Running is one of the simplest and most basic ways the human body is built to move—which is probably why it’s on almost every physical education teacher’s agenda, regardless of their students’ ages or grade levels. But just because running is fundamental doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Instead of heading out to the track to run laps, why not spice up the routine?
The following five PE running games are fun for students of all ages and will help you keep things fresh for your gym class.
1. Red Light, Green Light
This classic running game is great for interval training as well as building physical endurance and listening skills. Students line up at the starting line, and as soon as the teacher calls out “green light,” everyone starts running as fast as they can toward the finish line. When the teacher calls out “red light,” all the runners must freeze in place until the teacher calls out “green light” again. If the teacher calls out “yellow light,” the students must slow their pace until it’s time to freeze or run once again.
2. Band-Aid Tag
There is one Tagger and two Doctors in this silly twist on tag and the rest of the students are potential Patients who run to avoid being tagged. When runners are tagged, they must hold a “Band-Aid” (a hand) over the spot where they were tagged and continue running. If they’re tagged a second time, they have to hold their other hand over that spot as well and keep going. If they’re tagged a third time, they’re out of “Band-Aids” and become Patients, which means they have to freeze and wait for the Doctors to come “operate.” Both Doctors must tag a frozen player at the same time in order to “operate” and “heal,” or un-freeze, the Patient, so the player can start running again. This game gets goofy when the Tagger tags runners on silly or hard-to-reach spots like their heads, knees or backs!
3. Sharks And Minnows
This game might seem childish, but it can be lots of silly fun for all ages and in almost any space, whether you’re holding class in a gym, on a basketball court or in a field. Designate one student as the shark, and have them stand in the center of the play area. All the other students are the fish and should line up side-by-side at one end of the area. All the fish call out in unison, “Shark, shark, may we cross your ocean?” When the shark responds, “Go, minnows, go,” every student runs for the far side of the play area, trying to avoid being “eaten” (tagged) by the shark. If a runner is tagged, he or she then becomes a second shark and works with the first to tag other fish. The round or game is over when there’s only one minnow left.
4. Wacky Laps
There are times when running laps around a quarter- or eighth-mile track is necessary—but it never has to be boring. To make running laps more fun and interesting for your students, introduce Wacky Laps, in which they run every lap in a different (and wacky!) way. Students can run the first lap to music, the second lap backward, and the third lap as slowly as possible. They can run a lap weaving among cones, another while holding hands with a partner and another jumping over mini-hurdles (such as bean bags or any other small item that won’t trip them up). Letting the students brainstorm their own Wacky Laps is another great way to keep them engaged.
5. Criss-Cross Relay
Relay races are another great way to blend running practice with interval training and teamwork. For this whole-group relay, divide students into four groups and have each group line up in the four corners of your gym or play area. Designate the first runner—the first student in one of the lines, who will run diagonally across the play area to the group at the far corner, high-five the first runner there, and go to the end of that line. Meanwhile, the second runner (who received the high-five) has taken off to the third corner’s group to high-five that group’s first runner and head to the back of that line. That third runner will run diagonally across the area to high-five the fourth group’s first runner—and so on. The running pattern follows a continuous hourglass shape. To switch things up, have two students run at a time, and always diagonally across the play area, to create an X-shaped running pattern.