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relay-races-for-kids

There’s something about standing at the front of a starting line.  Any starting line.

Whether it’s at a local 5K race that I’ve been “training” for or the potato sack race at our school’s carnival when I was a kid, they are all the same.  The adrenalin.  The excitement.  And the anticipation.  Then, you hear the starting whistle and you’re off.  Releasing all of your emotions with your first few steps. 

Relay races for kids aren’t much different.  Having watched a number at my kids’ birthday parties over the years, they cause just as much excitement for the kids participating as the adults watching.  There’s just something about that starting line.

Traditionally, a relay race is a race multiple people participate in on a team.  Each player takes turns completing different parts with the goal for their team to finish first.  

Relay races for kids aren’t that much different than the first relay races in the Olympics.  They still involve a goal (although usually a bit sillier than passing a baton) and the participants (and supporters) get just as excited.

The best part about relay races for kids is that they make fun activities for any kind of celebration.  They are perfect for your child’s next birthday, neighborhood block party, school event or holiday get together. 

And you can customize these relay races for kids to match any party theme.  For a Halloween celebration, think mini gourds instead of eggs when running the Egg and Spoon Race.  Or at your Superhero party, kids can race to dress up as Superheroes instead of using regular clothing in a Dress Up Race.

Before organizing relay races for kids at your event, consider how competitive you want to make them.  Some kids love competition and others avoid the topic altogether.  When planning your races, consider if you want to give out prizes, have winners or losers or just complete the races for fun. 

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Many relay races for kids are great for indoor and outdoor events.  But it’s important to have the space to move around for any relay race that you organize, so be sure to choose races that match your venue.  When planning the race, also make sure that any equipment you need is ready to go.  From lots of experience, kids don’t have the patience to wait around while you find spoons or hula hoops. 

I have included kids relay race ideas that use little equipment and are simple to set up.  There is a reason for this.  It can be intimidating to put together fun party activities.  The reality is that keeping kids entertained isn’t always easy.  I wanted to take the overwhelming feeling out of organizing relay races.  They really are a wonderful party game.  Hopefully, this makes planning them easier.  

When setting up your relay races for kids, make sure to use cones (affiliate) to mark clear start and finish lines as well as turn around points. If you are planning multiple races with different starting and finishing points, cones are easily moveable and quick to set up. 

You also want to have a measuring tape on hand so you can measure the distance between the start and finish lines if necessary.  Different races have a variety of distances based on who is participating and the type of race it is.  By measuring correctly, you can set a more accurate distance for each race.  

So, here are some of my favorite relay races for kids.  I love them because they are fun to play and simple to set up.  Two of the most important qualities of a good party game.  Just keep in mind the number one rule – have fun. 

Water Relay Race

Play it… Outdoors

Supplies Needed: Buckets, large sponges (affiliate)

Fill each bucket with water and place at the starting line.  Put an empty bucket for each team at the finish line.  Mark a line inside the bucket where the water needs to be filled to. 

Have the first player dip their sponge into the bucket of water.  Then, the player runs to the other bucket and wrings out the sponge into the empty bucket.  Next, the player runs back to the starting line and hands the sponge to the next player. 

Play continues until the bucket at the finish line is filled to the line.

Alternative Race Idea:  Instead of using sponges, have the kids transport the water in plastic cups.  Players fill the cups and race them to the finish line.  Then, switch players.

As a special note, this was my favorite relay race when I was a kid.  We always played it on hot days and it was wonderfully refreshing to get wet.  On that note, players WILL get wet.  I recommend wearing swim suits or quick drying clothes.  A sunny day also helps.  And make sure you keep this race outside.  You’d hate players falling on wet, slippery floors.

Three Legged Race

Play it… Outdoors (on soft ground such as grass or sand)

Supplies Needed:  Old Stockings (cut into 3 foot long strips)  

Note:  For relay races, I try to keep supplies on hand in the garage.  This way we don’t have to plan too far ahead if neighbors show up wanting to have a race day.  I have taken the kids and my old stockings from the donation bags and cut off the torso.  This creates a soft fabric piece that can be used to tie for the race.

