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9 Relay Race Ideas for Team Building

There is a great trick I’ve learned over my years as a teacher. It’s a trick that allows you to teach new skills, develop team building, and have lots of fun, and I would love to share everything about relay race ideas for team building with you.

What is it?

The simple relay race! A relay race engages children and gets them to work together, incorporating physical skills and movement so that their brains are engaged and ready for learning. The trick is to use the relay race as a way to teach lots of other skills. 

There is something about a relay race that inspires competition, solidarity with your teammates, and support for one another. Are you ready to harness those qualities and watch your children have fun learning new skills?

Follow the relay race ideas below to start team building. All of the ideas can be adapted to the age and stage of your children, so feel free to change any of the games if you need to to make them easier or harder to suit your children’s needs.

To start, you will need the following:

  • A good indoor or outdoor space (I prefer outdoors), approximately 50 meters.
  • 2 whiteboards and markers (or large sheets of paper pinned up)
  • A camera if you want to record evidence of the learning taking place. 
  • 2 teams 

If possible, use free-standing whiteboards as they are steadier than sheets of paper, and in the excitement of a race, paper is sometimes likely to become ripped. 

Activity 1

Odd and even relay race

This is one of the best relay race ideas for team building for teaching children the difference between odd and even numbers while keeping them active and involved in learning. 

What to do:

  • Set up two teams and two whiteboards 
  • Give each team one whiteboard marker as a baton.
  • Write a number on each whiteboard.
  • Players take turns running to their whiteboard.
  • When they arrive, they write down the next number in the odd or even sequence.
  • Run back to their team as fast as possible to pass the baton to the next player. 
  • Time the race with a stopwatch or a sand timer to add some jeopardy. 

Start with a sequence of, for example, 234, so the next player has to write 236, 238, and so on.

For younger children, keep it really simple and start with the number 2, so the next player has to write 4, then 6, then 8, and so on.

You can race two teams against each other – one writing odd numbers and the other writing even numbers. I’ve honestly never seen children so engaged in a maths lesson in my life!

If this sounds too easy for your players, simply increase the numbers. 

Activity 2

Write a rhyming word

This works on a similar principle to the game above.  This activity helps to develop an understanding of rhyming words and encourages support for one another. Once again, you can adapt the game’s difficulty according to your players. 

What to do:

  • Set up two teams and two whiteboards an equal distance apart. 
  • Explain that the objective is for each team to write as many rhyming words on the whiteboard as they can before the time runs out. 
  • On one whiteboard, write cat on the other, write man.
  • Each player should race to the whiteboard and write down a word that rhymes.
  • Run back to your team quickly and pass on the baton.
  • Players can shout out words to help each other, which builds team spirit.
  • When the timer runs out, count how many words each team has recorded correctly to see who is the winning team.

The main objective here is for the children to support their team members and to have fun. However, you will soon notice that something about learning actively works much better than sitting in a classroom recording on the worksheet, and your players will remember more.

For older teams, you can adapt the difficulty or write words beginning with blends such as br, fl, gr.

This is so much more effective than traditional learning spellings. If you don’t believe me, try it and see for yourself. 

Activity 3

Dress for the weather

You will need the following:

  • A pile of clothes including:
  • Wellington boots
  • hats 
  • scarves
  • gloves 
  • coats
  • trousers
  • socks

You will need two teams to play such relay race ideas for team building. 

What to do:

  • Each team should nominate one player to be the model.
  • Place the clothes in a large basket or box approximately 50m away from the starting line
  • Set a timer.
  • Each team should send a player to run to the clothes pile and bring back one item.
  • If they bring back a hat, they must ensure their model is wearing it before the next player can run. 
  • The next player should retrieve another piece of clothing, and so on.
  • Keep playing until the winning team has fully dressed their model.

You can adapt this game to learn about winter clothes and the importance of clothes to keep us warm, or you can play a summer version with sun hats, sunglasses, flip flops, rubber rings, and shorts to discuss the importance of sun safety.

It can be hilarious, so be prepared for lots of giggles and laughter.

Activity 4

Secret message

This takes a small amount of preparation but is well worth it.

What to do:

  • On cards, write two simple secret messages, for example: 

Dinner today is fish and chips


The chocolate bar is in the fridge.

  • Cut out each word in the sentence.
  • Pin the words from the sentences onto a whiteboard.
  • Ensure the players can’t see the word’s meaning until they remove it.
  • Set up two relay teams.
  • Each player can only retrieve one word at a time from the board and bring it back to their team.
  • The team should work together to collect the words, one at a time, by passing on the baton. 
  • They then have to work as a team to unscramble the secret message. 
  • The winning team is the team that shouts its message out first. 

