One’s leadership style reflects how they are wired, their gifts and passions along with their understanding of what leadership is and how it is exercised. Listed below are assumptions about leadership that many people, including me, embrace as essential for being a transformational leader everyday, everywhere. Begin making a list of which assumptions below resonate with your understanding of leadership.
One’s leadership style reflects how they are wired, their gifts and passions along with their understanding of what leadership is and how it is exercised. Listed below are assumptions about leadership that many people, including me, embrace as essential for being a transformational leader everyday, everywhere. Begin making a list of which assumptions below resonate with your understanding of leadership.
The nature of icebreakers is to get the group to talk, to share and to get to know each other in a casual exchange. The best and most successful teams start with a little bit of fun, learning how to value what each member brings into the group. Icebreakers can help facilitate this exchange of information and comfort by doing so at the very start of the team forging process. Listed below are some ice breakers to get your participants relax, ready to focus on your theme, and connect with others in the group.
Break the meeting into teams of four or five. Give each team a topic. Pick topics that are fun and simple like, “What would you take on a trip to the desert?” or “List things that are purple.” Give your teams two minutes, no more, and tell them “This is a contest and the team with the most items on their list wins.” Encourage the teams to write down as many things as they can and not to discuss anything – just list things as quickly as possible. At the end of two minutes, the team with the most items on their list wins! This helps people to share ideas without fearing what other people will think.
Same or Different. Divide the meeting into teams of three or four and give each team a large sheet of paper and each person a different colored marker. Have each person draw a large oval such that each oval overlaps with the other ovals in the centre of the piece of paper. Give the group or groups a theme that pertains to your meeting objectives. Ask the participants to write down at least five entries in the non-overlapping and mutually overlapping areas of their ovals. Give them just five minutes to talk about their similarities and differences and write them in their own ovals on the paper. If there is more than one group, compare results and identify common themes and whether these similarities and differences can shed light on the purpose of the meeting. This helps team members develop an understanding of shared objectives and in a non-confrontational way learn how their views differ from others in the group.
Group your meeting participants at tables. At each table ask the group to list ten ways that everyone in that group is similar. Let them know that they cannot list body parts or clothing and that what they select cannot have anything to do with work. One person at the table should be tasked to make the list. At the end of your time limit have the group share their list with all meeting members. This is a great opportunity for your meeting attendees to learn about each other’s hobbies, families and common interests.
Group people in teams of five or six and tell them they will be marooned on a desert island. Give them thirty seconds to list all the things they think they should take and each person has to contribute at least three items. At the end of thirty seconds, tell the teams they can only take three things. Have the person who suggested each item on the list tell why they suggested it and defend why their item should be one of the chosen three. This helps the team learn about how each of them thinks, get to know each other’s values and how they solve problems.
FACT OR FICTION
Have everyone write down three surprising things about themselves, two of which are true and one of which is made up. Each person, in turn, reads their list and then the rest of the group votes on which “fact” they feel is the “false” one. If the group does not correctly pick a person’s made up “fact”, then that person wins. A group can have more than one winner. At the end, the whole group votes on which of the “winners” of the final round had the most deceiving “fact”. This helps people get to know and remember their colleagues.
FIRST OR WORST
Have each member tell the group their first or worst job in turn. This easy-to-use icebreaker works well with teleconferences too and allows team members to spark conversation with each other and to have some fun commenting on the jobs that they have each done.
The object of this icebreaker is to have small groups generate as many words or phrases possible related to a particular topic that focuses on the objective of your meeting. Give the participants a key word you want them to associate with and then give them two minutes to list, as quickly as possible, as many words or thoughts that pop into their heads.For example, if your company is trying to decide on whether to reduce travel and increase the use of teleconferencing, you might use the word “teleconferencing” and have people list as many words or phrases they can that they associate with this. They might say “saves money”, “saves time”, “impersonal”, “need to see other people”, “get distracted”, “sound quality” and so on. This reveals what people are thinking, similarities and differences in viewpoints, and even problem areas or topics that need addressing or further discussion.
As people enter your meeting, hand each one a piece of paper with a different number written on it. Ask the group to arrange themselves in numeric order without using their voices, hands or showing their number. This helps the team to think of other ways to communicate with each other and to work together to achieve a common goal.
MEET & GREET SHOE PILE
This works well in large groups and is a variation of the nametag icebreaker. Have everyone take off one of their shoes and throw it into a pile. Have each group member pick up a shoe and walk around the meeting room, greeting other people as they try to match their selected shoe to the one being worn by a team member. This is a great way for new people to meet several members in a group.
Prepare nametags for each person and put them in a box. As people walk into the room, each person picks a nametag – not their own. When everyone is present, participants are told to find the person whose nametag they drew, introduce themselves and say a few interesting things about themselves. When everyone has their own nametag, each person in the group will introduce the person whose nametag they were initially given and mention something of interest about that person. This helps participants get to know and remember each other.
This is a fun activity for adults or intergenerational groups. Gather in a circle and tell the campers to run to the middle of the group and give high-fives to anyone else who is there if they can answer yes to any of the statements. (Note: If there are mobility issues, have the person raise both hands and have the others in the group go to that person(s) and give high-fives.)
Players close their eyes in a boundary area. Tap one person on the head who is the “cowboy.” The cowboy stands in one spot in the area with his/her eyes open. Now, with bumpers up, the campers walk around the area. When they bump into someone, they say, “Howdy,” if the person says “Howdy” back, they continue on. If they bump into the cowboy and say “Howdy” the cowboy is silent in return. When this happens, the person opens their eyes and links arms with the cowboy, becoming a cowboy as well.