Have kids choose a partner.  Tie one person’s left leg to the other person’s right leg.  Before starting the race, encourage the pairs to practice walking around so they get used to having their legs tied together.

For the race, line up the pairs of children at the starting line.  Shout “Go”!  Kids race to the finish line.  The first pair of kids to cross the finish line wins.  

When setting up the race distance, choose something that makes sense for the players.  For younger kids, stick with a shorter distance.  Older kids will have more stamina to race further.  

Alternative Race Idea:  Set up an obstacle course for kids to run three legged.  They can try to move around cones, hop through hula hoops or even kick a ball.

Wheelbarrow Race

Play It… Outdoors (on softer ground such as grass)

Supplies Needed:  None

Have kids choose a partner.  One partner lifts the other partner to hold their legs.  On the signal, the kids race to the turning point.  The first partner uses their hands while the other partner holds their legs. At the turning point, the partners switch positions.  The first pair to cross the finish line wins.

Alternative Race Idea:  If you have more than one child sized wheelbarrow (affiliate), you could try this race using an actual wheelbarrow.  Fill the wheelbarrow with beach balls or balloons.  The players push the wheelbarrow, trying not to lose any of the contents.

Sack Race 

Play It… Outdoors (soft grass preferable)

Supplies Needed:  Potato sacks (affiliate) (you can also purchase these at a local feed supply store) or pillowcases

Give each child a sack.  The player steps into the sack with both feet and pulls it up.  At the signal, the players hop to the finish line.  The first player to cross the finish line wins.

Alternative Race Idea:  Have the kids hop forwards to a turning point and then hop backwards to the finish line.  You can also make it a true relay race.  Have the kids hop in teams.  When they return to the starting point, the player hands the sack to the next player.  All of the kids must cross the finish line to win.

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Egg and Spoon Race

Play It… Outdoors or Indoors

Supplies Needed:  Spoons (one per a player), Egg (one per a team) (hard boiled, plastic or even a ping pong ball can be fun)

Divide the players into two teams.  Give each player a spoon and each team an egg.  Line the teams up at the starting line.  Each player needs to carry the egg on the spoon to the turn around point and back again.  When they return to the start, they carefully pass the egg to the next player.  All of the players must complete the race to win.

Alternative Race Idea:  When I used to participate in this race as a kid, we used real eggs.  Those were the days.  If you are daring and don’t mind a mess, try this relay race with a real egg.  It’s quite a challenge.  (Note: I do NOT recommend using real eggs inside.  If you decide to use real eggs, be sure that the kids are walking on a softer surface.  Less breakage when they do fall.)

Another idea is to fill the plastic egg with some small toys/treats.  If the egg falls and breaks open, the player must put the treats back in the egg before continuing on.  

You can also make the race more challenging by setting up obstacles along the way.  Or have the players skip instead of walk.  

Soccer Ball Relay

Play It… Outdoors or Indoors

Supplies Needed:  Soccer Ball, Cones (affiliate)

Set up cones about three feet apart from each other.  Divide the kids into teams.  The first player dribbles the soccer ball through the cones to the turn around point.  Then, the player picks up the soccer ball and runs back to tag the next player.  The first team to successfully dribble through all of the cones wins.

Alternative Race Idea:  Have the players jump to the turn around point with the soccer ball between their legs.  Or divide the players into pairs.  Have the players pass the ball between them as they race to the finish line.  The first pair to cross the finish line without losing their ball wins.

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Water Balloon Toss

Play It… Outdoors (you will get wet)

Supplies Needed:  Filled Water Balloons

Have kids partner up.  Give each pair a water balloon.  Have them stand about one foot apart.  When you shout “Go!”, one child tosses the water balloon to the other child.  Once caught, that child throws it back to their partner. 

If both children catch the water balloon, each takes a step back.  Play continues until the water balloon drops or breaks.  If it drops, but doesn’t break, kids can start over from the beginning.

Alternative Race Idea:  Swap out the water balloons for hard boiled eggs and have an egg toss instead.  Just as much fun, but a different challenge.  

