How to Teach Your Kids to Run

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Do you enjoy running alone or with someone? While many of us enjoy running for the alone time and the space it gives us to think and reflect, most runners also like the social aspect of the sport.

Running as a family is one of the greatest things for parents who love to run! It’s never too early to get your kids involved, and running with them can be an amazing bonding experience.

Not sure how to teach your kids to run? Here are some ideas and advice for getting kids of all ages interested in and involved in running. Plus, we’ve got some strategies for teaching them how to run properly from the start.

Why Should Kids Run?

If you run, you know some of the benefits. But it may not have crossed your mind to instill a love of running in your children.

However, there are a bunch of excellent benefits of running that your kids should be taking advantage of now while they’re young!

Here are a few of the top reasons to start introducing your kids to running while they’re still young.

Instills the Importance of Physical Fitness

It’s not easy to fit physical fitness into everyday life as an adult. For many of us, it’s not something we bring with us from childhood, which makes it much harder to incorporate into daily life when you already have a routine.

Teaching your kids to run from a young age instills a love for physical fitness and health. This is something we should all be teaching our children!

When they grow up with health and fitness being part of their daily life, it’s so much easier to keep that up as they move into adulthood.

Teaches Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Do you find that going for a run helps to calm your busy mind, relieve stress, and bring your anxiety levels down? Wouldn’t you want that same thing for your child?

In today’s world, it’s incredibly easy for kids to turn to dangerous and damaging methods of coping with stress. Drug abuse, alcohol, violent video games, and other coping mechanisms have become the norm.

While learning to run won’t necessarily shield your kid from the harshness of the world, it does offer them a healthier coping mechanism when they’re anxious or stressed.

It’s a well-known fact that exercise releases feel-good chemicals that can ease stress and anxiety. Teaching your kids to utilize exercise for that serotonin boost instead of other means is extremely valuable.

Helps Them Appreciate Nature

You can’t do a trail run without appreciating the beauty surrounding you! Introducing your kids to running early in their life gets them used to being out and about, surrounded by nature and breathing in fresh air.

It’s a well-documented fact that spending time in nature can improve mental health, boost cognitive abilities, and reduce stress levels.

Starting your kid off spending time in nature when they’re young sets them up for better mental health, sharper thinking skills, and a happier life as an adult!

Way of Bonding With Parents Who Run

Wondering how to meet your kids halfway and find shared experiences to bond over? Running could be the perfect way to do just that.

It’s an excellent activity to do as a family. There are plenty of options, too. Take a jog around the block, do a park run, or go for a hike/trail run as a family.

The potential for fun is high! Add in a bit of competition, make it a bit of a game, and you’ve got a healthy, fun activity that brings the family together.

How to Teach Your Kids to Run

If your kids aren’t already into running, how do you actually teach them to run? The key is bringing running into their life in an age-appropriate way.

Obviously, you know your kid best! You’ll have a good idea of how to motivate them to learn to run, and how best to involve them in your current running schedule.

Keep in mind, though, that some kids just aren’t going to enjoy the sport, no matter how much you’d like them to.

Don’t force them to run if they really aren’t keen on it! Rather, find other ways to keep your kids fit and happy and bond with them.

For those kids who do love to get physical, though, here are some ideas for getting them excited about running, no matter what age they may be.

Toddlers

Toddlers have a lot of energy… Until they don’t. Keep in mind that your kids will exercise in short bursts at this age! Then, they’ll probably crash, but you’ll most likely find that they sleep extra well when running becomes a regular part of their life.

At this stage, your best bet is to introduce your kiddie to running-related games. It’s highly unlikely that your toddler is going to enjoy the hypnotic monotony of running that we adults actually quite like.

So you need to make it attractive and fun for them. Games are the ideal way to do that. Things like relay races, obstacle course races, playing tag, or capture the flag all get your kids into the swing of things and they don’t even realize they’re exercising!

As they get older, you can begin to introduce proper running. Again, don’t force this on them. Bringing it in in a fun way is your best bet.

If they lose interest, though, don’t be offended or upset. Rather, find ways to keep them healthy and active and try again when they’re a little older!

Ideas

  • Play running games
  • Set up an obstacle course
  • Challenge them to a race (and let them win)
  • Reward them for running around the yard or to a particular spot

Elementary to Pre-Teens

Children of this age need constant stimulation to prevent boredom from setting in! At this stage, getting your kid a fitness tracker could be a great way to challenge them and keep them running.

With a fitness tracker, you can set goals, reach milestones, and play fitness-related games. While games are a fun way to pass the time and stay active, setting and ticking off goals is a good way of working towards running goals with your kid, or as a family.

The big bonus for parents here is that these trackers also often have safety features on them, which can go a long way towards your peace of mind when your kid is active!

Ideas

  • Get them a fitness tracker
  • Add a running-related activity to their chores
  • Set goals and work towards them together
  • Challenge them to a race or a running game
  • Start tracking distance or running time daily
  • Enter family or parent/child runs or triathlon events

Teenagers

Most teens love a high-tech gadget, so getting them a smartwatch for their birthday or Christmas could kickstart things a bit. Most smartwatches are designed with fitness in mind, so if they want to make full use of it, exercise will be needed.

A pair of high-tech running shoes could provide the same motivation for some kids and teens. For a lot of teens, the image will be a factor too!

However, if you do choose to get your teen a fancy bit of tech to motivate them, it might be a good idea to include a condition. As in, they need to run with you at least once a week so you can make sure they’re using it for its intended purpose!

Ideas

  • Win them over with technology (smartwatches, shoes, etc)
  • Create a running program or schedule to do together
  • Commit to doing a parent/teen event, whether running or triathlon
  • Ask your teen to be your accountability partner (not going to work for all teens!)
  • Create a competition (ie. who can get the best time in a particular race, who can log the most miles in a week, etc) and offer rewards!

Conclusion

Once the running bug bites, there’s no getting rid of it! Introducing your kids to running at an early age can set them up for a healthier, more well-rounded life.

Whatever age or temperament your kids are, remember that not all kids are going to be into running, no matter how much you may love it. If you try to get your kid into it and they just don’t love it despite multiple attempts, their passion obviously lies elsewhere!

But many kids, when given the chance, will embrace running with gusto. Sharing your passion with your child could be the best thing you ever do for them!

Why wait? Start incorporating running into your kids’ lives early and they’ll certainly reap the benefits as they get older.

Above all, remember to have fun as a family and always be encouraging, loving, and have a spirit of fun. It’s not a huge competition when your kids are involved.

Rather than making it about winning, instill in them the love of the feeling you get when you’re running against wind, the high when you hit your stride, and the pure joy of being out in the fresh air, surrounded by nature.

That’s something that’s well worth sharing with our kids!

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AUTHOR

Shanna is a writer who runs... And cycles, jumps rope, and lifts weights. She lives in beautiful South Africa and enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with other avid athletes.