Have one person leave the room and then decide something you all have, like eyes or pet or shoes. The person then comes back and asks, “how’s your’s?” to each member. They respond by describing “theirs.” (For shoes, they could say loose or traveled many miles) The “it” then tries to guess the item.
HOW YA DOIN?
Put campers into 3 groups (using Mingle, Mingle possibly). Identify one group as “Hello,” the second as “How Ya Doing?” and the third as “Fine Thank You.” Blindfold campers and (with “bumpers up”) have them try to form groups of 3 that make a conversation. Each group can then discuss some questions about communication.
Give campers 10 of something (M&M’s or pebbles). Go around the circle with each person saying something they have never done. Anyone in the circle who has done what the “it” has never done has to get rid of one of their 10 items. The winner is the person who has items left when everyone else’s are gone.
M & M SHARING GAME
Have campers take a handful of M & M’s then pick a topic for each color (ex: green= something you like to do outside) and go around the circle having campers share one item for every M & M they have.
Take a few minutes to play this game to rev up the campers’ creativity. You’ll need a medium-sized ball that is easy to throw and catch. Show the campers the magic ball in your hands. Instruct them to throw the ball to each other. On each throw this magic ball will take on a new quality. The thrower defines the quality. For example, a camper may say, “This ball is spiky.” The person receiving the ball should catch the ball acting as if the ball is truly spiky, saying, “Ouch” and being very careful with the ball. Continue play until everyone has had at least one opportunity to catch and throw the ball.
MINGLE, MINGLE, MINGLE
Have campers mingle around in a group, then call out a number. Campers must form groups of that number; then mingle again. You can also call out choices like skiing or snowboarding and they must group with their choice.
Go around the circle having each camper give their name and an action that starts with the same letter as their name (ex: Jumping Jane) they must do the action as they share their name. Everyone in the circle repeats it and the next person shares. As each person shares the group goes through all the previous names and then adds the new one.
Pair campers up and have them spread out in an area. Have one camper share about themselves while the other listens and then tell them to switch after a few minutes. Gather the pairs back and have them share with the group what they learned about their partner.
Ask each camper to introduce herself and tell one thing they own that they would never throw out. Then tell them about how Jesus often used ordinary objects to tell parables that taught about the kingdom, how to treat one another, and Jesus’ love. Now have each camper use the object they mentioned earlier to tell a story about themselves.
PEOPLE TO PEOPLE
Explain to the group that they are to mingle around saying “people to people” over and over until you call out two body parts such as “head to elbow.” At that point, each person needs to find a partner and touch his/her head to the partner’s knee. A few more commands can be given with these pairs until you say “people to people” again which is their clue to mingle around until it’s time to find a new partner.
Ask each camper to introduce herself and tell one thing they own that they would never throw out. Then tell them about how Jesus often used ordinary objects to tell parables that taught about the kingdom, how to treat one another, and Jesus’ love. Now have each camper use the object they mentioned earlier to tell a story about themselves.
Randomly pass out the puzzle pieces and have the group find their puzzle and put it together.
Ask players to stand in a circle and extend their right arm with their palm facing up and then put their left pointer finger into the palm of the person on their left so that the tip of their finger is just barely touching the palm. On the count of 3, players try to grab the finger of the player next to them while simultaneously pulling their pointer finger away so as not to get grabbed by their other neighbor. Play several times.
Upon entering the room, a celebrity name is pinned on each person’s back. By asking only yes or no questions of the others in the room, people try to guess who they are. Variation… have them be animals or plants or food, etc.
SHARE HIGHS & LOWS
Have campers share a high and low moment from the day, the week, or the last few hours.
THIS IS MY NOSE
Players sit or stand in a circle. One person is “IT”. “IT” walks up to someone in the circle, and as they say, “This is my nose,” they point to another part of their body such as their elbow. “IT” must then count to ten while the person s/he is facing says, “This is my elbow” while pointing to their nose. If s/he doesn’t say this correctly by the count of ten, the two switch places and the game continues.
TOOTHPICK YES & NO
Give each participant three toothpicks. Tell the group that they are to walk around and ask each other questions. If a person being asked a question answers with a “yes” or “no” in their answer, then they have to give one of their toothpicks to the person who asked the question. Play continues for 5-10 minutes. If a player looses all their toothpicks, they can still ask questions and try to get toothpicks back. At the end see who has the most toothpicks.
TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE
Each camper shares three statements about themselves (2 that are true and one that is a lie). The group then tries to guess which one is a lie.
WHO’S YOUR NEIGHBOR?
Campers sit in chairs or stand with a marker below them. “It” is in the middle and goes up to a camper and asks, “Who’s your Neighbor?” the camper must name the person on their left and on their right before the “it” counts to 5. The “it” then asks, “Who else would you like to know?” and the camper responds with a characteristic like “everyone wearing jeans.” Then everyone who fits the characteristic, plus the camper who spoke, must find a new spot. There should then be a new it.
Each player choose an action that starts with the same letter as their name Jumping Joe or running Ron) the players the act out their actions.
Each person is given a list and this charge: Find someone who fits each category, e.g. Has blue eyes, has curly hair, wears contact lenses. The list can be made to suit your imagination. As the members of the group mingle, make sure they introduce themselves.