Balloon Bounce

Play It… Outdoors or Indoors

Supplies Needed:  Blown Up Balloons

Give each child a balloon.  When you say “Go!”, players need to keep the balloon in the air only using their heads.  The person who can keep it aloft the longest wins.

This game needs a lot of space.  So when planning, make sure that you have a large indoor space or a field area to play on.

Alternative Race Idea:  Play this game with teams.  Time each team to see how long they can keep the balloon in the air together.  Or change the body part.  Instead of using their heads, players need to use their arms (not hands) or any body part, but their hands.  

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Dress Up Relay

Play It… Outdoors or Indoors

Supplies Needed:  A lot of old clothes (When we used to play this race as kids, we would use clothes that we collected from thrift stores and yard sales.  You could also raid the attic or your donation clothes basket.)  

If you are having a themed party, you could use make your Dress Up Relay match your theme.  A Superhero party could use capes and masks.  A tea party might feature fancy dresses and high heels (be careful running in these).

Place two sets of dress up items in a box or suitcase at the end of the race area.  Divide the group into two teams.

On your signal, the first player runs down to their dress up box, puts on all of the dress up items and then runs back to their team.  When they arrive, they take off the clothing items and give them to the next player.  This player puts them on and races the playing area length.  When they return, they pass the items onto the next player.  

Play continues until all team members have raced in the dress up clothes one time.  

Alternative Race Idea:  After the players put the clothes on, have them race to the turning point in a different way – skip, hop, run backwards, etc.  When they reach the turning point, players can run back to the starting point before switching clothes.

Another idea is to have the first player put on one item from the pile and then run back to the starting line.  Then, the second player puts on that item and adds a new one from the pile.  The play continues until all of the items are used or all of the players have played.

Bean Bag Pass

Play It…  Outdoors or Indoors

Supplies Needed:  Bean Bags (affiliate)

Divide kids into two teams and have them sit down in a line.  Give the first player the bean bag.  On the signal, the first player passes the bean bag to the player sitting behind them.  This person passes the bean bag to the next player.  The first team to pass the bean bag to the last player wins.

Alternative Race Idea:  One idea to extend this race is to have players pass the bean bag backwards and forwards.  Once the bean bag reaches the last player, they pass it back up to the first player again.  The team that passes the bean bag down and up the line first wins.

Another idea is to increase the distance between the players.  Instead of a simple pass backwards, the players more have to toss the bean bag behind them.

Bathtime Relay

Play It…  Outdoors or Indoors

Supplies Needed:  Things for bathtime – a robe, slippers, towel, rubber duckie, shower cap, bar of soap, etc.

This race is similar to a Dress Up Relay, but you are getting ready for bathtime instead.  At the turn around point, place the pile of bathtime accessories.  You can add to the challenge by using adult sized items.

Divide the kids into two teams and have them form lines at the starting point.  On your signal, the first player races to the pile and gets ready for bathtime.  Then, they race back to the starting point.  The player takes off all of the bathtime clothes.  The next player puts on the clothes and grabs the accessories. 

Then, they run down to the turn around point and back.  Play continues until all of the entire team has put on the bathtime clothes and run the race.  The first team to complete the race wins.

Alternative Race Idea:  Instead of the players dressing in the items all at once, the first player can choose one item.  Then, hand that off to the second player and they can add a second item.  

If you find that you don’t have two sets of bathtime supplies, have each team run the race individually.  You can time them instead.  The team with the fastest time wins.

Balloon Hop Race

Play It… Outdoors or Indoors

Supplies Needed:  Blown-up Balloons

Although this race is fun, it is best played with kids older than 4 or 5.  The balloon can pop during play and smaller children might be frightened by the loud popping noise.  Also, the remnants of the popped balloon can be a choking hazard with little ones.

Divide the kids into two teams.  Give the first player a balloon.  The player puts the balloon between their knees.

At your signal, the players hop to the turn around point with the balloon between their knees.  If they drop the balloon, they need to return to the starting point to try again.  Once the players reach the turn around point, they grab the balloon and race back to the starting line.  Then, the players hand the balloon to the next player in line.

