Relay races involve teams competing against each other. Each member of the team completes a task or activity while the others wait for their turn. When the whole team has completed the task, they are finished, and the first team finished wins. A basic relay race simply involves running with no additional materials or movement, but there are plenty of creative relay race ideas to try.
Relay Race Benefits
Relay races are a staple of P.E. class for a reason. Here are some benefits:
- Relay races like crab walks, throwing, and, of course, running give students time to practice gross motor skills.
- They require turn-taking, which requires teamwork. Students have to wait their turn and be patient while others are moving through the relay, all striving for the same goal.
- They encourage sportsmanship. Students who are waiting cheer each other on and learn how to be good sports when they win or lose.
- Relay races are fun! Depending on the materials and challenges you choose, no relay race is the same activity twice.
The trick with relays is finding the right relay race idea, so here are our favorite relay races, directions, examples, and materials so you’ll be ready on race day.
Creative Relay Race Ideas
1. Classic Relay Race
Before we get into the more creative relay race ideas, it’s good idea to know exactly how a classic relay race works. To start, set up a relay course and divide students into teams. Each team gets a baton. The first student takes the baton and completes the course. Then, they pass the baton to the next student. The teams continue until each student has completed the course.
2. Spoon and Egg Relay
Materials: Eggs (raw or plastic) and spoons
This classic relay never gets old. Divide students into teams, and give each student a spoon and an egg (real or plastic). Each student carries their egg on the spoon from the start to the turnaround and back again, then hands it off to the next player. If the egg drops, the player has to get it. Add difficulty by setting up obstacles, like cones, to move around or a balance beam to walk on while carrying the egg.
3. Dress-Up Relay
Materials: Dress-up items (old clothes and costumes)
Fill two boxes with dress-up items at each end of the race area. Divide students into two teams. The first students run and put on dress-up clothes on top of their regular clothes, then run back to the team. When they are back, they must take off all the dress-up clothes and pass them to the next player. The next student puts on the dress-up items, runs back to the box, and takes the clothes off. Play continues until every student has a turn.
4. Hula-Hoop Pass
Divide students into teams. Students stand in a line. The first student puts a Hula-Hoop over one player’s arm. Without letting go of each other’s hands, the players step through the hoop. The team that passes the hoop through the line first wins.
5. Fill the Bucket
Each team gets a bucket full of water at the start and an empty bucket at the turnaround line. Students take turns filling a cup or sponge with water and running it to the other bucket. The team who empties their bucket first wins.
6. Over and Under Relay
Materials: Balloons or balls
Have students stand in two teams. Give the first student in each line a filled balloon. The students must pass the balloon through their legs to the player behind them, then that student passes it overhead to the next player. They continue until the last player in line has the balloon. This relay can also be done with a ball.
7. Crab Walk Relay
If you’re looking for relay race ideas that don’t require any materials, try this one. First, teach students how to crab walk. Then, divide students into teams. Students crab-walk to a turnaround point and back. The first team to have everyone crab-walk wins. If crab walking is too difficult, students can crawl or scoot on a scooter.
8. Three-Legged Relay Race
Materials: Scarves, fabric, or three-legged race bands
Another classic relay race, in this one students pair up. They tie their legs together using fabric to create the “three legs.” Mark starting and turnaround points, then students run around the turnaround until each team has finished.
9. Scooter Relay
Materials: Scooter boards
Divide students into teams. Give each team a scooter board and mark the start and turnaround points. Students scooter as fast as they can to the turnaround and back. The first team to have all students scooter wins.
10. Drop the Penny Relay
Materials: Empty egg cartons, bowls, one penny per player
Mark a starting line and a turnaround line. Put the egg cartons (without lids) halfway between the two lines. Put a bowl with enough pennies for each player at the turnaround line. Divide students into two teams. Students start by running to the bowl and picking up a penny, then they run to their team’s egg carton and drop the penny from waist height. They try until they get the penny into the carton. A team wins when all their pennies are in the egg carton.
11. Wheelbarrow Relay
Students break into pairs. Each pair chooses one person to walk and one person to be the wheelbarrow. Students divide into teams and each pair wheelbarrows around the turnaround point and back. The first team for which every member completes the relay wins.
12. Beanbag Relay
Materials: Beanbags and buckets
Break students into teams. Each team has a bucket of bean bags at the start and an empty bucket at the turnaround. Students take a beanbag from the start and run it to the bucket at the turnaround. They drop the beanbag in the bucket and run back. The first team to move all their beanbags wins.
