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As the head coach for Fleet Feet Sports, a family-owned and operated specialty running shop in Lincoln, Nebraska, Eddie Walters was excited when Marathon Kids reached out to see if he wanted to start a running club for kids through the store. (His exact response: “Umm… YESSS!”)

That first club, in 2018, was such a success that it was clear it was time to expand. As of this summer, Eddie now coaches three run clubs, collectively called Fleet Feet Marathon Kids: two in Lincoln—one through the store, the other a downtown club partnering with the Lincoln Police Department—and a third through the Fleet Feet store in Omaha. There are over 125 kids in the program, ranging from three-year-olds to eighth-graders, and the club continues to grow.

“Just having the opportunity to help kids stay active and running is a beautiful thing,” Eddie says. “Not to mention, for one hour a night, I get to be a kid, myself. You get to be the biggest goofball! When you get to be a kid again, it makes the night fly by.”

Each club meets once a week for an hour, on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday evening. The groups usually cover two miles per session: one mile on the track, and then another through playing a variety of games. Each runner takes their mileage charts home with them and logs their own miles throughout the rest of the week. “We encourage parents to put the logs on the fridge,” says Eddie, “and celebrate every single mile! We check in each week to see who ran how far and where.”

Running Is For Everyone

All kinds of children participate in the club, which Eddie believes is one of the coolest things about Marathon Kids. “Running is something that every kid can do. We have kids of all ages, and they all have their own story and own background. Some of them love to run, while others love to play games. We have kids that walk, run, or even skip.”

Runners who receive free or reduced-price lunches at school participate in the downtown club for free, sponsored jointly by Marathon Kids and the Lincoln Police Department. “We make sure that every kid can participate,” Eddie says. “If they need shoes, we get them donated. The idea is that no matter where you are in our community, you can be a part of Marathon Kids and you can come run with us.”

The downtown program has participants who face “obstacles you don’t normally see.” For them, Eddie says, it’s important to check in frequently so the children know they have support. “It has built a great relationship with the local police department, so the kids know who is there to help them and who is there to listen.”

A Focus On Fun, Not Competition

Eddie loves it when he receives a text from a parent about how much fun their child is having with Marathon Kids. He especially loves it when kids are so motivated to run, they ask their parents to run with them. But he acknowledges that it isn’t always easy. “I also love the kids that struggle with running. Sometimes kids are having a tough day, but we get to work with them, too. We get to motivate them and support them. Our goal is to have fun with every kid.”

After School Run Club for Kids

When running gets tough—as it does at some point for every runner—Eddie tries to empathize with his students and motivate them to push through the tough spots. “Every kid has their ups and downs,” he says. Sometimes the kids cry, or struggle. “You have to find a way to understand what is wrong and overcome it. A high-five or a hug can go a long way. Sometimes it can be a little work, but when you break the barrier, it is worth it.”

For Eddie, it doesn’t matter how fast the runners are; it only matters if they have a smile on their faces and they’re having fun. He does, however, enjoy challenging them. “I bet them that they can’t beat me to the next corner or around the track. Sometimes all you need to do is take them by the hand and run with them.”

Battling Against The Pull Of Technology

Eddie acknowledges that the run clubs, and physical activity in general, play a huge role in the children’s lives. “So many kids sit at home, play on their parents’ phones, or watch TV. They don’t realize the amount of fun you can have while running.” In today’s technology-filled world, he says, just getting kids outside is half the battle. “We are getting kids to run, and they don’t see it as work. They see it as a place for them to hang out with other friends and play games.”

Fleet Feet Marathon Kids

Eddie’s playing a long game, hoping to make running a habit for his run club kids so it will become an enjoyable part of their lives long-term. He hopes Marathon Kids will inspire them to start running 5K races or join the track team in middle or high school. “If not,” he says, “I know they will take up running again one day when they’re older and find a love for it.”

It’s All About Community

The biggest benefit Eddie’s seen in his runners since starting the Fleet Feet Marathon Kids club? “It’s all about the community. We have created something special through Marathon Kids. We get to teach kids why running is fun, but in return, they remind us why we enjoy the sport. We now have kids that reach out year-round to tell me about their running. They want to go run with their parents and they want to spend more time outside.”

Fleet Feet Marathon Kids

For anyone who is considering becoming a Marathon Kids run club coach, Eddie has this advice: “Do it, but make a promise that you will always be there for those kids. They think the world of you. Inspire them all to start running, and remind them that running can be fun. Watching them grow and develop through the program is amazing. Just wait for the first kid to come back after completing their first MARATHON! The excitement that you share with them will give you the greatest joy in life.”

ABOUT MARATHON KIDS

Marathon Kids is on a mission to get kids moving. The nonprofit organization offers free physical education programming through Marathon Kids Connect, a cloud-based PE and run club management platform that includes a mobile app for digital activity-tracking. 

