Building Stamina with Movement Activities
Developing stamina is important for young children.

STAMINA is the strength and energy that allows us to sustain physical or mental effort for long periods of time. Children naturally have a lot of energy, but several issues threaten the stamina of many children in the world today. Failure to exercise is a primary cause of lack of stamina.

Nowadays children spend long periods of time being sedentary. In general, they do not run around as much as they once did. This means they are not developing a natural level of stamina that promotes overall fitness. Children with a low level of stamina become easily fatigued. They are less inclined to join others in the playground to play football or to participate in sporting hobbies that require a high level of fitness.

Due to factors such as limited space, fewer playgrounds and digital distractions, high-intensity exercise is seldom experienced. For example, children are not running, jumping, skipping with a rope, doing repetition of aerobic movements, all of which involve the use of the bigger muscles and increase the heart rate.

Children need to build up a sweat, become tired and be “out-of-breath”. This is what develops endurance and healthier hearts and muscles.

I have found in my own karate teaching business that it is getting harder and harder to inspire children to move and to give their best. Often it is because they just don’t have the stamina or physical fitness to persevere and improve. They run out of energy, their muscles get tired and their concentration deteriorates. If this is how it is for children now, what will their physical condition be when they are adults?

Here are five ways to develop stamina in a playful way for children of ages four to eight years.

1  Running challenge

If space allows having the children in one line, each having their own space. If your group is too big to do this, place the children in pairs and turns can be taken.

If you do not have cones to use as markers, shoes or any other safe object will work just as well.


Place the children in a line next to their own marker a safe distance apart.

Place a second marker several meters away. If you have markers of different colors this helps the children differentiate which is their own.

Explain that you will count to ten and that the children have to run back and forth as many times as they can within that time frame, touching their markers as they do so. Remind them to count their runs.

Count with a loud voice and on reaching ten the children have to stop still and when asked, say how many times they managed to run back and forth.

Do this two or three times, always encouraging the children to beat their previous count. This means they push themselves to do better and in doing so developing stamina and endurance.

To add challenge:
Adjust the running distance, count to a higher number or count faster.
You can have running races outside so longer distances can be run.

2  Relay Races

Relays are a great energizer. They do not take long and the kids love doing them because it is challenging and fun.

Relays can be done with two or more children, preferably not more than four ,so that there is not too much of a break between turns.

If you are aware of the physical ability of your children, be sure to create mixed groups so that it is not always the same “fast” team winning.

Each group needs to have an equal start and end point. Cones or shoes can be used for this purpose.

The first child must do the given exercise to the end point, return, touch the hand of the next person in line, and they then have their turn.

The movements can be running, doing short fast jumps, long big jumps, backward running, hopping, kicking the feet out in front or kicking them behind. These are all high intensity activities that can be done.

You can mix it up and have the children run forwards there and backwards to return, for example.

Use a strong voice when giving instructions and be clear about what has to be done.

To add challenge:
The children can have two or three turns doing the same activity before they are finished.

Or you can count to a certain number by which time all groups must have finished their turns.

Children love a challenge, whether it be a team or a time challenge, the fact that they are tired and sweating will go by unnoticed because they are so focused on the challenge and not on the tiring activity they are doing.

3  Tag It

This game has different names world wide and there are many versions of the game, but no matter what it is called or how it is played, it is fun, and children love playing it. It is another great way to develop stamina without realizing it.


Choose one player to be the “tagger” and have the rest of the players become “runners”.  The tagger stands still and counts down from ten to start the game.

The runners have to avoid getting touched by the tagger. The tagger has to chase everyone around until they manage to tag (touch) someone. The touched person then becomes the tagger.

Play tag until all the players are exhausted or until each person has had a turn at being the tagger at least once during the game.

4  Skipping / Rope Jumping

Skipping with a rope is an important skill to learn because children develop their sense of rhythm and timing. However, learning to skip can be challenging for some children.

The length of the rope should not be too long or too short. A rope that is 180 to 200 cm (about six feet) in length is usually suitable for younger children.

If the rope appears to be too long, the hands can be moved further down the rope, making it shorter and more manageable.


First, be sure all children have a skipping rope of a suitable length and that each child is placed in a safe space.

Give the children a specific number of skips to skip or have them skip as many times as they can for a specific length of time. By giving the children a goal to reach, they are then more focused and more likely to give extra effort to achieve it and in doing so developing stamina.

Skipping can be done by jumping with the feet together or by stepping over the rope.

To add challenge:

Have a skipping marathon. see who can skip the longest without stopping.
 Increase the number of skips as the children become more competent.

For older children, do two or three rounds of 30 seconds and encourage them to beat their previous record.

Here is a video on how to each a child to skip.

5  Ball Games

Football is always popular and other than playing an actual game of football, there are many drills to practice that require running. Here are a few ideas:

A ball can be dribbled in and out of cones.

The ball can be dribbled towards a goal and kicked between the goal posts. Create your own goal posts, if needed, using cones or shoes. The ball can then be collected and returned back to the start line.

The ball can be kicked and the child must run after it and bring it back within a certain time frame.

The ball can be passed from one to another in pairs while running forwards.

It is up to us, the adults, to inspire the children in our care to move often and to move well. Here in Finland it is recommended that children in kindergartens do activities of low, medium and high intensity levels each day.

Finnish children are given the opportunity to explore movement on their own and to participate in teacher-led movement activities. The Finnish education authorities are very much aware of the importance of children developing healthy bodies in order to bolster academic performance in later years.

I hope that by reading this article you will be inspired to do more high-intensity movement with your children and to understand the importance of doing so.

Let’s keep our kids moving!

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The MoovKids program now has over 200 fun, skill-focused movement activity ideas.

MoovBasic provides a wide range of fun movement activities of different intensity levels using simple equipment. To learn more about MoovBasic watch this video and subscribe here!