13. Shoebox Relay
Materials: 2 shoeboxes for each team
Students divide into teams. The first student in each team puts their feet into the shoeboxes and runs (or shuffles) around the turnaround point and back. The first team that has all students complete the race wins.
14. Ice Cream Cone Relay
Divide students into teams. Each team has a cone and a ball. The first student places the ball on top of the cone, then runs to the turnaround point. Then each student has to run with the complete “ice cream” cone.
15. Paper Plate Relay
Materials: Paper plates
Divide students into teams. Place a stack of paper plates on the ground. Students move their team from start to end by moving one paper plate at a time and stepping on each one, creating a trail of paper plates.
16. Newspaper Relay
Divide students into pairs. They use two pieces of newspaper to move from start to turnaround and back. They can only step on the newspaper, so they have to work together to roll the newspaper in front of them. If you don’t have newspaper, you can use large pieces of paper or unfolded paper bags.
17. Limbo Relay
Materials: 2 chairs and a broom
Set up two chairs and put the broom across the tops of the chairs. Divide students into teams. Students run toward the chairs, limbo (or crawl) under the broom, then run to the turnaround, run back, and tag the next person on their team.
18. Potato Sack Relay
Materials: Potato sacks
Divide students into teams. The first student on each team gets into a potato sack and hops to the turnaround point and then back to start. Then each team member does the same until the first team to finish wins.
19. Hopper Ball Relay
Materials: Hopper balls
Divide students into teams. The first student on each team hops on the hopper ball to the turnaround and back, then the second student takes a turn, and so on until one team wins.
20. Punching Bag Relay
Materials: Paper bags
Divide students into teams and give each team a paper bag. Students need to blow up their paper bag and pop it, then race to the turnaround and back before the other team can do the same. The trick is that students cannot take off running until their paper bag is popped.
21. Hula-Hoop Relay
Give each team two Hula-Hoops in the middle of a field or court with two cones at either end. Students must work in pairs. One student stands in a Hula-Hoop while the other runs to a turnaround and back. When the runner returns, they move a Hula-Hoop one step closer to the cone and the second runner goes. The goal is to move the Hula-Hoops from the center to one cone, one relay run at a time.
22. Rock-Paper-Scissors Relay
Divide students into teams and set a turnaround point. Students run to the turnaround and back, then they have to play Rock, Paper, Scissors with the next person on their team before they can switch runners. Don’t forget to teach students how to play Rock, Paper, Scissors before they begin if they don’t already know how to play.
23. Scavenger Hunt Relay
Materials: Lists and items for a scavenger hunt
Group students into teams and give them each a list of things to find around the gym, field, or classroom. Students take turns finding an item, then handing off the list to the next student. The first team to find all the items wins.
Learn more: Scavenger hunt at Mo Lo’s Speech Blog
24. Hobbyhorse Relay
If you’re looking for relay race ideas that really make people smile, try this one. Divide students into teams and give each team a hobbyhorse. Students take turns galloping to the turnaround point and back. This relay seems like it would be for little kids, but older students can make it fun by adding obstacles to hop and jump over while on their hobbyhorses or taking cues from the hobbyhorse championships.
25. Water Balloon Relay
Each team has a bucket of water balloons. Students run with the water balloon around the turnaround and back. Then, they toss the water balloon to the next player. The player has to catch the water balloon without it breaking and then run. The team who finishes first wins. You can add extra points for the team that breaks the fewest water balloons.
26. Hula-Hoop Water Balloon Relay
Materials: Hula-Hoops and water balloons
In this water balloon race, students need to work together. Each team works in pairs, walking in a Hula-Hoop to drop water balloons in a bucket.
27. Leapfrog Relay
Divide students into pairs and have them leapfrog over one another, one pair at a time, to the turnaround and back. Add some challenge by adding cones to move around or a beanbag to carry.
28. Banana Pass
Students lay down on the floor, head to feet. The first person starts by passing a banana to the next person with their feet, and so on down the line. The first team that has passed the banana through all the students wins.
29. Ball Roll Relay
Materials: Playground balls and sticks
Students use a stick to push the ball from the start to the turnaround and back. You can make it more or less difficult by varying the size of the ball students are using.
30. Obstacle Course
Perhaps the ultimate relay race is a relay obstacle course. Create an obstacle course using tunnels, cones, hurdles, and more materials. Students complete the obstacle course in relay teams. Some course ideas: Have students hop through a ladder, spin a Hula-Hoop three times, jump over three hurdles, and crawl through a tunnel.