If all else fails at a children's party, relay games can come to the rescue. These games include running, balancing, passing, cheering — and a healthy dose of giggling. Most kids are so involved the action they don't really care which team wins, especially if all participants receive prizes at the end. You can use props such as balloons or apples for some races, but if you don't have anything on hand, a simple running-and-tagging-the-hand relay does just fine.
Tunnel Relay Games
Tunnel relays keep everyone actively involved. For one tunnel game, the members of each team line up in a row, one behind the next. All the players spread their legs to form the tunnel, and the last member in line crawls through. That person stands at the front, and the next member at the back crawls through. In another tunnel relay, the team members stand in a line next to each other. Each one stretches out and bends over, putting his hands on the ground. Their bodies form a tunnel, and the last person in line crawls along the ground under the human supports. That person joins the tunnel at the front of the line, and the next player follows suit.
Walk Like a Crab -- Or, Like a Gorilla
Funny walking relays cause a lot of falling down and laughing. The crab walk, in which two or more teams line up at at starting point. The first person on each team walks on hands and feet with stomach turned up to resemble a crab. Each "crab" goes to an end point and returns to the team walking backward, still with his stomach up. When a member gets back to the team, the next person assumes the crab position, and takes off. Or, try a chimp relay with the same format, except that the players walk bent over, and grasp their hands with their knees.
Walk the Walk -- With Books on Your Head
You can try relays, with props like books and apples. For the literary race, teams line up at the start, and the first members place books on their heads. You can use one for each participant, or pile up two for more excitement. The players walk to a designated line, then return to their teams. They hand off their books to the next person, and the race continues. If you drop a book, you must stop, put it back on your head, and keep going. Apple relays are similar, except players balance apples on their backs.
Look, Ma! No Hands!
Passing games are popular with kids of all ages. Two timeless games involve passing oranges or balloons from player to player -- without using your hands! In one game, teams line up, and the player at the front tucks an orange under his chin. The orange goes from neck to neck, and if a player drops it, the passing player picks it up and tries the pass-off again -- without using his hands. A similar game involves passing a balloon from one person's knees to the next.
Barbara Dunlap is a freelance writer in Oregon. She was a garden editor at "The San Francisco Chronicle" and she currently specializes in travel and active lifestyle topics like golf and fitness. She received a master's degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has been a Knight Foundation Fellow.