Idea No.


Amazing Race Party 8 &11yr - Around Town



May 2009


Laura in Burlington Ontario Canada

Runner Up

Amazing Race Party

The Awesome Race  Once again, my sons (8, 11) decided to join forces again for their birthday parties. This year they chose the theme of The Amazing Race. We'd already done several quests and scavenger hunts, so I was a little lost at first, but once we watched the show a couple of times and read some other ideas, I became more enthusiastic.  This was a very popular theme, maybe because (within reason) the kids got to call the shots and give directions. Whatever it was, there was a great deal of interest right from the start! And thankfully, the parents also shared that enthusiasm. 

I was concerned about the logistics of the party, (traveling around the town with frantic racing kids sounded rather challenging!) so I begged some adult friends of mine to become chauffeurs for the day. I had wanted to keep the kids on transit, but our local transit isn't very regular on weekends, so I decided to allow for some car use as well, otherwise we might still be out there! If you live in a larger city, you might be able to do it all on foot, bikes and/or transit. You may also have a greater variety on points of interest to choose from throughout the race. You could have a lot of fun doing this in Toronto (Casa Loma, High Park, Science Centre, CN Tower, Hockey Hall of Fame, Four Seasons Centre, AGO, etc. all subway accessible especially with everyone on TTC daypasses!), or in any other large city. 

Since I wanted each person to have an opportunity to try something new and/or unusual, I started out by listing all the unique and cool things I knew our guests and sons would be unlikely to have tried. Some ideas we were unable to use included curling (the ice was out already by our party date), horseback riding (too far out of town), circus school (very cool and accommodating, but again, too far away for us), indoor climbing gym (all the kids had done this before), bowling (they had all bowled before), caving (spelunking) but we took them all caving last year, and ziplining (too far away).

Other suggestions we've thought of since include water races (water balloon races or pool races), using a dunk tank with each team having to attain x number of dunks, pitching or batting in a batting cage, and learning a given set of fencing or martial arts moves.  I started by choosing the activities that would happen outside our home I used Google Maps and Mapquest to plot each location, then chose the route that made the most sense. I wanted the activities to alternate between active and intellectual etc. I also wanted to minimize travel time, but still make it interesting and (hopefully) a little unpredictable as to where they'd be headed next.  Once I had parent volunteers confirmed, we ended up with three teams of three kids each, with each team having two adults a driver and a camera person. In addition, I used my own car to travel from destination to destination to hand out clues and keep track of the groups and where they were in relation to each other.  

I sent the INVITATIONS by email. First I found some logos etc. online, then I edited them to alter the details to match the party time and date. The logo we chose already had The Amazing Race Wants You and I added Are you up to the challenge? And the party details. I also included our list of rules. The rules were very important as I was asking a lot of the adults to travel with kids they'd never met before in rather unusual circumstances. The rules I sent to the parents are as follows: Please review the rules with your child(ren). We will go over them again at the start of the race. 

1.Team members must stay within ~3m of one another except when a team adult states otherwise.

2.Teams must wear their team identification in a way that makes it easily seen. (these were the coloured bandanas they chose at the start of the party)

3.Team members must all agree on each decision that is made.

4.Any one team member may only perform one detour throughout the race.

5.There will be one mandatory rest and food break. Teams will continue on the race in the order in which they arrived.

6.Team members may not bully, harass or otherwise try and speed up the adults traveling with them.

7.Team members may ask for adult help, but the adults are discouraged from providing help unless the team is or could be in danger, is heading drastically away from the planned route or there are any other extenuating circumstances. The team may ask for help from other sources as long as anyone they ask is a worker currently at their job (librarian, mall information booth attendant, bus driver, etc.). 

8.Team members must listen to and follow the assigned team adults; failure to do so may result in a time penalty or removal from the race and is at the sole discretion of the adults in charge. The team adults will have a list of contact information in case of emergency for each child.  I also sent out a separate email for adult eyes only describing our route, with the cell phone #s of the adults involved in the party as well. I also explained that the finish time would be more a range than an absolute, but that the last 3 activities would happen at our home.

For paper invitations, I had planned to print out the clue logo onto yellow copy paper, and tri-fold it with the party details on the inside and the mailing information on the back. Then seal the whole thing using a glue stick on the folding edge and tape on the sides. 