AUTOGRAPH BINGO GAME
Prepare a table with 5 rows and 5 columns (5×5), with interesting facts inside the boxes. These facts can include humorous or bizarre things. For example you can use facts such as:
- Speaks more than two languages
- Enjoys walking in thunderstorms
- Likes anchovies
- Has been to Alaska
- Has gone skydiving before
- Has more than three sisters
- Has gone without a shower for more than three days
Try to be as creative as you can. Like traditional bingo, you can mark the center square as a “Free Space”. After you are finished preparing the table, print out enough copies. You are ready to play! Pass out pens and the bingo cards to each player. Explain the game along with the following rule: each person you talk to may only sign your sheet once (so that people can interact with as many people as possible). When everyone is ready, say “Go!” and begin the gameiOnce a player shouts “Bingo!” everyone returns to the center and the person must introduce the people who signed his or her sheet. If desired, you can ask each person to explain their fact. The Autograph Game is a great way to learn humorous or unique facts about people. Have fun!
Give each person two lengths of string and two balloons. Tie one balloon to each ankle. Everyone tries to step on each other’s balloons while protecting their own as best as they can. The last remaining balloon wearer is the winner.
With the group seated in a good sized circle, designate one person as “IT” by giving him/her a small, soft, stuffed animal—preferably one that can take a little abuse. (The true purist will make this stuffed animal a bunny, however, the animal and the name of the game may be changed to suit availability and species …) One camper begins by saying his/her own name followed by the name of another person in the circle. This person must then do the same before “IT” can tag him/her with the boppin’ bunny. Play continues until “IT” tags someone, who then becomes the new “IT.”
This is a good get-acquainted game. It also serves to keep the players alert. One player is chosen and steps into the center of the circle. To begin the activity, the center player points to someone in the circle and shouts either, “Right,” “Left,” “You,” or “Me!” The person to whom the center player points to must shout the name of the person on either his/her right or left, state their name, or say the name of the player in the center before the center player finishes saying: “Bumpety-bump- bump!” If the player being asked cannot name the person before the center person says: “Bumpety-bump- bump!” that person take the center player’s place. In a large group, there may be several center players.
CIRCLE NAME DANCE
Have players get into groups of 3 or 4 holding onto each other’s raised thumbs (making a thumb tower). Say each other’s name as the thumb tower moves toward the player. Once all names are learned, add body movement to create a unique circle name dance.
COMMONALITIES AND UNIQUITIES
Form groups of five to eight people and give them two sheets of paper and a pencil or pen. The first part of the activity is Commonalities, where each subgroup compiles a list of the things they have in common. In order for it to make the list, it must apply to everyone in the subgroup. You want to avoid writing things that people can see (e.g. “everyone has hair,” or “we are all wearing clothes”). Try to get them to dig deeper. After about 5 minutes, have a spokesperson from each subgroup read their list. Then, depending on your goals for the session, you can have half of each subgroup rotate to another group for Uniquities or you can leave everyone in the same group. On the second sheet of paper have them record uniquities, meaning that each item applies to only one person in the group. The group tries to find at least 2 uniquities for each person. After 5-7 minutes, you can have each person say one of their uniquities or have a person read them one by one, having others try to guess who it was. (Again, you want to go beyond the superficial, avoiding those things that people can readily see). This is an excellent team-building activity because it promotes unity, gets people to realize that they have more in common than they first might realize. The awareness of their own unique characteristics is also beneficial in that people can feel empowered to offer the group something unique.
This unique game from Sweden is an outstanding way for group members to introduce themselves in a non-threatening and creative way. Begin by having participants spread out in an open area. Next, select a way to break this larger group into 2 smaller equal groups. Instruct one of these groups to extend their right hands out in front of their bodies in a normal handshake position and put their left hands behind their backs. Ask the other group’s members to do the reverse: to extend their left hands extend their left hands out in front of their bodies in a handshake position and place their right hands behind their backs. Explain to the two groups that on the signal “Go,” everyone is to mill around the room looking for another person that has the correct hand extended to complete a complimentary handshake (right hand to right hand/left hand to left hand). Upon meeting, they shake hands with the other person and say, “Gudag!” (Swedish for “Good day”). After shaking hands and exchanging their “Gudag” greetings, they switch hands so that the hand that was extended now goes behind their backs and the hand that was behind their back is now extended out in a handshake position. Each participant searches for another person who has the same hand extended and repeats the greeting. This continues for a short time or until everyone has had ample time to greet all the others in the room. *Variation: Use other languages to greet other players
This is an interesting way to have your group mingle and be in touch with each other in a low risk fashion. One third of the group will start the game with one hand raised and ready to “High 5” another player with their hand up in the air. Another third of the group will assume the handshake position and prepare to shake hands with other players that have their hands ready to shake. The last third will have their hand down by their side with palm forward. They are ready to give a “Low 5” to the other players in the similar position. Each player will execute all three of the positions during the activity and add the appropriate greeting that goes with the action. For example, when the activity began, if my hand was raised, I’d find another player to “High 5” the person and say: “Hi,” and then I’d ready my hand to “Shake” with another person. When shaking hands, I would say: “what’s shakin,” and then I’d lower my hand and find someone to “Low 5” with. When “Low 5ing say to the person: “What’s going dowwwwwn?” After the “Low 5,” return to the ‘High 5″ and start the process and cycle over again. This continues until the activity is over.
Provide a 30″ piece of string for each player. Have all players find a partner. Have a few assistants to help tie up the couples. Handcuff one player first by tying one of the strings to each wrist. Then, tie one end of their partner’s string to one wrist, loop the other end of their string through the first partner’s loop of string and tie to the second partner’s other wrist. The goal is for partners to get apart without either breaking oruntying the string. SOLUTION… Slip the loop of one of the strings between the wrist and the loop tied around the other’s wrist, and over the hand. This leaves the strings tied as before but the partners are separated.
