Relay races are games where equal teams race to achieve a task. Relay race games provide team competition for many different occasions – day camps, school recesses, and outdoor parties as well as many other group get-togethers. We have listed relay race ideas for many various ages and situations. Read on to find the perfect relay race for your needs.
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Messy Outdoor Relay Races
Warm summer days are perfect for outdoor relay races. Two of these games require using water and the third is messy enough you will want water for cleaning up the players.
Fill-it Water Race
Set up an obstacle course using whatever is available – tables, chairs, large rocks, etc. Give each team a plastic cup and a full bucket of water. Team members take turns filling the cup and racing to an empty bucket at the end of the course. The first team to fill the empty bucket wins the game.
Bobbing for Coins
Have team member take turns bobbing for coins in a tray filled with honey or another sticky substance. The fun part is that they cannot use their hands. After getting a coin and returning it to their team, they must go to another tray with puffed cereal and retrieve another object – large paper clips work well – and return that object to their team. The first team having all members complete both tasks is the winner. Make sure you have water available for cleanup, as this is a really messy game!
After dividing your group into teams, direct them to stand in rows. Place a bucket with water and a sponge in the front of the row and an empty bucket at the back. The goal is for each team to transport the water using the sponge from the front of the line to the back. The last person in line squeezes the filled sponge into the bucket and runs to the front of the line, where the task begins again. Set a timer and the team that manages to pass the most water before the time is up wins. For added fun, have the team members pass the sponge over their head and down the line.
Pass the Water
Similar to the sponge race, a plastic cup filled with water passes from one person to another from a full bucket at the beginning of the line to an empty one at the end. The person passing the water must use the teeth and have their hands clasped behind their back. Either this game can be played with a time limit or by having the first team to fill the bucket declared the winners.
Relay Races Using Balloons
Balloons are inexpensive and fun to use for relay race games. The following games work especially well with young children, but even adults will have fun with these games.
Pass the Balloon
Prior to playing this relay race, inflate a few balloons for each team, one for the start of the game and spares for those popped accidently. The goal of this relay race game is to pass the balloon down the teams’ rows by gripping the balloon between the knees. Every team member takes a turn and the team to complete passing the balloon to all the players first wins the game. Remember to tell players, “No hands allowed!”
Inflate enough balloons for each player. Have your team members line up in rows and place an empty chair opposite each row a good distance away. Give each player an inflated balloon. Team members race one at a time to the chair, sit on their balloon and pop it. The first team to pop all their balloons wins.
Two-Player Balloon Run
After dividing your group into teams, have the members of each team pair up. You can let them pick their own partners or assign them. However, make sure you explain the object of the game is to run an obstacle course holding a balloon with the sides of their heads, so it is best to choose someone the same height. Either set an amount of time to complete the course or declare as winner the first team to do so successfully.
Up Close and Personal Relay Races
This group of races requires bodily contact, so the games may not be appropriate for every age group and gathering. However, these games are fun, challenging, and will create many laughs.
Divide your group into two teams and have them stand in a line. The first person in each line holds an orange under their chin. The object of the game is to pass the orange down the line to the last person without using hands by holding the orange under the chin. When the orange gets to the end of the line, you can end the game or continue by having the last person run to the front and start over again.
This fun game pairs up team members for a race with a newspaper page held between them as they run to the goal. Begin by creating teams and then pairing up team members. Provide single newspaper pages for each team. The goal is to run to a finish line by while holding the newspaper page between them – no hands! If a pair drops their newspaper page, they must return to the start line and begin again. The team that has all their pairs complete the race first wins.
Vaseline Nose Race
A fun and somewhat silly relay race idea, this relay race game begins with each player having a dab of Vaseline placed upon his or her nose. Have a cotton ball for each team, with a few extras for those that fall and get messy. The players must pass the cotton ball from person to person – nose to nose. Remind the players no hands allowed. The winning team is the one that gets the cotton ball to the last person in the team’s line first.
Classic Relay Races
Although the following list of relay race games include those played for years, some may have been forgotten, and so we are including them here. Tried and true, these have remained favorites because of their simplicity and how they work well with any age group.
Down and Back Relay Race
Give each team an easy-to-hold ball. Each team must pass the ball down the line and then the last person in line runs to the front and the passing begins again. Alternatively, have the team members line up across from a designated line. Each player takes the ball and runs to a designated line and back again. They give the ball to the first person in line and then take their place at the back of the line. The first team to have the ball pass through the hands of all their team members wins.