The first team to have all the players successfully return to the finish line wins.

Alternative Race Idea:  Make it a balloon toss relay race instead.  The first player tosses the balloon to the second player.  Then, the first player runs up and the second player tosses it to them.  When they reach the turn around point, players race back and the next two players toss the balloon.  First team who completes the race wins.  Kind of like a balloon leap frog. 

Turtle Crawl Relay

Play It… Outdoors or Indoors

Supplies Needed: None

Divide the kids into two teams.  Choose a starting point and set up cones about twenty feet away.  On your signal, the first player crawls to the cone and then crawls back.  Then, the second player crawls.  The race continues until all of the players have crawled to the cone and back.  The first team to complete the task wins.

Alternative Race Idea:  Instead of crawling on all fours like a turtle, have players imitate their favorite animals in the race.  They could waddle like a penguin or hop like a bunny.  

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Restaurant Race

Play It… Outdoors or Indoors

Supplies Needed:  Toy Food, Order “Ticket” (can be a piece of paper) with the food orders – one per a player, non-breakable plates, serving trays (you can use cardboard pieces if desired)

Divide the kids into two teams.  Hand the first player the order ticket.  On the signal, the first player runs down to the toy food pile.  They assemble the first meal on the ticket and place it on the serving tray. 

Then, the player carefully carries the tray to the waiting restaurant guest (aka you).  Check that the order matches the ticket.  If it doesn’t, send the player back to try again.

Once the order is complete, take the plate. The player hands the empty tray and order ticket to the next player.  Play continues until all orders are complete.  The first team to complete the order ticket correctly wins.  

Alternative Race Idea:  For older kids, have them memorize the meal on the order ticket instead.  Then, players need to assemble the food order from memory.  It can be pretty amusing to see what combinations they come up with.

Bean Bag Balance

Play It… Outdoors and Indoors

Supplies Needed: Bean Bags (affiliate)

Divide the kids into two teams.  Give the first player a bean bag.  Let players choose a body part to balance the bean bag on.  Players race down to the turning point balancing the bean bag on that body part. 

At the turning point, they can grab the bean bag and run back to the starting line.  The player hands the bean bag to the next player and they balance it on a body part down to the turning point.

The first team whose players all complete the bean bag balance successfully wins.

Alternative Race Idea:  Have each team assign a body part to the other team.  Or pull a body part out of a hat.  You can also have players place the bean bag between their knees and hop to the turning point.

Jump Rope Relay

Play It… Outdoors and Indoors

Supplies Needed: Jump Rope

Divide the kids into two teams.  Line each team up at the starting line.  Hand the first player in each team a jump rope.  

On your signal, the first player jump ropes to the turning point.  Then, he runs back to the starting line and hands the jump rope off to the next player.  The first team to complete the jump rope relay wins.

Alternative Race Idea:  Have players complete the race using different kinds of jump rope jumps.  They could do a two foot jump or a one foot jump.  They could also alternate feet or try the race jumping backwards.

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Relay races for kids are a fun party activity for any celebration.  Kids love to play together.  Setting up a few races is a great (and natural) way to break the ice.  Especially when party guests don’t know each other.

When choosing relay races for your event, consider the location.  If you are going to be inside, make sure that you select races that can be played safely indoors and that you have enough space for the kids to move around.

These relay races for kids can also be adapted to fit any party theme, so get creative.  Instead of a turtle crawl race, maybe have kids move like ocean animals for an under the sea party.  Or they can gallop like horses for a pony party.

And most importantly, choose some prizes to award the players for their efforts.  I find easy prizes at the local dollar store that kids love.  You can even purchase award ribbons (affiliate) or medals (affiliate) and have a prize ceremony at the end.

Do you have another favorite relay race to share?  Be sure to comment below if you have some other race ideas that you love.  We are always looking for new relay races to use at our parties.

And if you need some help planning relay races for kids at your next celebration, check out our Facebook page.  This is a place where we love to share party planning ideas together.  

Happy Celebrating,

Natalie

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