IN THE CIRCLE
Create a circle around the group (with rope, chalk, imaginary). Tell campers we are all inside the circle because we have things in common, ask “What do we have in common?” Now make statements such as “If you like Vanilla Ice Cream stand inside the circle, If you like chocolate—stand outside the circle.” or live in the country vs. city, many siblings vs. few siblings, like lightning vs. hate lightning …etc. After 8-10 statements, let the campers sit down in the circle and discuss how people are separated inside and outside the “circle” in everyday life. At the end, take the circle away and say, ‘In God there are no boundaries.”
As the participants enter the area, give each an index card and a pen. Ask them to think of a question they would like to ask others in the group and then print it on the index card. These questions should start with a: Who, What, Where, When, or How. After completing this, have participants mingle around and pair up with another person. One person reads their question and has their partner answer the question. Upon completing the answer, the answering person then reads his/her question and listens to their partners response. After both questions are read and answered, exchange cards and find a new partner. This switching of index question cards and answering questions continues until the activity is over which will help participants find out a lot about each other.
Have each participant come up with 2 things that they would be willing to share with others. The stipulation is that the 2 things they are going to share must start with the first letter of both their first and last name. Have participants mingle around and share the 2 things, (example: “Hi, I’m John Smith and I like jello and sardines!”)
Group all participants into pairs. Ask each pair to choose 1 letter of the alphabet. Next instruct the pairs to think of 3 things that they both have in common that start with the letter that they chose. Do a go around to share all the pairs commonalties.
Each person in the group must line up according to the directions given by the leader. It could be by age, shoe size, alphabetically by mother’s first name, own last name, or height. Be creative! The players, however, are not permitted to talk at all. This must all be done in silence.
Two players face each other. One player puts a hand in front of them giving a thumbs up sign. The opposing player grabs the other player’s thumb and puts his/her thumb up. This continues until all four hands are forward, each connected by a thumb hold. Each player tells the other his or her name. The activity begins with one player pulling the other players arms out straight (his/her arms bent) and saying that player’s name. Immediately, the action reverses and the other player calls out the other’s name. This is done several times as in sawing down a tree Lumberjack style. This is a great introductory activity with lots of laughing going on.
Each person is given a card with one letter of the alphabet on it. At a signal, everyone mingles until the leader shouts, “Scrabble”. Everyone then must scramble to become part of a word made of the letters that they are holding. Ask that they make at least three letter words and that they exchange names.
THE NAME GAME
The group is seated in a circle. One person is chosen to begin by stating their name. The person next to him on the right must repeat the first name and then say their own. This continues around the circle until the last person who must repeat all of the names in order. Try to keep the game moving, and don’t allow anyone to get “hung up” on a name. Help when needed. Variation… have campers state their name and something else. (e.g. An adjective which describes them, hometown, animal they would like to be, something that starts with the same letter as their name…)
NAME LINE (Choo-choo Name Train)
Players form a circle. One player stands inside the circle and on the “GO” command moves in front of one of the other players; high 5’s that player, and asks: “Hey what’s your name?” That player then responds by sharing their first name saying for example: “my name is Dawn!” The center player then does the “Dawn” dance – s/he puts their hands on their hips, and shouts “ready.” After the “ready” the center player’s right foot is extended toward the player and as their heel touches the ground (the rest of the foot flexed upward) they shout out the person’s first name (“Dawn”). This is then repeated alternating feet four more times each time repeating the person’s name: “Dawn! Dawn! Dawn! Dawn!” The center player then turns and Dawn puts her hands on their shoulders and they begin “choo-chooing” across the circle until they stop in front of another player. Again the lead person high 5’s the new person and asks: “Hey, what’s your name?” The person being asked then shares their name and the lead person looks over his/her right shoulder and shouts out their name to the person behind them – “His name is Gary!” The person directly behind the lead person then repeats that action, looking over their right shoulder and shouting out: “His name is Gary!” After the last person shout out the persons name the lead player shouts out “ready!” and the group (now 2 people) do the “Gary” dance. After completing the dance, the lead person and Dawn release their hold on one another and turn around (facing the center of the circle). They reconnect with Gary now hooking onto the lead person and the lead person now connecting to Dawn. This creates a situation where after every dance, there will be a new leader going across the circle to find another player. With large groups the number of starters can be increased so that there may be from three to ten “trains” operating at one time. This is a great way for a group to transition from a large circle to smaller circles while having Phun!!
This is a great noise maker that help participants get to know each others names. Start by having the group create a large circle. Next have each person introduce themselves and learn the first name of the person to their right and left. If participants don’t know your name offer it before starting. On the leaders “march” command, players begin marching in a counterclockwise manner. At any time the leader shouts out 1 of 4 commands: 1) who’s to your right? 2) who’s to your left? 3) who are you? 4) who am I? After the leaders questions, players shout out the answer as loudly as possible until the leader shouts out another question. After a few questions, have the group stop and look across the circle and make eye contact with one other person. On “Go!” everyone moves across the circle to the position of the person they made eye contact with. New neighbors are established and the game is repeated.
