Relay games are a great way to entertain children at a birthday party. Either choose a couple of relays play with other party games, or create a whole party around a relay or sports theme.
How do Relays work?
Relays are team races where one person in the team completes a specific task or set course, then tags the next person who completes the same task. They then tag the next person and so on. The game continues until all the team members have completed the task, and the first team finished wins.
If you are working with a large group and have more than two teams, it’s a good idea to have a finish position such as ‘all sitting with hands on head’. This makes it easy to see when a team has actually finished, and can stop any potential arguments about a photo finish.
How to get Relays started
Relays are obviously team games, so that’s your first step. In the spirit of fair competition, you may want to rig the teams a little bit, and make sure there are an equal number of both boys and girls, active and not-so-active kids, older and younger guests.
Once you have your teams organised, explain what the task or course is, and perhaps give a demonstration so everyone is clear. On the count of three, the relay begins.
Easy Relay Ideas
Set a course (which could be as short or as long as you like) and have each team member complete it:
- By running, jumping, skipping, hopping, or walking backwards.
- With a balloon between their legs
- With their feet tied together with a stocking
- In dress-up clothes, which they then need to pass on to the next player
- Balancing something on the head
- Bouncing or kicking a ball
- Carrying a hard boiled egg (or something else) on a spoon
- While keeping a balloon afloat
You can make the course more difficult by putting obstacles in the way, such as chairs to climb over and tunnels to crawl through, or you could have each child stop at the halfway mark to do a specific task. Some fun halfway tasks include:
- Blowing up a balloon to a certain size
- Transferring water from bucket to bucket using just a cup
- Eating a mini chocolate bar
- Cutting out a pre-drawn shape
- Completing a puzzle
- Singing a nursery rhyme
- Bouncing a ball, skipping rope, or jumping on the spot a certain number of times
Some relay ideas involve team members passing something from one to another, until the item gets to the back of the line. The last person in line then runs to the front with the item in hand, and starts passing it again. The race finishes when the first player gets back to the front of the line. Some fun passing relays could be passing:
- A life saver using just a toothpick between the teeth. No hands!
- A balloon from tummy to tummy.
- A tennis ball or orange from under one chin to another chin.
- A ball or balloon through their legs or over their head.
- A hoola hoop, with each member stepping completely through it before passing it on.
- A ball of string. The hard bit is they must thread it down their T-Shirt before passing it on. The first team member holds on to the end of the string, so you end up with a whole team all linked together.
Team Task Relays
The most complex relays (but also the most fun) involve the whole team working on a joint task such as transferring M&M’s from one bowl to another using chopsticks. In these games, each member runs up and has one turn or a set time limit to have a go, and then they run back to the next player who gets tagged to continue. These races do not finish when each member has had a turn, but rather when the task is complete. Some tasks may require the whole team to go through 3 or 4 times. Team task ideas include:
- Filling a bucket with water using just a spoon or sponge
- Tossing buttons or counters into an egg carton until there is a certain number in each section. You’ll need to make sure both teams are tossing their items from an equal distance.
- Building a block tower over a certain height. There may have to be a bit of team strategy to make sure it doesn’t topple over too soon.
- Completing a crossword, maze, or jigsaw puzzle
- Dressing a teddy or large doll including socks, shoes, hats, and jacket with buttons.
- Icing a cake, filling brandy snaps, or grating a bowl full of cheese. (Great if you’re having a Pizza Party!)
There are lots of ways you can organise prizes for relays. Either award prizes after each game, or add up points over several competitions. It might be a nice idea to have a medal or certificate for everyone involved. For some sports themed prizes, check out the Sports Party article in our Birthday Themes section.
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