Plan an Indy 500 Race Theme for a Kid's Birthday Party or Special School Activity

Indy 500 Theme Race Party with Cardboard Racecars

The Play Connection, Inc. (my alter ego) did lots of fun preschool activities that are great for a birthday party or for kids' outdoor pe games. Due to the proximity of Indianapolis, an Indy 500 racing theme is always popular in May. Plan Indy 500 kid activities for a fun field day at school, and make your own race cars from cardboard boxes. Enjoy!

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Indy 500 Activities for Kids
Indy 500 Activities for Kids.

Use recycled household items as props  including a plastic milk jug for a gas can.
Use recycled household items as props- 
including a plastic milk jug for a gas can.

Ideas on how to plan an Indy 500 Race Birthday Party: 

  • Purchase inexpensive, large, black buckets to use in a pit stop race game. 
  • Recycle a milk jug, paint it black with spray paint or acrylics, and use duct tape or paint to spell out G-A-S.
  •  Turn a milk crate upside down to use as a Winner's Circle.
  • Hang a race banner (we got ours at the Dollar Tree).
  • Make 9 colored race flags for a realistic race experience.

How to make cardboard Cars for party or pretend play.
Trick out your cardboard car with paper plate wheels or 
fancy, cardboard fan wheels.

Wondering 'what do the flags mean or stand for in the Indy 500 race'?  

  • Green means go! Of course, you already knew that! Just like shouting "Green Light", the green flag is waved to signal the start of the race. It is also used to for restarts after a caution flag.
  • Yellow flag signals caution for a hazard. It could be an accident, debris, rain, maybe a silly goose got loose on the track. The pace car hops on the track to lead the other cars in safety. When we play Red Light, Green Light, we use yellow to signal walk very slowly.
  • Red flag STOP! Do not pass go, do not collect $100 dollars. A red light means freeze in your tracks. It is for accident or rain conditions.  Head straight to the pits or stay parked. No repairs, tire changes, or gassing up allowed. In other words, no fair cheating!
  • Red flag with a yellow "X" means the pits are closed to all vehicles.
  • Black flag means a penalty to a car on the track. Don't break the rules! It's also used for mechanical failures.
  • Black flag with a white "X" black-flag penalty.  Your car isn't keeping score anymore.
  • Blue flag or blue flag with yellow diagonal stripe Get out of the way, slow poke, a faster driver is about to pass. We use a blue light in our game to signal to turn around and walk backward toward the finish line.
  • White flag the end is near! It's the FINAL lap.
  • Checkered flag  Hooray! We have a winner. This flag means the race is over.
For our race car game of Red Light, Green Light, we purchased dowel rods and squares of fabric from Joann's Fabrics. To attach, rub glue on the dowel, wrap one end of fabric around the dowel, and staple as close to the stick as possible.

Let the kids paint and decorate their cardboard box cars.
Lay out aluminum foil, tissue paper, paper plates, and colored duct tape.  
Let the kids' diy imagination run wild.

On your mark, get set, go! Mark off a track with chalk, tape, or use cornstarch paint in the grass. Get your flags ready to wave. Have parents or helpers use a stopwatch to track each child's time. No need to compete against others. Race around several times for your best lap. Now the fun begins!

How to Pretend Play Race Red Light, Green Light Game
On your mark, get set, let the games begin!

How to Play Pretend Pit Stop

Get parents and teachers involved with the fun. Before the game begins, designate a pit crew for each "driver". 

During a caution flag, have everyone pull into the pits. One member of the crew must run around the car 4 times checking pretending to check tires. 

Another crew member will take the pre-filled milk "Gas" jug (water) and pour it into the black bucket. 

Then, the crew members must use a funnel to re-fill the jug. Have the driver time the crew for even more giggles. When all the water is gone, the drivers can take off again.

Measure the water in the jugs to see which pit crew wins a prize. Just pour it back into the buckets, and see which one retained the most water (gas).

A game of Red Light, Green Light is fun around the track too.

Recommended Reading:

Things to do in Indiana: Indy 500 Race Activities for Kids

Eat My Dust! Henry Ford's First Race* 

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Lora is a homeschooling mom, writer, creator of Kids Creative Chaos, and Director of the Play Connection.