Running is a good way to increase your cardiovascular health, strengthen your legs, and get some regular time outdoors. But getting kids interested in running can be hard since it can seem boring. Motivating kids to run by making it seem special, signing them up for competitive but fun and kid-friendly races, playing running games, or encouraging them to run while they do other activities can increase kids’ interest in running.
Motivating Kids to Run
Don’t over-criticize. The quickest way to make a kid lose interest in an activity is to continually criticize how they perform that activity. When they’re first getting involved with running, don’t criticize their form or speed (or lack thereof). Instead, emphasize the fun they’re having.
- For example, if you notice that their form needs work, sandwich it between two positive comments. So you could say something like, “It really seems like you’re running faster! Just make sure you keep your back straighter while you run. But your stride looks really good!”
Help kids set their own goals. For a kid to get interested in anything – not just running – they have to feel like they own the activity. A good way to foster this sense of ownership is by helping kids set their own running goals.
- Goals can include time goals – maybe they want to be able to run a mile in 20 minutes or run a 100 yard dash in a certain amount of time.
- Kids can also have non-timed goals. For example, maybe they want to be able to run a whole mile without stopping.
- It doesn’t really matter what the goals are, as long as the kids themselves are setting them.
Celebrate running victories. Celebrating kids’ running victories is another way to keep them motivated about running. Once kids have set their goals, help them celebrate when they meet them.[3
- You can say something like “You ran that whole half mile without changing your pace once! Way to go!”
- Your celebrations should still support the healthy lifestyle that running engenders in kids. Celebrate with healthy snacks or a cute card. Try to resist celebrating with something like cupcakes.
Help kids pick out special running clothes. Another good way to motivate kids to run is by making an event out of choosing running clothes. Take them shopping for a new outfit especially for running, or for new shoes that are only running shoes. This makes the whole experience feel special.
- If you don’t have the money for new clothes, you can help them go through their existing wardrobe and pick out an outfit that’s just for running. Encourage them to keep it separate from their regular clothes and only wear it when they’re ready to run.
Create a playlist. If the kids have a music player or a phone with music-playing capabilities, you can help them create a running playlist. This adds to the feeling that running is special. Music also works as a good motivation to keep moving.
Participating in Fun Runs
Sign up for a family fun run. Family fun runs are a great way to get the whole family running while introducing your kids to competitive races without overwhelming them. Most family fun runs have a variety of course distances you can choose from, which make them a great option if your kids are different ages.
- These runs usually take place in the spring or fall, depending on where you live. You can get more information about family fun runs in your area from community newsletters, magazines, and some cities’ official websites.
Try a mud run. Mud runs are part competitive race, part obstacle course, and many adult mud runs have a kid version that happens on the same day. Mud runs give your kids an excuse to get dirty while they run, which is a great way to get them interested in running.
- Make sure you check out what the obstacle course for the kids’ mud run looks like. You don’t want to sign your kids up for a mud run that is beyond their abilities. This can actually turn them off from running, rather than making them more interested.
- Make sure the clothes your kids wear for a mud run are expendable – the stains might not come out.
- www.thecolorrun.com has all of the dates and locations of upcoming Color Runs.
- If your kid is participating in this type of run, make sure they can run in their costume – you don’t want anyone tripping over a cape or a skirt.
- This is a great option for a multi-generational run – mermaid run organizers encourage runners of all ages and abilities to participate.
- As with other mud runs, make sure your kids are up to tackling the obstacles that are part of a Spartan run.
Playing Running Games
- Playing catch has the added benefit of improving your kids’ hand-eye coordination.
- Set the players at a starting line a fair distance from the boss of the round. This distance can vary depending on the age of the players – if your players are younger, you can start them a little closer. If they’re older, they can start further back.
- The boss stands with their back to the players and calls “Green light!” which is the players’ cue that they should start running toward the boss. The boss calls “red light!” and spins around quickly. Anyone still moving when the boss turns around is out of the game.
- Whoever touches the boss first wins and takes over as boss for the next round.
Combining Running with Other Activities
- You can also encourage your kids to run with their friends. This matches them with fellow runners whose abilities and speed are probably closer to their own.
- Basketball, baseball, and soccer are good sports to get kids to start running.