With all the energy spent planning camp programs and new activities, it can be tough coming up with the time to dedicate to fine-tuning the smaller elements.
If your slate of relay games has become dated and predictable, mix and match a few from this list to bring the spirit of friendly team relay competition back to life.
Single Runner Relays
Beach Blanket Relay : Line up team in a single line. Give each team a tote bag with the following: an oversized T-shirt, a beach blanket or towel, a bottle of sunscreen, a pair of sunglasses and a book. Have the first player run with the tote bag to a defined location, spread out the blanket, put on the T-shirt, slather on sunscreen and lie on the towel while pretending to read the book for two seconds, then remove the shirt, pack all items into the tote and return it to the next person in line. First team to finish is winner.
Picnic Progressive Relay : Line up team in a single line. Give the first person in each group a large tote bag with a blanket or tablecloth inside. Give each additional person one item that could be found at a picnic (can of soda, water bottle with plastic glasses, assorted plastic food items, cutlery, place setting, etc.). Instruct the first person to run to a pre-defined location, set out the picnic blanket, sit on it for two seconds, put it into the tote and return to the line. The next person does the same with the blanket and creates some type of motion with their picnic item on the blanket (pour water into the glass, “open” the soda and drink it, take a “bite” of the food item, arrange place setting, etc.), return both items to the tote and return to the line. The third person repeats the motion of the first two and adds a motion of their own based on their item. Continue until all players finish. Winners finish first!
Cotton Ball Cocktail : Line up team in a single line. Give each team one serving spoon and a large bag of cotton balls. Have players load as many cotton balls on their spoon as they want, then run with the spoon to a pre-defined location where each team has an empty water pitcher of equal size. Dump cotton balls into the pitcher and return to the line, passing off the spoon. Players may protect the spoon with their hand while running but may not touch the cotton balls at any time. If cotton balls fall off, they must be left where they fall. The team with the most cotton balls in the pitcher at the conclusion of the race is the winner.
Fish in the Ocean : Same setup as Cotton Ball Cocktail. Replace cotton balls with goldfish (or other small) crackers and have a water pitcher half full of water. Winning team is first to fill up the water with fish (they will sink as they take on water).
Miscellaneous Single Relay Runner Ideas : Have each player do one of the following and return to the team line: hula hoop, skip, cartwheel, crab walk, frog hop, dizzy bat (do five to ten circles with forehead on a bat handle, then run).
Pair Relay Games
Beach Ball Blast : Line team up in pairs. Set a chair or other marker at a pre-determined distance. Have one stopwatch and timer person for each team. Give each person in the pair an inflated beach ball and have them squeeze the ball between their knees. On the start, each pair needs to run (skip, hop, walk) out around the chair and back to the start without dropping or touching the ball. If the ball is touched or dropped, the player must restart at the beginning. Each pair is timed by the timer. Time starts on go and ends when the first of the pair makes a complete relay without dropping or touching the ball. Winning team is team with lowest total relay time for all pairs.
Christmas in July : Line up team in pairs. Set a chair or other marker at a pre-determined distance. Give each team a plastic sled with a long rope attached. Have one player sit on the sled and the other player pull the sled around the chair and back to the start. If player on sled falls off, have them return to sled and continue relay. First team to finish all pairs is the winner.
Lemonade Stand: Line up team in pairs. Set a table or chair at a pre-determined distance. Give one player in each pair a cup of water, and the other player a spoon and an individual serving packet of lemonade or iced tea drink mix. On the start, have each pair run to the table. The player with the drink mix will add the mix to the water, stir and have the player with the water drink the lemonade or tea. Together, they race to the start. First team to finish all pairs is the winner.
Balloon Toss: Line up team in pairs. Set a chair or marker at a pre-determined distance. Give each pair one water balloon. On the start, have the first pair toss the balloon between them every five steps. When the first team reaches the marker and begins to return to start, have the second pair begin. If the balloon breaks, the pair must stay at the spot where the balloon burst. Winning team is the team with the highest number of balloons returned unbroken to the start.
Pop-A-Shot: Line up team in pairs at one end of a basketball court. Give each team a basketball. On the start, have the first pair race to the hoop and shoot. Each player of the pair must make two (three, four, or five) shots before returning to the line. Majorly challenging with several players vying for a hoop at one basket!
Pool Relay Games
Sloppy Shirt: Divide team in half across length of pool. Give each team an oversized shirt. On the start, have first player put on T-shirt, swim to next team member, swap the shirt and return. First team with all members completing a pool length with T-shirt wins.
Sloppy Shirt 2: Line up team in shallow end of pool in a single line. Give each team one oversized shirt. Have each team hold the hand of the person beside them so that the chain of players extends from one side of pool to the other. On the start, have the first person put on the shirt, then remove the shirt and get it on the next person in line without breaking hands until the shirt is on the next player. As players finish, they may break hands and help members pass the shirt.
Wet Matchstick: Divide team in half across length of pool. Give each team a wooden fireplace matchstick. On the start, have first player swim to next team member and pass the matchstick as a baton. First team completed with a match that lights when struck is the winner.
Sink Your Counselors: Two teams are in the water at the same time. Each team’s counselors are in a canoe floating in the middle of the team. Each team can have three water pitchers. On the start, team players work to fill their team’s canoe with water to sink the counselors. First canoe to go completely under is the winner. (Tipping is cheating!)
Seeking Treasure : Two teams are in the water at the same time. Toss a large amount of pennies or coins into the water, enough for each team to make a chain across the width or length of a pool. On the start, have each team collect random pennies, return to their team and create a treasure chain across the width or length of the pool. First team to complete a line of coins wins.
Sometimes the best camp relay games come from tweaks and twists to old favorites. Share your favorite with us in the comments section or tell us how you’ve changed an old standby into something new and fresh—we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Thanks to the following people for sharing their relay ideas: Gina Bonifas, Margaret Crowley, Jamie Dailey, Tonya Eckert, Julie Queen, Jane White and Joanna Warhold.
Beth Morrow is an educator, author and Senior Week program director for Camp Hamwi, a week-long residential camp for youth ages 12-17 with diabetes. She believes that relay games make the world a better place. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org .