Tag: Relay Races

Relay Races: Better Bucket Brigades

bucket brigade

A bucket brigade, or human chain, is an effective way to move items over long distances quickly with each person spending only a small amount of effort. If you haven’t played Bucket Brigade Relay, it’s a lot of fun…and with a few adjustments the game can get really wild.

Time: 15 to 30 minutes
Number of Players: ten or more


Be the first team to transport water from a large bucket at one end of the field to a large bucket at the other end of the field.


Divide the group into equal teams with at least five players in each team. The more players in a team the better – that way your “brigades” can span a long distance.

1. Have players line up in a straight line between the full bucket at one end of the field and the empty bucket at the other end. In the standard variation players are spaced equal distance between the buckets, a little less than an arm’s reach apart.

2. Give each player a paper cup. The player closest to the full bucket is the “scooper” and the player at the end of the line is the “dumper.”

2. At the signal the “scooper” scoops a cup full of water from the bucket and pours it into the cup of the player in front of her. That player turns and pours the water into the next player’s cup before turning and getting a fresh cup of water from the scooper.

3. Players continue scooping and passing water until the full bucket is empty.

4. Victory is determined by which team has the most water in their bucket at the end of the relay. In case of a tie, the win goes to the team that finished ahead of the other.

Set Up

You need a large open space and at least four large buckets, with enough paper cups so that each player has his own cup.


Before the event make sure kids know water play is on the agenda, dress appropriately and bring towels.

Before kids arrive, arrange the buckets on the field, fill up the starting buckets with equal amounts of water.


Try playing one relay “straight” and then change it up for more fun. Some variations are:

One Cup Fits All. Instead of giving each player a cup, use only a few cups per team.

Over-and-Under. Again, each team has just a few cups to work with. But they have to pass the cups over-and-under: players line up with their backs to the goal bucket, the first player passes the cup up over her head, the next player takes the cup and passes the cup low between his legs.

Spread the Wealth. Instead of having players groups close together, have them spread out so that they cannot pass the water directly. Teams will have to decide wether they should run to each other or try tossing the water. Let the kids come up with creative solutions, but have one rule – each player must handle each cup of water at least once as it travels down the line (players can handle a cup of water more than once if they like.)

The Hole Truth. Here each contestant has her own cup – but the cup has a small hole in the bottom. This will keep the pace lively as players try to lose the least amount of water for the win.

Life Application

It’s said that “many hands make light work.” (John Heywood) Which is easier, passing the water from person to person, or having each person run back and forth? Which way can you transport the most water?

What are some instances where you have seen this principle in action? What are some times when it is a good idea to “band together” to get a job done.

Bible Application Proverbs 17:17, Luke 10:25-37

Before there were fire trucks, a bucket brigade was the only way to put out a house fire. You really hoped that if your house caught fire, that you had a lot of friends to help you put it out. The Bible says that a good friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity. What is the difference between having someone you consider a good friend and having someone you consider to be a brother? What kinds of adversity – or hard times – can a “brother” help you get past?