as running. Running games help:

  • control weight.
  • reduce the risk of developing diabetes. 
  • kids develop stronger bones. 
  • to release mood-enhancing chemicals in the body known as endorphins, boosting your kid’s overall happiness.

Better physical health directly translates to a healthier sense of self-confidence, self-esteem, and general mental health. Games also bring people together, whether you organize running games with the family, including parents and siblings, or let your child play games with friends at school.

Kids who play running games may learn cooperation skills, self-reliance, social skills, and simply how to interact with a group of peers. As fitness increases with regular running, your child’s confidence and ability may improve in other sports, from soccer to basketball.


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