DÉCOR wasn't very elaborate for this party, since so much of it happened in various locations. I did make a mat though, which was a piece of Bristol board on which I'd drawn and painted a world map, then sealed with transparent adhesive shelf liner. I also made a route sign which had yellow black and red stripes of card stock mounted on an old railway crossing toy we had (but any signpost sort of contraption would work), and had yellow and black helium filled balloons tied to it.  I also added a few yellow, red and black helium balloons and streamers to the family room where we'd be gathering to eat and share the pictures and videos just to give it a party atmosphere. While I was looking for logos etc.I found that they really varied from season to season, so I decided to go with what seemed to me to be the most dominant colours: yellow, red and black.  We also forgot to hand out the passports I'd made (I managed to beg some old bank passbooks form our local bank and put a sticker on each which I'd printed the words Canadian Passport and used photos of the kids on the inside) which I was going to have stamped for each of the countries. This was an idea I stole from the Amber Brown books. I was also going to do a simulated plane ride (setting up chairs like on a plane, doing the safety drills, serving drinks, etc.) and show a travel log of China, but it didn't fit in well with the final party plans. I could have filled a week with the ideas we came up with and still run out of time!  The parents were asked to meet us at a parking lot near our first destination.

Once everyone had arrived, the participating adults were given their team bandanas (each team has a different colour). The kids drew a bandana randomly from a cloth bag and that was their team for the race. Once the teams were organized, we started with the first task. The clues were all printed on yellow paper (we bought it by the sheet at Staples so as not to waste any). On one side in the centre was printed THE AMAZING RACE and a logo I freehand copied on my computer; on the other, folded inside was the clue. These were tri-folded and I used a glue stick to seal them. In some clues were red or orange inserts for detours or roadblocks. I used standard arrow shaped supplied in word to make the symbols for the detours and roadblocks.  I made it tougher by putting one of the clues into a freezer bag, then froze two same-sized containers half-filled with water. I added the clue on top of one (you really have to get all the air out!) put the second block on top of the clue, and re-fulled the container with water. I did this three times and each team had to thaw out that particular clue before moving on. I also printed a second copy for each team of this clue so that if we were really running behind we could make up time this way.  I must also mention that each team member was given a small fanny pack to hold the team's items which included a bus ticket each, $10, a transit map and a compass.  

The first task was a detour in which the team had to choose between running 3 laps around the track, or one at a time attempting to score a total of 5 soccer goals on my husband. The location was Brazil, for those who were interested. The second task was to drive north then turn west after x km. Once close, they should soon know if they're within range (the destination was Within Range Driving Range). Here the team must rotate one at a time through a jumbo bucket of balls. Each team started with a 5 minute penalty, which decreased by a minute for every shot beyond the 100 marker. This of course was the Scotland leg of the race. The third clue took them southwards to a local mall. Here they had to break a code to find out where to stand (in the food court) to sing their favourite nursery rhyme three times loudly before receiving their next clue, which had them all crowd into a photo booth, have their pictures taken, then each had to sign it to exchange it for the next clue. This was the US leg of the race.  The first team back to the Labyrinth won a recreation centre swim or skate pass each. 

The next clue was an ISBN# (and back up clue was a call #) for a book in the nearby library. The book is called Labyrinth and I also gave the latitude and longitude for it. If the kids were really stumped, I provided a backup clue (not to be opened until the kids had been given 15 minutes to try and figure it out) which had a website where you can plug in the coordinates and get a detailed map of the location. The destination was the park labyrinth, which the team had to walk without cheating before receiving the next clue. This was the Greece leg of the race. 

The next clue was a roadblock (we made it a rule that any given team member could only perform one roadblock throughout the game, at least until everyone had done one). The question was, Who's feeling wild today? The task was to cross swing arm over arm across and back on the monkey bars without dropping. This was Belize. In retrospect, we probably should have cut this one out to save time, but the kids really enjoyed it, so maybe being a little later was worth it.  To ensure that the teams didn't all meet up together for the entire race, we switched the order on the mall tasks for the second team and on the monkey bars/library tasks for the third team. It was fun to see the faces of the kids when they saw another team go in a different direction!  The team parents and I also stayed in phone contact so that we could gauge the timing and if/when to skip tasks if necessary.  While the kids were at the monkey bars, the drivers left to meet us at a later point, and the kids now had to arrange their own transportation (with the other adult of course).  The next clue took them to a grocery store. We gave them an easy cryptic clue for the location. This was definitely too far to walk, but they each had a bus ticket and transit map. 

