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5 fun ideas for the three-legged race

5 fun ideas for the three-legged race

Looking for some fun kids games to spice up a family reunion, birthday party or backyard barbecue? A three-legged race is a great outdoor activity that is just as much fun to watch as it is to participate in. A three-legged race provides a unique combination of physical activity and teamwork and can even be used by babysitters and nannies as a fun activity to teach siblings cooperation.

“This activity requires teamwork, communication and problem solving. We use this fun game when the kids are having a hard time getting along,” says Jillian Riley, a mom of two, writer and blogger at the playful parenting blog A Mom with a Lesson Plan.

“It forces them to work together in a really silly way. By the end, they are laughing and joking with each other and without even realizing it, their mood towards each other has totally flipped — make sure to point out how well they work as a team!”

While getting the kids playing is great, don’t forget to get involved in the fun yourself. 

“Anytime a parent does something with their child it’s good, it’s interaction,” explains Dr. Marcy Guddemi, the executive director of Gesell Institute of Child Development. “When practicing the three-legged walk, be sure to let the child come up with the solution, not the parent. Say something like ‘Let’s pretend we are a three-legged horse. How do you think we would walk?’ and try their idea — even if it may not work. Kids need time to explore an event and take some risks — children don’t often get a chance to make mistakes.” 

Even coming up with the simple solution of saying, “inside … outside” while walking is a great exercise in problem solving for your kiddo. Here’s how to get your kids started.

Original three-legged race

Equipment: Bandanna, tube sock or other piece of fabric to tie legs together, stopwatch

Have two partners stand shoulder to shoulder and gently tie their inside legs together. Designate a starting line and a finish line and see how quickly the teams can move from point A to B! If you have a large, open space, all the teams can run at the same time. In a smaller space, they can run one at a time while keeping track of time with a stopwatch. Make sure the wrap is tied tightly enough to keep them close together, but not so tight to restrict movement or hurt their ankles.


Go blindfolded
Blindfold, bandanna
To make the race more challenging, add blindfolds to both partners and have bystanders give them directions from one side of the yard to the other. Or make it a trust exercise by giving only one partner a blindfold so the pair has to rely on the sighted partner to give them directions. Be sure to switch the blindfold so both partners get to try it.

Run an obstacle course
Household objects, pool noodles, hula hoops, cones, jump ropes, bandanna
Make a simple obstacle course to run as a three-legged pair. Even hopping over a pool noodle, crawling on hands and knees under a broomstick or turning sideways to fit between two trees is challenging when you are tied together!

Walk backwards
Walk the entire race backwards as a fun, giggle-worthy variation on this already tricky task!

Carry a balloon
Inflated balloon, bandanna
Blow up a balloon and have each three-legged pair hold the balloon gently between their sides as they move from the starting line to the finish line. If they pop the balloon, use their hands or drop the balloon, they have to return to the starting line and start again.

Flip directions
Have one partner facing forward and one partner facing backwards before tying the legs together, race to one end of the yard and back so both partners have the chance to run forwards and backwards.

Once the kids have mastered these three-legged race ideas, see what other variations you can come with as a family. Your kids are sure to be game for trying out all sorts of ideas!