NO SEE ‘EM’S
It took the men on the road to Emmaus a while to recognize Jesus; the object of this game is to identify an opposing teammate as quickly as possible. Split the group into 2 teams standing Red Rover style across from each other. Have each team choose a representative to cover their eyes and walk to the curtain (a towel or blanket -or just have them close their eyes) in the center. The representative should not be able to see across the curtain and their teammates may not speak. On the count of three lower the towel and whoever correctly names the other person wins, and gets to take their opponent back to their own team. Continue until all the players are on one side.
Players are seated in a circle with “IT” in the center. All participants are numbered, 1-4. “IT” calls out two numbers, and these players must change seats. “IT” must try to get a seat at this time. Variation… Fruit basket upset! Give the players the names of four different fruits, and “IT” calls out the name of two of them. When “IT” yells “Fruit Basket Upset”, all must find a new seat.
From a prepared list read off one of the opposites questions and then allow participants to move to designated areas that represent one of the item. After the group has split and gone to the area that they most identify with, have them chose a partner and allow time to discuss why they most identified with that item. Example questions might include:
*are you more like a sunset or a sunrise? *are you more like a rose or a daisy? *are you more like McDonald’s/Friday’s or a gourmet restaurant?
Variation: use questions that require not only thought, but creativity on the participants part (example: If you could be any musical instrument, which one would you choose and why? If you could be any animal which one would you e and why? etc.).
This is an outstanding way for group members to introduce themselves in a non-threatening and creative way. Begin by having participants spread out in an open area. Next, instruct participants that they will be introducing themselves (name only) to other participants and they are to remember the persons name they just met. After the greeting and sharing names, participants separate and introduce themselves to another participant. After exchanging names with the new participant, both participants then introduce their previously met partner by saying: “and over there (pointing to the person) is … ” These introductions continue until a predetermined number of participants have been met.
PEOPLE TO PEOPLE
Have the group divide into pairs. The leader will call out two body parts and the pairs must put them together, e.g. Head – hand: they must put one hand to one head, not both. Then the leader will call out two more body parts. The pair must put these two together while still keeping the first two together. Add one more set of two parts, and then the leader yells, “People to People”. Everyone then must run and find a new partner.
Upon entering the room, a celebrity name is pinned on each person’s back. By asking only yes or no questions of the others in the room, people try to guess who they are. Variations… have them be animals or plants or food, etc.
Give each member of the group a line to a familiar song. The players then scramble about the room to locate others with lines of the same song. Once the song has been completed, the group sits down and yells the name of their song. When all songs are completed, take a break and have each group sing their song.
The whole group starts out in a circle holding hands. The leader breaks the circle by dropping the hand of the person next to him. This person stands still in the position that they are in while the leader leads the rest of the circle around them forming a tight spiral. Once this has been completed, the group stays in this shape while the center person ducks down, still holding the hand they have, and crawls out of the spiral. Everyone continues to hold hands and unwinds from the inside out like a ball of yarn. When successfully completed, the group should be back in a circle.
This is a great introductory game and helps kids learn each others names, and share things about themselves in a fun way. With each group having a ball the first round starts by having the person holding the ball say his/her name and then throwing the ball to anyone in the circle. When that person catches the ball they say their name and then throw the ball to someone different. This continues for a short time giving the participants a chance to learn each others names. The second round is played as such: the person who has the ball throws it to anyone in the circle, but doesn’t shout his/her name out when throwing the ball. When the person (that is being thrown to) catches the ball, the entire group shouts his/her name out. The third round involves sharing. Tell the group that this time before they can toss the ball to another person they must share one fact about themselves with the group. Inform them that to create a little interest, you will randomly blow the whistle and who ever has the ball when the whistle blows will then have to share things about themselves for .30 seconds. You’ll be surprised how much your group members find out about each other!
THIS IS MY NOSE
Players sit or stand in a circle. One person is “IT”. “IT” walks up to someone in the circle, and as they say,’This is my nose,” they point to another part of their body such as their elbow. “IT” must then count to ten while the person s/he is facing says, ‘This is my elbow” while pointing to their nose. If s/he doesn’t say this correctly by the count of ten, the two switch places and the game continues.
Half of the group is seated in chairs in a circle, the other half stands behind one of the chairs “guarding” the person seated there. Include one empty chair in the circle. The person guarding the empty chair is the winker. The winker begins play by winking at one of the seated campers. When a camper is winked at, s/he will attempt to get up and move to the winker’s chair. Guards try to keep their person seated, but must keep their hands at their sides until they see their person attempting to move. Once the winker succeeds in filling his/her chair, the person guarding the empty chair becomes the new winker. Make sure guards are gentle, and don’t allow them to grab clothing. This game works great with intergenerational groups.
This section contains dozens of excellent games that can be played with no props at all. In the history of the world, these are some of my absolute favorite no prop games. There is an excellent resource for viewing and even downloading some of the classic and historically significant games books of the past.www.archive.org contains search capabilities for a wide variety of documents, books and other media that have been digitized and made available for downloading in a variety of formats, including digital files that can be read on tablets, laptop computers, digital readers and smart phones. But to find historical games books, you must think historically, by searching on such words as: amusements, games, recreation and leisure.
