Best Ever Relay Race Games


Relay races have been a part of our family reunions since I attended the Fackrell family reunion in Lyman, Wyoming way back in the 1960’s. We did traditional relays like the wheelbarrow race, 3-legged race and the gunny sack race. Those races are fun but I wanted to share some relay races that aren’t so traditional. Let me introduce you to some of our favorite “Best Ever” relay races- hope your family likes them too.
Most relay race games ask you to form 2 or more even teams. As in any relay race, have a starting line and a finishing line (You can easily make start and finish lines using flour sprinkled on the grass or dirt, or spray paint or long ropes or hoses.)and teams race to one end of the course and back as quickly as possible. Mix your running relays with creative relays that let family members who aren’t fast runners be successful in other ways.

Sponge Relay Race

I asked my two cute nieces, Sydnee and Maicie, what their favorite relay race game was and they both agreed it was the “Sponge” race.

You will need two 5 gallon buckets- one filled with water and one empty. Each team will also need a large sponge.

Set the buckets of water on one side of the course with the sponges in the bucket. Place the empty buckets at the opposite end of the course. The object of the game is to be the first team to fill the emptyclip_image002 bucket (you can also use a milk jug for the empty container) with water. The first player of each team soaks the sponge with water runs to the empty container and squeezes the water into it then runs back to pass the sponge to the next player. This continues until the first bucket is empty or everyone has had a turn. Winner is the team that has the most water in their once empty container.  You may want to add a little food coloring to the water to make the water line easier to see.

Human String Relay

You will need 2 Spoons and 2 Ball of yarn, equal lengths.  Tie a spoon to the end of a ball of yarn.  Line up both teams single-file.  clip_image004

On the word, "Go," the first person from each team must put the spoon down his shirt, as well as his pants. When it comes out of his pant leg, he must then pass it to the next player (As it is still attached to the first player).

When the spoon has gone through the entire line, and everyone is attached, then the last person at the end of the line must clip_image006reverse the process (While the first person winds the string into a ball as it comes back out of each person’s clothing).

When the team finishes unwinding the string then the first person in that line needs to shout, "Done!" The team to finish unwinding the string first wins.

Hula Hoop Relay #1

Each team makes a circle, connecting it by holding hands.

Give each team a hula hoop. On the word “go” each team must move the hula hoop around the circle.. To do this, participants must move their arms and shoulders to make the hoop travel around the circle. At no point may any of the participants break their grasp on their teammates’ hands. The first team to move the hula hoop around the circle wins. To make it more complicated add a second hoop going th opposite way.


Hula Hoop Relay #2

You will need 1 hula hoop for each team and items to make an obstacle course such as orange cones, garbage cans, lawn chairs, etc.

Begin by creating a course-a straight line to a goal and back, or create a slalom-type trail around obstacles. When the race begins, the first player from each team rolls the team’s hoop (using his hand or a stick) along the entire course before returning to the starting line and passing the hoop to the next player. The race continues until all of the players on one team complete the course.

Rock, Tree, Bridge Relay

This relay comes from Stacey Hanson. We tried it at a family and about died laughing. Check out the video at for a video of Stacey’s class playing “Rock, Tree, Bridge”

I’ve included a video of instructions for this next relay on the first page  of this website. This is not my family but a school teacher, Stacey, and her students. I think this clever relay is so fun and after you watch the video it will be easy for you to play too.

To play, get into teams of 3 and make a line. The first person in line is the rock. He ducks down on his knees with his head tucked in. clip_image013

The second person in line jumps over the rock and stands up and becomes the tree. clip_image002[18]

The third person in line jumps over the rock, goes around the tree twice, and makes a tent with his body and becomes the bridge.

                              clip_image014The person who was the rock then goes around the tree 2 times, goes under the bridge, and becomes a rock again.  They keep repeating this pattern until their team reaches the finish line. The first team to finish wins.

Leap Frog Race

This was my favorite relay race game when I was a little girl- I know you’ve played it clip_image016but maybe there is a little girl in your family who would like it as much as I did. Let’s hop to it!
This is a game for 6 or more players and should be played outside or in an open area.
All you need are two teams of at least three, and a start and finish line.
To play, the two teams each line up single file. Players then leap frog over each other. The last player jumps over her teammates. When she leaps over the two people ahead of her, the new last person in line then jumps over her two teammates.
The first team to leap frog down to the line and back wins!

Crazy Waiter


You need a couple of sturdy paper plates and ping pong balls.

Divide into two teams, and stand in 2 lines. Demonstrate how to hold the plate- like a waiter. (Thumbs and fingers cannot be on top of the plate)
Now put a ping pong ball onto each plate a give one to the leader of each line. On the word go, their job is to run as fast as they can weaving in and out of each player down the line, while balancing the ball on the plate. Once he gets to the back of the line he then runs straight up to the front again (without weaving) and gives the plate to the next player, and runs down to the back position.

The next player repeats the process. If the ball falls off the plate the player must return to the front and restart. First team to run the course wins.

clip_image004[9]You may also map out an obstacle course to run through or for a more simple game have players run to a central marker, like a chair or an orange cone, run around it and then run home.

Another fun variation on this game is the “Golf ball on spoon relay”. This relay is just like “Crazy Waiter” only you use a golf ball on a spoon.

Turkey Feather Relayclip_image020

Divide into relay teams. First player holds a long turkey feather (or any other feather). At the word "Go" each throws his feather, javelin style, toward the finish line. As soon as it comes to earth, he picks it up and throws it again, and continues until across the finish line. He then picks it up and runs back to his team to give the feather to the next player.

clip_image022Ice Cube Melt

To play, form teams of at least 6 people. Each team lines up and gets an ice cube. The first person in each line rubs the ice until his hands get too cold. Then he passes it to the next person in line. She rubs it until her hands get too cold. Keep passing their ice until it melts. The first team to melt their ice wins.

This is also a fun game to play with a T-shirt but requires some advance preparation. Get a T-shirt for each team and soak it in water. Put the T-shirt in the freezer overnight. First team to melt their shirt enough for someone to get it over their head and wear it is the winner- brrr.

It’s All in the Name

Print the alphabet on pieces of cardstock- one letter on ¼ piece of paper. Yu will need to copy it more than once and make additional cards with the most used letters of the alphabet. (E,A,I,O,R,T,N,S,L) Some good alphabet cards can be found at

Dump all the letters in the middle of the room or playing area. Teams race to collect letters to combine them into words such as family names, places and traditions. For instance, at the Wells reunion, I would ask them to find words like “Wells”, “England”, Waldhere” and “Wells Fargo”. The words must be spelled correctly, all the letters in order, to receive a point.

Aunt MO

“I don’t have to look up my family tree, because I know that I’m the sap.” –Fred Allen