Egg Relay Race
Have a hard-boiled egg available for each team with a few extras, “Just in case!” Give a spoon to the first two players in each line. The first player in the team’s line places the egg on the spoon, runs to a designated spot, turns and runs back, and transfers it to the next person’s spoon. If the egg drops, they must retrieve it using only the spoon – no hands. The race continues until each team member in the line has taken a turn. The first team to have all their members complete the run successfully wins.
Over Under, Over Under
Team members line up and each team receives a beanbag, small ball, or another easy to pass item. The goal is to pass the ball over the head and under the legs until it reaches the end of the line. The player at the end of the line runs to the front and passing starts over. When the last person in line returns to the front, the game is over, with the first team successfully completing the task winning.
Sack races are popular picnic past times. The original game used burlap feed sacks. Alternatively, large pillowcases work well. The team members must stand in the sack and hop down to a designated place, turn around, and hop back to their team’s line. The first team to get all the players to complete the race wins.
Divide your teams into pairs of players who are about the same height. Have the pairs stand side by side and use a piece of cloth or scarf to tie adjacent legs together. Each pair of players runs to a designated point and back again, and tags the next pair. If a pair of players falls down, they must get up while their legs remained joined. The first team with all their pairs completing the race first wins.
Relay Races for Kids
Some relay races work especially well for kids. Use one or more of these games for recess, summer day camp, or any time you have a group of kids needing an entertaining game.
Ping Pong Pushing
For this relay race game, you need a level surface. This relay race works well inside on a smooth floor. Each team is given a ping-pong ball and the goal is to push the ping-pong ball over a short distance with the nose. Set a point as a goal to reach and the team members must turn around and push the ball back to the beginning of their team’s line. The first team to have all their members complete the course is the winner.
Collect clothing that is large enough to be put on over the players’ own clothes. Create a pile for each team. Players must race to the pile of clothes, put all the clothes on, turn around, race back and take the clothes off. The next player in the line puts the clothes on and races back to the starting point. The first team to have everyone complete dressing and undressing wins. For added fun, make sure there are buttons, zippers, and ties that must be fastened.
This relay race works very well for a large group. Have everyone take off one shoe and put it in a large pile. Have your teams line up an equal distance away from the pile. One-by-one team members run to the pile and find their shoe, put it on and run back to their team’s line. The game is over when everyone from one team manages to complete the race.
You will need a bag of unshelled peanuts – enough for 10 per team – and two chairs for each team for this relay race. Have teams stand in a line holding the hands of their team members on either side of them. Place ten peanuts on a chair facing the front of the team. The other chair faces the team at the end of their line. The goal is to transfer the peanuts down the line one at a time while hands remained clasped. The first team to do so successfully wins.
Fan the Fish
Cut paper fish from colorful lightweight paper and give one to each player. Provide a magazine for fanning the fish. At some distance away, place a flat plate. The goal is for team members to fan the fish until it lands in the dish. They take turns doing so until all members of their team have fanned their fish into the plate. The first team to do so wins the game.
Older children will enjoy this relay race. Purchase inexpensive 50 piece jigsaw puzzles with the same picture – one for each team. The goal is to take one piece of the puzzle from the box and run to a table. If the piece can be assembled into the final puzzle picture, the player can do so. Each team member must take a puzzle piece. This continues until the all the puzzle pieces are on the table and the puzzle is assembled. If a team wishes to do so, they can transfer all the pieces and then pick one team member to assemble the puzzle.
Run, Waiter, Run
Give each team a ping-pong ball and a large dinner plate or small tray. Team members must carry the dinner plate or tray “waiter-style” down to a designated spot, and then turn around and carry the plate back to the next person. If a team member drops the ball, they must stop, put the ball back on the tray or plate and not take any steps to continue until they have done so. The winning team has all their members complete the race first.
Tips for Relay Races:
- Provide a demonstration if you think it is necessary before beginning a relay race.
- Choose your location for the relay race carefully. Some work best inside and others outside.
- Be aware of any unnecessary obstacles or possible dangers and remove them prior to the race.
- Have plenty of water for players to drink for outside relay races on hot summer days.
Relay race games are enjoyable not only for everyone who participates, but also for spectators. To add to the fun, have the teams choose crazy names. Additionally, make sure you use bright colors, wild prints, and play some music to get everyone in the mood. Create memories for every age and any group of people by playing relay races.
Susan majored in English with a double minor in Humanities and Business at Arizona State University and earned a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Liberty University. She taught grades four through twelve in both public and private schools. Subjects included English, U.S. and world history and geography, math, earth and physical science, Bible, information technologies, and creative writing.
Susan has been freelance writing for over ten years, during which time she has written and edited books, newspaper articles, biographies, book reviews, guidelines, neighborhood descriptions for realtors, Power Point presentations, resumes, and numerous other projects.