Wah has become one of my favorite games of all time. High energy, great theatrics and quick play makes it a permanent part of my personal top ten activities, ever! Wah is a game of the samuari (well, probably not, but it is fun to frame it that way!) So when you say, ‘Wah!’ you can’t say it with a New York accent, you need to say it like a samuari, ‘WHAT There are three basic movments to this game. Begin with multiple circles of about 8 people in Wha position – feet slightly spread (like the capital letter A), hands together, pointed forwards. In each circle, one person will volunteer to begin the game. This first person gains eye contact with another person, points to them with both hands and says, “Wha!” The second person now raises both of their hands straight up over their head, and says, “Wha!” The third and final move involves the two people standing on each side of person two, who make non-contact lumberjack chopping motions towards person number two, and also say “Wha!” If each person completes their task and says ‘Wha!’ with gusto and on time, the game continues. But, if anyone is early or late in the performance of their duty, or they just mess up, they are ‘out’ of the game. But the good news is, they are not permanently out of the game. They can quickly move to another circle and immediately get back into the game.
After the third movement is completed, person number two (whose hands are still raised high above their head) become the first person in the next round, points to one of their group members and evokes the command, “Wha!” And the game continues.
Big Circle Games
For those moments when you have truly large audiences and still want to play together in a single group, here are a collection of some of my favorite Big Circle Games. These can be played in large circles (25 or more people) using multiple players to be ‘it.’
Also known by such names as Speed Rabbit, Circus and Statues, this game does a great job of mingling together the members of a group. The first version I encountered began by teaching the formation for ‘elephant.’ In this inital version, one person (it) approaches three members of the circle, and pointing to the middle member of the group says, “elephant!” This person then takes both hands, makes fists, places them together upon their own nose to form the trunk of the elephant, while the two players on each side of this central person take their closest hand and form one ear of the elephant by placing their open hand behind the ears of the middle player.
The last person to successfully place their hands in the correct position trades places with ‘it’ and goes off to select another collection of three players at a different location in the circle.
Once players have experienced ‘elephant’ you can include other animals, such as ‘crocodile,’ where the central person extends both arms, like the long jaws of the crocodile, and the two people on each side provide the quick moving tiny feet.
Additional choices can include ‘palm tree,’ where the central player raises their hands above their head like a giant palm tree, and the two people on each side play the role of hula dancers. You can even increase the number of group members to five by playing ‘firecracker,’ where the central person slaps their hands together as if they were lighting a match, the next two people outwards make the sound of the fuse burning (‘Sssssss…”) and the final two people provide the ‘bang’ sound.
Best of all, you can play ALL of these variations at the same time, so that participants have to be ready for any variety of animals or scenes that they must recreate when needed.
This is My Nose A Game of Opposites
One person begins by walking up to another player and saying, “this is my nose,” while pointing to any other part of their body except their nose (let’s say their elbow in this case). The second person has five seconds to reply, “this is my elbow,” while touching their nose. If they do not or cannot return the proper response within five seconds, they change places, and become ‘it.’ Encourage players to choose acceptable body parts for this activity!
Zip – Zap – Zoom
A Name Game
One player approaches a member of the circle, looks them in the eye, points towards them and offers one of four possibilities (zip, zap, zoom, or they can point without saying anything).
If they say ‘zip’ their opponent has five seconds to say the name of the person on their right. If they say ‘zap’ their opponent has five seconds to say the name of the person on their left. If they say ‘zoom’ their opponent must
provide their own name, and if they simply point and say nothing, and their opponent says anything, they must trade places. If a member of the circle cannot provide the correct name of their neighbors (or their own) within five seconds, they must trade places with ‘it.’ The truly fascinating thing about Big Circle Games is that you can play them all at the same time. Imagine a circle of 100 people, with 10 or more people being ‘it’ in the center, traveling around and continuously evoking commands for which the members of the circle must quickly react. In the process, the entire group becomes wonderfully mixed together, players learn the names of their neighbors, participants become leaders as they rotate from being ‘it’ to being a member of the big circle, and best of all, laughter ensues as players discover that their ability to comply with the requests presented to them diminish as the game speeds up.
The Beat Master
One member of the group is chosen to leave the immediate area (step outside the room), while another member of the group is chosen to be the leader. This person initiates a movement, motion or sound, which the rest of the group follows and continues as the first person returns to the center of the group. The goal for the returning person is to identify within three guesses which person is The Beat Master (i.e. the person who is the leader).
The Beat Master can alter their movements continuous, so that hand clapping turns to finger snapping to arm waving, to foot stomping. The members of the group who follow The Beat Master should help to draw focus away form their leader. Once The Beat Master is identified, the person in the center of the circle chooses another person to leave the group, and also chooses the new Beat Master.
With partners standing back-to-back, demonstrate three possible characters. I typically use:
The Tiger – hands raised like claws and roaring.
The Rootin’ Tootin’ Cowboy – right hand over the head, swinging a lasso, and yelling ‘Ye-haw!’
The Lullaby Fairy Princess – hands raised to the side and as they slowly drop, saying, “Ahhhhhh!’
When the group leader says, “1 – 2 – 3,” partners quickly turn to face their partner and immediately demonstrate the character that they believe their partner is about to do. If both partners demonstrate the same character, they have ESP, and should high five each other.
Play again, and this time encourage participants to think carefully about their partner. Which character are they most likely to be? Ready? 1-2-3!
After a round or two with the same partner, encourage players to select a new partner and see if they can have ESP with this new person.
Pulse is an outstanding no prop table game, and it can be played on the floor as well. Begin with a small group of players seated, with one hand flat on the surface of a table. Imagine that there is a hinge at each player’s wrist. The group leader begins the pulse by pointing out the direction the pulse will begin to travel (to the right or to the left) and then raising the fingers of their hand (while their wrist stays in contact with the table), and slapping the table once. The pulse moves in the direction stated, and the next person continues by slapping the table once, as the pulse continues to travel around the table. At any point, a player can slap the table once or twice. If they slap once, the pulse continues in the same direction. If they slap twice, the pulse reverses direction and goes the other way. If anyone around the table lifts even a single finger when it is not their turn, they lose that hand for the duration of the round. Play continues until approximately half of the group has been eliminated, then players move up to the next higher level of challenge.
