Learn how coaches of children’s running programs make
every run a FUN RUN.

When you want kids to have fun, you have to be having fun yourself. Just laugh and enjoy the moment, even when the kid you sent to get a cone reports back for his next assignment.

Picture day is a big event. Let the kids pick from 2-3 options and email the pictures to the parents. Crossing the finish line, arms high in the air, is always a favorite.






Putting fun into your kids’ running program requires planning, helped, of course, by drawing ideas from others who have been successful. Here are just a few ideas from the CENTER FOR CHILDREN’S RUNNING on how to make every run a Fun Run.

¦  Run in different places whenever possible. It will make each run a new experience as well as let the runners discover what it is like to run on different surfaces and terrain. And not only run in different places, but find a few unusual places or places where kids can learn something about where they live.

¦  Kids love games, so include running games as often as you can. For example, kids games like Simon Says and Red Light, Green Light work great for running, stretching, upper body exercises and almost anything else kids can do to get fit.

¦  Establish lots of relay records, including those for distances and with a number of runners that no one has tried before. Some records may stand forever. Others can be annual relays with each new team trying to break the record set the year before.

¦  Running on a track at night under the field lights with music over a PA system can be a real adventure for kids.

¦  Give the kids colorful rubber bands for their wrists for each lap or circuit completed. They will wear them with great pride (and it helps you count how many circuits each runner completed).

¦  Keep changing the focus. Have the kids run loops around a park or cemetery one day with the goal of setting a team record for how many loops or miles run; then go to a track the next time to do sprint starts and relay exchanges.

¦  Have special runs for each holiday; there is almost one every month. A Turkey Trot Prediction Run or a night run with flashlights around Halloween can be great fun.

¦  Create opportunities for the kids to compete against their personal bests but not against each other. Sure, coming in first is fun, but what about finishing somewhere near the back of the pack? Is that as much fun?

¦  Offer the popular Mileage Club® Toe Tokens™, not just for miles run but also for mastering skills like relay exchanges, upper body strength, perfect attendance and make-up or bonus runs.

¦  Kids love treats after a run. This can be as simple as individually sealed Life Savers® or a piece of fresh fruit. Popsicles® are, of course, always a favorite. After the kids finish running, a treat allows them to stick around with their friends for a few minutes.

¦  Don’t be afraid to join the fun. If you have a run where the kids wear their pajamas, the coach should wear them too. Give them a good laugh; maybe take pictures. 

¦  Occasionally, have the kids wear race numbers and make a big deal out of it. Maybe a prediction-run with one volunteer recording finishing times and another recording the numbers.

¦  Give certain runs names, and especially the special runs you do. They can be fun names or names that reflect the terrain or a unique challenge. When you talk about these runs give them special status and, perhaps, a bit of mystique.

¦  On runs where you might use cones to mark the course, use parents instead. The parent can cheer the kids on and if the kids are running more than one circuit you can add to the fun by having the parents move to a new spot each time around.

¦  Periodically have a team picnic or go to a movie together or go to a local pool or lake on a hot day. And be sure to recognize birthdays each month and even who lost a tooth or got a new pet.

¦  Find a parent who will take photos and put him or her to work. Take team shots, action shots and candid shot of kids having fun. Most kids love seeing photos of themselves. E-mail them to parents and use them for school posters or a newsletter.

¦  Every kid needs to get an award sometime. Make up zany categories and then visit your local dollar store for inexpensive prizes. Keep it simple and keep it silly. Kids will love it.

¦  For many kids a hug tells them you care. Sure, there will be some who will have no interest in being hugged. That’s fine. For others, simply be available. When the time is right open your arms and let those who want a hug come and get it.

¦  Keep current on popular TV shows and movies. When putting kids in small groups give each group a name -- the Squidward Squad or the Team Sam. The kids will know who they are. But stay current. Squidward and Sam may be long gone in a year.

¦  Many runners fondly remember their coach giving them a nickname. This works great, but once you start you will need to do it for every kid. No one wants to be left out. 

¦  If a road race in your area is looking for volunteers, consider staffing an aid station along the course. Let the kids hand out water cups and, of course, clean up after. The kids will love it, plus it gives them a unique exposure to running, far better than just watching the action from the side of the road.

¦  Have a guest runner join in every once in a while. It could be a high school or college runner, a teacher the kids know or some local personality. Just plan on briefing them on your particular message before they come so they don’t hype something you are not encouraging.

¦  Schedule a photo day. Take some team shots and then let the kids pick from a couple of options for individual pictures. Even though we are downplaying the racing thing, many will pick crossing the finish line breaking the tape with their arms raised high in the air. 

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