Depending on your players, you can make the messages difficult or as easy as necessary. Remind them that only by working together can they solve the puzzle.

Activity 5

Jigsaw madness

Like the game above, this game involves putting all the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle together. You can use a real jigsaw if you want to (I’d suggest no more than 10 pieces), but I like to make my own jigsaw puzzle by cutting a large picture into pieces and asking the children to try to put it back together again to solve it.

I’ve used pictures of animals, fruit, vegetables, and even a castle, but you could use a picture of anything you think will engage your children. 

As above, set up a relay race where players must collect the pieces, one at a time, from the board or basket. The winning team is the team that works together to complete their jigsaw first.

You can also adapt this activity to use word or maths puzzles instead of pictures. 

Activity 6

Don’t spill a drop

This activity truly takes teamwork!

You will need

  • Colored water (tap water with a few drops of food coloring).
  • 4 clear jugs

What to do

  • Line up two relay race teams on a track. 
  • Give the first player in each team a full jug of colored water.
  • When you say Go, they must carry the jug to the end of the track without spilling water.
  • When they reach the end, they must swap the water into an empty jug and carry it back to the next player.
  • The next player takes the jug and repeats the same thing. 
  • Repeat this process using the jug as the baton until the time runs out.
  • When time is up, measure which team has retained the most water.
  • The team with the most water left is the winning team.

This is great for developing teamwork, but as a bonus, it also helps to develop pouring skills, balancing skills, and coordination. It can get very competitive!

Activity 7

Balancing act

This is one of the best relay race ideas for team building. It also develops coordination, balance, and speed. 

You will need the following:

  • 2 markers
  • 2 quoits or beanbags. 

(A quoit is a circular plastic ring, but there is no need to worry if you don’t have any. You can adapt this game and balance something else on your head. Beanbags work well, and so do cushions).

What to do:

  • Place two markers on the ground as a point to run towards.
  • Line the children up into two relay teams.
  • The first player in each team should place a quoit on their head. (If you don’t have quoits, use a beanbag or similar).
  • When you say Go, the first players in the team should walk as fast as they can toward the marker, walk around it, and back to their team.
  • They should pass the quoit so the next player can balance it on their head.
  • If a player drops the quoit, they must stop and put it back on their head before they move again.
  • The winning team is the first team where all players have walked around the marker and back.

Activity 8

Memory test

I love this game! It’s so much fun, and seeing the children helping each other as the difficulty level increases is lovely.  The memory game aims to record as many animals as you can, starting with a certain letter. 

You will need the following:

  • Two whiteboards or paper writing stations. 
  • Whiteboard markers (to act as batons)
  • Two relay teams of equal size.

What to do:

  • On each board, write a letter of the alphabet.
  • Team one – animals starting with the letter Team two – animals starting with the letter L
  • Start the timer.
  • Each player has to take turns running to the whiteboard and writing the name of an animal. 
  • You can only write the same animal once, so the race gets more difficult as time passes.
  • You might start with monkey, mongoose, mouse, moose, and so on…
  • It doesn’t matter about the correct spelling for this game, but you can help players spell their words if you want to. 
  • The teams should work together to confer and think of new animals so that the next player in the race has an answer before they run to the board.
  • The winning team is the team with the most animals written down when the timer runs out.

Of course, you don’t just have to use animals. You can swap animals for fruits, vegetables, countries, or even famous people. The key is to work together, share ideas, and team building. 

Activity 9

The highest number

This is a great game for reinforcing place value, and you can easily increase the difficulty by adding more numbers. 

You will need the following:

  • Two whiteboards
  • Two relay teams of equal size.
  • An identical set of number cards.
  • A timer.

What to do:

  • Set a timer, line up the two relay teams, and say Go.
  • The first player in each team should run to the whiteboard and collect one of the numbers. 
  • They should then run as fast as possible to return the number to their team.
  • When they return, they tag and release the next player, who should run and collect another number.
  • Each team must work together to make the largest from the collected numbers when all the numbers have been retrieved.
  • For example, if a team collected the numbers 5,3,8, the largest number they could make would be 8,53.
  • The winning team is the first to place the numbers in order. 

You can easily adapt this game to play different versions. You can use the numbers to make the smallest number or increase the number of number symbols.

For example, you can also make it more difficult by adding barriers to race.

  • Instead of running forwards, players have to walk backward or sideways.
  • Players have to wear boots or shoes that are far too big.
  • Players have to crawl
  • Players have to jump through hoops.

Hopefully, that’s given you lots of ideas to get started. You will see that the children quickly become involved when you start to use relay races.  They will be learning new skills without even realizing it. 

As always – have fun!

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