Round One – players place just one hand on the table. Round Two – players use both hands, side-by-side. Round Three – players use both hands, but cross them (to form an X) so that their right hand is on the left, and their left hand is on the right.
Round Four – players use both hands, but reach outwards so that their right hand crosses over the left hand of the person on their right and their left hand crosses over the right hand of the person on their left, forming X’s with the partner on each side.
Round Five – players revert back to the starting positions in Round Two (two hands, side-by-sde) but an additional technique is allowed. If a player slaps the table with a fist, the pulse jumps over the next hand in that direction. If they make a fist and double-slap the table, the pulse reverses direction and skips a hand in the new direction.
An Energy Ball is an imaginery ball (about the size of a soccer ball) that gets passed around a circle of seated players using some specific commands. In this game, if you happen to make a mistake, you are not out, but merely need to correct your mistake and continue the game. Because of the imagination necessary to play, one of the very first things required in this game is for someone to create the Energy Ball. It can arrive in a box, like a present. It can be baked like a cake. It can be inflated like a tire. Be creative, and invent your own method. Next, there are a few specific commands that allow players to move the ball around the circle.
Pass – using their right hand to pass to the left, or their left hand to pass to the right (always crossing over the midpoint of their own body), players say, “pass,” and then illustrate with their hands which direction the ball is to travel. Pass can only be used to keep moving the ball in the same direction it is presently traveling. In order to reverse direction, you need:
Bink – players hold their forearm straight up, to form a wall that the ball hits, bounces off and continues in the opposite direction.
Bounce – this command, which includes a chopping motion with one hand, bounces the Energy Ball at the feet of your neighbor (skipping past them) and arriving at the next player in that direction. The bounce command skips a person.
Over – this command allows a player on one side of the circle to pass the Energy Ball across the circle to a player on the other side. Using both hands (like they are throwing a ball with two hands) a player points towards the intended receiver of the Energy Ball, and says, “over.”
And finally, one of the greatest Energy Ball moves of all time, The Schwa!
The Schwa – is a behind the back (basket-ball like) pass that reverses direction and skips a person. If the Energy Ball is approaching from the left, a player would take their right hand, swing it around to the right, and behind their back (reversing the direction of the ball and skipping a person), while saying (as theatrically as possible), “Schwaaaaaaahhhhh!”
Now set the Energy Ball in motion and see how far you can send it without making a mistake. Or try creating new commands to move the Energy Ball, such as standing to twirl with the Energy Ball, or the entire group doing ‘the wave.’
LOOK DOWN, LOOK UP
Also known as Vampire, 1-2-3 Scream, and Screaming Toes, this no prop game incorporates two unusal components: strategy and screaming!
Begin with players standing in a small circle, and ask them to look down at their feet. When prompted to, ‘look up,’ each person is asked to stare directly at just one other player in the circle. If the person they are looking at also happens to be looking at them, both players scream. In the traditional version of the game, the first time your scream, you loose the use of one eye (which you cover up with one hand). Play continues, and if a one eyed player screams again, they are out, and the circle shrinks until only one or two players remain. If you like this game and would like to increase the energy (and noise level), try this variation, the first time two players look at each other, they scream, and the person who stops screaming first is out! I’ve actually seen players fall over from laughing so hard during this version of the game.
Partners face each other, with hands behind their backs. On the count of three, they each present one hand, with fingers showing from zero (a fist) to five (all fingers showing). The first partner to correctly count the total number of fingers showing (theirs and their partner’s) wins!
For round two, partners can display one or both hands (answers range from zero to twenty).
In round three, three players form a small group, starting play with one hand (answers range from zero to fifteen). And finally, for the highest level, three players with both hands (answers ranging from zero to thirty).
One of the take-aways from this mathematically playful experience is the element of good sportsmanship. When your partner happens to win a round, they deserve a high five and a ‘good job,’ from their opponent. Teaching audiences how to play well together and with sportsmanship is a valuable life skill indeed.
This playful game is a great way to quickly mix your audience and an ideal method for dispersing a large group in a slow and orderly fashion. Begin by demonstrating the following commands to your audience:
Captain’s Coming: Everyone stands and salutes the Captain (facilitator).
Front of the Ship: Everyone moves to the bow of the ship.
Back of the Ship: Everyone moves to the stern of the ship.
Mid-Ship: Everyone moves to mid-ship.
Dinnertime: Five people required. One forms a ‘table’ on their hands and knees, four other players kneel around the four sides of this table and mime eating.
Lighthouse: Four people required. One player stands in the middle, arms raised and ‘beeps’ as the lighthouse. Three other players join hands and circle around this person.
Row Ashore: Three people required. One person lies flat on the ground, two people stand over them using their arms to make ‘rowing’ movements (like paddling a canoe).
Couples Dancing: Couples dance in ballroom position.
Swab the Deck: Individuals. Everyone individually kneels to the floor and ‘scrubs’ it.
After demonstrating these commands to the crew, the Captain (facilitator) barks these commands out in random order while moving the entire crew from the bow to the stern to mid-ship and back again. Crew members successfully completing each command remain in the game while those without sufficient partners or failing to complete a command quickly and properly are asked to do one of the following:
Leave the game. Use this version if you want to slowly disperse your group on to the next activity location. This is an ideal way to serve snacks during a program, so that your entire audience does not immediately flock to the serving tables.
