Track and Field Games for Kids
Does your kid like to run, jump and throw? Then chances are, there’s a track and field activity that’s right for them. Whether it’s hurdles, long jump, sprinting or long distance running, track and field is great for conditioning, endurance and pursuing individual excellence while still being part of a team.
How old should your child be to start? According to momsteam.com’s Meredith Rainey Valmon track clubs usually begin with a primary age group for for 8-and-under. “While many children train and compete seriously from this age, kids who get a later start are not missing out on crucial skill-building years as they are in other sports.”
Fun runs are a great way for kids to start out. To find one in your community, Valmon suggests checking the websites of local running clubs (try www.rrca.org, the website for the Road Runners Clubs of America).
Relay Races This fun classic encourages teamwork while pushing each child to run the course at his or her top speed. Switch things up by challenging the kids to complete the relay balancing eggs on spoons, skipping rope, hopping in potato sacks — get creative! To play, divide the players into two equal teams. Create a start and finish line. Each player takes turns running – one at a time – to the designated finish line and back. Whichever team finishes first wins.
Long Jump Rhythm Running: Strong legs are essential to jumping, but did you know that the key to a looooooong jump is in the arms? According to Men’s Health, the arm swing is what lifts jumpers up and prevents an early touchdown. To help kids perfect their arm-work: Mark out a course with tape, then have kids skip the distance, using their arms to swing themselves progressively higher into the air.
Toe Tag: New York Road Runners suggests Toe Tag for developing the agility and coordination kids need for everything from track to soccer. To see how to play, check out this video here. As with tag, the player who’s “it,” chases the other players around a 10-15 square feet zone. The difference: instead of using their hands, the player who’s “it” toe-tags the other players by gently tapping them on the foot. This version of tag builds agility because the player who’s “it” must tag the other players “out” with gentle taps of the foot — no stomping allowed!
Funky Run: An ingeniously silly way to teach kids proper running form. Create a start and finish line 50-100 meters long. Players fan out at the start line and on “Go” begin running conventionally. Once runners reach cones set up ⅓ of the way along the course, ask them to get silly and do their funkiest run, adding hops, jumps, lunges, and arm movements as they cover the second third of the course. In the final stretch, instruct them to sprint to the finish, “normally.” Kids will end the race laughing and exhausted, having discovered how much easier it is to run fast when you do it the “right” way!
Animal Tag This fun spin on tag engages a range of muscles and improves kids’ agility. To play, you’ll need a 10-15 square feet playing field, one player who’s “it,” and someone to call out the name of an animal for all players to emulate as the person who’s “it” tries to tag everyone out. To see how it’s done, check out this video, then talk to the kids before getting started about all the distinctive ways various animals move. Kangaroos hope, gazelles leap, horses gallop. Once they’ve got it all done, they’ll have fun seeing who does the best animal imitation — and racks up the most UNICEF Kid Power steps. Make it a teachable movement by quizzing them on fun animal facts. What’s the fastest land animal on the planet? Answer: The cheetah, which can accelerate from 0 – 60 mph in 3 seconds flat!
Photo provided by Steven Pisano