At the store, they were given an aisle number, barcode and a list of the first 3 ingredients for 4 different items. Each team had a different list. They had to use their money to buy as much by weight of those items (and at least one of each) as they could. They were to then keep the receipt, put the items into the food bank donation bin and present the receipt to customer service to receive the next clue. This was not any specific country, but more a global responsibility leg of the race.  I had wanted to have the kids volunteer with sorting at the food bank, but found that they required a four hour commitment from youth groups, so decided to do this instead.  This clue brought them back to our house. Since we were running late, we had the drivers meet them at customer service. Otherwise we would have had them use their timed bus transfers to continue to our place by transit. I also had my parents arrive at the house about 15 minutes ahead of when we expected the first team, in case I was unable to make it back in time. This turned out to be a good idea as the first team did manage to beat me back (they wouldn't have if they'd gone by transit)  At our house they had several more tasks to complete, but first a mandatory 40 minute rest and refreshment break.

The FOOD somewhat followed the countries theme (which didn't interest the kids at all!): I had spring rolls for China, bread pizza for Italy, hummus and pitas for Greece, and veggies and fruit (local, tropical). I used international flag toothpicks to designate each country.  Teams began the next tasks in the order by which they arrived at the house. There were prizes for the first team back to the house (bowling passes).  They were, in order: chop or shlop: this was both a roadblock (Who feels like food?) and a detour in which the team member must either suck a bowl of raspberry agar jello through a straw or feed a teammate 7 jellybeans using only chopsticks. This was the China leg. Next was the northern pacific leg. In this roadblock task, (Who feels like leading the blind?) one member had to call directions to a blindfolded teammate to find a plastic egg in the yard. Inside each egg was a sterilized owl pellet (you can order these from a variety of places online we used ebay to find ours; you can also find free bone identification charts to print out here:

Once it was found, it was to be opened and dissected by all team members until they had found and correctly identified 6 bones (we had a chart they could check against).  The next task was a time traveling one, back to the days of the early pioneers. Each team member was given a length of prepared candle wicking tied to a stick and had to dip and walk repeatedly until they had a taper that measured 5 cm in circumference. This is trickier than it seems, and requires patience. If you leave it in the melted wax (we used beeswax and metal-free wicking for this as they burn cleanly) then any built up wax will melt away, leaving you with les than when you started. It also sticks better if you let the previous layer cool fully. This was an activity that forced the kids to settle down!  Once those were made and checked, they were labeled and exchanged for the next clue.

This was the final task  and a detour in which the kids were given a blank card and had to run 3-legged style (but with all 3 team members) OR wheelbarrow-style (one person down, one on each leg) to me, have their card stamped then run holding hands to the final mat. The first team received mini-golf passes from a local indoor mini-golf course.   We tried to rig it so that each team was able to win a set of passes. We kept one extra set just in case. I also had an equalizing task which was an intersection. At the intersection, the first team to arrive had to join up with the next (or we could have rigged it for the second and third teams if needed) to complete a task. The task we had chosen for this was to make a human pyramid. Since we were running late, we skipped this task.   We didn't hand out loot bags as such, but the kids were able to keep the prizes, the bones from the pellets, the pellet charts, the candles and the fanny packs to put it all in. We kept the photos from the photo booth, but will scan them and emailed them along with video and photo highlights form each team as part of the thank you cards. 

For CAKES I made a large round cheesecake which I decorated to look like the globe, and stuck toothpick flags of the world into at appropriate places. I also made a rectangular chocolate cake iced with the Amazing Race logo, but with the boys names and the year included as well.  We served the cakes after the race and shared experiences and video clips with each other. I will be making a longer video to send to all the families along with the thank you notes.  The entire party took about 5 hours, but could be shortened by eliminating tasks here and there, making clues easier to figure out, and/or reducing traveling distances. Lengthening it would be very easy, but also very tiring!  All in all, while it took some planning and coordinating, there was less clean up than with one of our regular parties (we did the candles and pellets outdoors), and everyone was still talking about it for many days afterward! Having willing adults available to help made it all possible.

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