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Relay Races for Kids

Ready, set, go for these fun relay races perfect for parties or playdates.

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Updated May 16, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Plan some relay races for your block party, birthday bash, or family reunion. With just a little advance prep, you can entertain the troops with these relay races that are suitable for kids and adults. Some can be done indoors and some require no props, and almost all can be adapted to fit the theme of your party or gathering. Mostly what you'll need is a little imagination, a lot of enthusiasm, and a willingness to be silly. Have fun!

Egg-and-Spoon Relay Races

Children (4-6) running to finish line in egg and spoon race.
Bigshots/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Form two teams; give every player a spoon. Give each team a hard-boiled egg (or a plastic one, weighed down with a few coins or beans—being aware that these are a choking hazard for little kids). To play, teams carry their egg from the starting line to a turnaround point and back again, then pass it to a teammate to repeat the process. If the egg is dropped, the player must stop and retrieve it. Whichever team gets the egg back and forth the fastest wins.

Variations: Use a raw egg; skip the spoon and use an armload of plastic eggs; skip the egg and use a bowl full of pennies that must be transferred on the spoon; add obstacles to the playing area; require players to march, side-step, etc. instead of walking

Indoor or Outdoor: Both

Supplies: Eggs, spoons

Hula Hoop Pass

Divide group into two teams. Each team join hands to form a circle. Loop a hula hoop over one player's arm. Without letting go of the other player's hands, he must step into and through the hoop so it rests on his other arm. Then he can slide it onto the next player's arm and she must repeat the same maneuver. Whichever team can pass the hoop all the way around the circle first, without letting go of each others' hands, is the winner.

Variation: Teams stand in a straight line instead of a circle

Indoor or Outdoor: Both

Supplies: Two hula hoops

Dress-Up Relay Races

Divide group into two teams. Place two similar piles, boxes, or suitcases of dress-up items (one pile for each team) at the end of the playing area. The first player runs to the pile, puts on all the dress-ups on top of her clothing, then runs back to her team. She removes all the dress-up items and gives them to the next player, who must put them all on, run back and forth across playing area, and then remove the dress-ups so the next player can repeat the process.

Variations: Have the first player put on just one item from the pile. The second player has to put on that item, plus a second one. The third player puts on three items, and so on.

Indoor or Outdoor: Both

Supplies: Dress-up items

Drop the Penny

To set up, mark off a starting line and a turn-around line. About halfway between them, place one egg carton (lid removed) for each team. Place a bowl containing enough pennies for each player at the turn-around line. To play: One player from each team races to the bowl and picks up one penny. Then she runs to her team's egg carton and, from waist height, drops the penny into one of the cups. Decide in advance whether second chances are allowed if she misses. The game is over when one team has successfully dropped a penny into each cup in their egg carton.

Variations: Swap beans or other party-themed trinkets for pennies; have kids carry items on spoons instead of in their hands

Indoor or Outdoor: Both

Supplies: Empty egg cartons, pennies, bowls

Water Relay Races

Give each team a plastic cup and a bucket full of water. Put one empty bucket for each team at the finish line. Players must take turns filling up their cup from their bucket, then dumping it into their empty bucket. The game is over when the once-full bucket is empty; the team with the most amount of water in their finish-line bucket wins.

Variations: Use a large sponge instead of a cup; poke a few holes in the cup and make kids carry it over their heads

Indoor or Outdoor: Outdoor

Supplies: Buckets, cups or sponges

Three-Legged Race

Divide players into teams of two. Have them stand side-by-side and tie adjacent (inside) legs together (using a bandanna, scarf, or strip of cloth). Mark off start and finish lines. The three-legged pairs must work together to race to the finish line. It's a lot harder than it looks!

Variation:Have duos link arms instead. To make this tougher, give them something they must carry, such as a football, a small bucket of water, or anything that goes with your party's theme: dog dish for a puppy party, magic wand for a fairy party, and so on.

Indoor or Outdoor: Both

Supplies: Fabric for tying legs together

Balloon Relay Races

These relay races are best for kids over 4. Littler ones may be scared by popping noises, and fragments of popped balloons are a choking hazard.

Split group into teams and have them stand in a single-file line. Give the leader of each line a balloon. He must pass it through his legs to the player behind him. That player passes it overhead to the next player. Repeat this pattern until the balloon gets to the end of the line; the last player runs to the front of the line and (optional!) pops the balloon to win the game.

Variations: Use water balloons; keep the pattern going until every team member has been at the front of the line. Or have kids race from start to finish lines holding a balloon between their knees; standing back-to-back with a partner and holding a balloon between them without using their hands; or, in pairs, balancing a balloon on a towel or piece of newspaper.

Indoor or Outdoor: Both

Supplies: Balloons

Crab Race

Divide group into teams and teach kids how to do the crab crawl: Starting on the ground on their backs, they push up on hands and feet, then scuttle sideways. Players go back and forth to finish line until the entire team has raced.

Indoor or Outdoor: Outdoor (on grass is best), or in large gym with mats

Variations: If the backbend position is too difficult, kids can crawl sideways on hands and knees instead; or impersonate other animals (penguins, elephants, mice)

Supplies: None

Wheelbarrow Race

Pair kids in teams of two and mark off start and finish lines. One player in each team must walk on his hands while his partner holds his ankles. Together they go as fast as they can to the finish line, then switch places and race back to start.

Indoor or Outdoor: Outdoor, or indoors if you have a large space

Supplies: None

Shoebox Slide

Equip each team with two shoeboxes. When the race starts, the first player on each team steps into the shoeboxes and slides his way to the turn-around point and then back. Then the next player on his team hops into the shoeboxes for his turn, and so on.

Variations: Add obstacles (such as cones to maneuver around) to the playing field

Indoor or Outdoor: Both

Supplies: Two shoeboxes for each team

Mix-It-Up Relay Race

The rules for this one couldn't be simpler. Players must travel from point A to point B and back again, in turns, until the whole team has participated. The catch: No one player on the team can travel in the same manner as a teammate. One runs, one skips, one hops, and so on.

Variation: Use a baton or other (themed?) item that teammates must pass to one another; this can limit or change the way they choose to travel

Indoor or Outdoor: Both

Supplies: None

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