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If you’ve got kids, you’re probably all too familiar with the summertime blues—that is, the constant, annual struggle to think of fun kids’ activities, preferably that don’t involve screen time, to help you and your family enjoy a simple summer together. Fun activities for kids’ summers don’t have to be elaborate, and they definitely don’t have to be expensive—in fact, most of our ideas below are perfectly free. Read on for 40 family fun ideas that are sure to engage kids of all ages, and parents, too!

Get Moving

Get Moving

1. Sign up for Walk and Talk, a free program for parents and kids to connect and get to know each other better while they take a walk. Marathon Kids provides the conversation starters and mileage logs to help you cover a full marathon together by summer’s end.

2. Have a jump rope contest—see which family member can jump the most times in a row, who can jump the highest, or who can achieve two turns of the rope in one jump.

3. Have a dance party in your living room, taking turns playing each family member’s favorite tunes.

4. Go hiking together at a state park or greenbelt.

5. Take a family walk after dinner, or even after dark (bring flashlights!).

6. Find an online kids’ yoga video so you can stretch and build strength together.

Get Creative

7. Make coffee filter art: Draw on a white coffee filter with washable markers. Then use a spray bottle filled with water to spritz your creations and make the colors run. Let the filters dry and then hang them in the window to enjoy their colorful beauty.

8. Make up your own ghost stories, and take turns telling them—at bedtime with a flashlight, if you dare.

9. Make puppets out of socks, gluing on googly eyes and yarn for hair or drawing faces on with markers, and then hold a puppet show.

10. Make a fort using couch cushions or dining chairs draped with sheets, and have snacks or just hang out inside.

11. Clip paper to an easel and fill water guns with watered-down paint to make squirt-paint art.

12. Make your own bean bag toss by cutting holes in a cardboard box and filling socks with dried beans or rice.

Get Outside

Get Outside

13. Linger outdoors at dusk to catch fireflies.

14. Stay outside past dark to gaze up at the stars and see how many constellations you can find—or make up your own.

15. Get a pack of sparklers and use them to trace your names or the words “I love you” in the air—even if it’s not the 4th of July.

16. Head to the park for swinging and sliding fun.

17. Roll down a grassy hill with your kids—it’ll make everyone giggle.

18. Hold a scavenger hunt in your yard or neighborhood, or make up a treasure map for your kids to find “treasure” that you’ve buried (think plastic beaded necklaces, pennies or cool erasers).

19. Blow bubbles, and see who can catch or pop the most.

Get Cool

20. Have a water balloon fight.

21. If you have a trampoline, toss water balloons while jumping!

22. Run through the sprinklers together.

23. Visit your local splash pad. Don’t forget to bring water bottles and snacks!

24. Visit your neighborhood pool and do “whale rides”—a kid or two riding on the parent’s back while the parent swims (head above water, to keep everyone safe!).

Get Out of Town

25. Take a quick day trip to a nearby town.

26. Visit an antique store or swimming hole that’s far enough away that you normally wouldn’t make it a priority.

27. Go camping at a state park.

28. Visit a state fair in another city or county.

Get Comfy Indoors

29. Set up your camping tent in the living room for a family sleepover, and enjoy true “glamping” with all the comforts of home.

30. Have a family card or board game night.

31. Play hide-and-seek. Switch it up by playing a zombie or reverse version of this timeless game. (In reverse hide-and-seek, only one person hides, while everyone else seeks. When someone finds the hider, they join them by squishing together into their hiding space—no matter how small it might be!)

Get Bookish

32. Head to your local public library for new books, magazines, videos or music to enjoy, or check their schedule for story times and other family fun listings.

33. Attend a reading by a children’s or young-adult author at a local bookstore.

34. Write a story or make a picture book together, collaborating on words, plot and artwork.

35. Have a family book club—everyone reads the same book, either together or independently, and then meets up for snacks and discussion about what they read.

Get Yummy

36. Make s’mores together in your back yard, or simply over the stove.

37. Make lemonade from scratch. Mix it up by adding fresh orange or lime juice, strawberry slices, or frozen berry puree.

38. Find the nearest fifties-style diner where you can enjoy a slice of pie, or make your own pie at home from scratch.

39. Make simple popsicles: Freeze a mixture of pineapple and orange juices, or any juice you enjoy, in popsicle molds, and enjoy their sweet, drippy goodness together.

40. Have a blindfolded taste test with ice cream treats, or have each family member review their ice cream like a professional food critic.

ABOUT MARATHON KIDS

Marathon Kids is on a mission to get kids moving. The nonprofit organization offers free physical education programming through Marathon Kids Connect, a cloud-based PE and run club management platform that includes a mobile app for digital activity-tracking.