Form a continuous chain with other outcasts, walking about and singing ‘yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me!’ until all players are members of the outcast group.
PEOPLE TO PEOPLE
Partners work together in this great game of human connection. Begin by inviting players to find a partner and form a large circle. The leader of this activity stands in the center of the circle and shouts out various (appropriate) body parts that the partners must connect. If for example, they yell, “elbow to elbow,” both partners would touch one of their elbows to one of their partner’s elbows. “Hand to ear,” would connect one partner’s hand to the other partner’s ear. “Toe to toe,” would connect at least one of each partner’s toes to the other.
Partners continue to hold their first connection point as they attempt to complete the second and third connections as well. After three commands, the leader yells, “people to people,” and players scatter attempting to find a new partner for themselves (so does the leader). If the leader is successful in finding a new partner, the person without a partner become the new leader and begins the process again.
I AM THE KING!
The first time I experienced this game I laughed so hard I couldn’t stop.
A large circle is formed, with players standing. One person is selected to be the tagger and stands inside the circle. At the center of the circle is an object (a shoe, a stuffed animal, a book, even a cardboard box). We’ll choose a mitten for this example.
The goal of the tagger is to tag someone moving inside the circle, and trade places with them. But during this process two other hilarious things can happen. First, two players on opposite sides of the circle can attempt to exchange places. This can temporarily distract the tagger, which makes the next heroic move even more possible. And that is for a single person to run to the center, lift the object above their head and yell, “I am the mitten king!” and make it back to their original location (or a new position that opens up) without being tagged.
If they manage to return without being tagged, they are indeed The Mitten King!
This physical challenge is best with partners of similar physical size.
Stand facing your partner, with feet together, hands up (so that you could touch your partner’s shoulders, but don’t). In this sport, the only body parts that can contact each other are the player’s hands. Players are asked NOT to interlock the fingers of their hands with their opponent’s.
The challenge here is to force your partner to take a step in any direction from their present position, by pushing with your palm against the palm of their hand.
Strategies that work include brute force, faking contact, different pressure on each hand and a few more that you are sure to discover while playing.
KNIGHT & DRAGONS
Here is an excellent and brief activity for a large group of people. For each person in the group, there are two other people that are very important to them. One is a fire-breathing dragon (oh no!). But that’s ok, because the other is a knight in shining armor. Once each person has chosen who will play these roles for them (without telling them who they are), the game begins. Each player attempts to stand in a position where their knight in shining armor stands between them and the fire breathing dragon.
What happens next is pure chaos, as players begin to move around, quickly trying to get in the proper position. But alas, this configuration never settles, as players continuously try to position themselves as best they can.
Michelle Cummings plays a version of this game using Secret Agents and Guardian Angels. At the completion of the activity, she invites players to go and thank their guardian angel. You can find this and other activities in her book, Setting the Conflict Compass.
This communication activity requires three people per team. All three are needed to help find an object that has been placed in the playing area.
One Seeker – Who is searching for an object in the play area with their eyes closed and listening to the Communicator for directions.
One Director – Who watches the Seeker, but cannot speak. The Director must use signals (point) to assist the Communicator.
One Communicator – Who can talk, but whose back is to the Seeker. They must watch the Director and then shout instructions to the Seeker.
The challenge here is for the Director to steer the Seeker by instructing the Communicator who tells the Seeker where to go (forward, to your right, etc.). The object can be any small item (poker chip, playing card, shoe, cell phone).
This situation is made a bit more challenging as multiple teams attempt to work in the same space. Some teams may even set out to steal your object before your Seeker can find it.
LOCK & LOAD
Here is a game for partners that requires split second timing. Each round has three beats. On beats one and two, opponents slap their knees with their open hands. On the third beat there are three possible moves (each one requires both players to hold their hands in six-shooter position – or water pistol position, if you prefer).
A player can raise both hands to the sky. This is the loading position (as rain falls, it fills your water pistol!)
A player can cross their arms in front of them (making an X). This is the ‘block’ position -which prevents you from getting wet.
A player can aim both barrels at their opponent. This is the ‘shooting’ position.
The goal is to get your partner ‘wet.’ When one partner is in the shooting position, and their partner is in the loading position, the loading partner gets wet.
Each player must ‘load’ before ‘shooting.’ It is possible however, to load several times, and then shoot several times, if desired.
Here is an activity that combines creative problem solving and construction.
Invite the members of your medium size group to take off both shoes. Toss one shoe in a pile and the other shoe in another pile. Next divide this group into two smaller teams. Each of these smaller teams takes one of the piles of shoes (they are identical) and attempts to create the tallest tower they can from only these resources. The challenge here is to find a way to stack these shoes, to create the tallest tower possible.
THE BEST TAG GAME
I waited a long time before including a tag game in my programs, simply because I had never found one for which the risk was worth the benefit. Then I happened to experience a workshop with Pat Torrey, and I found it! A slow-moving, high-value tag game. Starting with a large group in a fairly confined space, invite everyone to find a partner. Next, one partner is asked to turn around in place three times (the tagger) while their partner moves off to another location. If the tagger manages to touch their partner, (by walking – not running) these two people change roles. The new tagger rotates three times while their partner moves off to hide amongst the other players.
One of the most interesting components of this activity occurred during the debriefing process at the end of the activity. Pat asked, “when you were a tagger, those other people in the room, did they help or hinder you?” Most folks suggested that they hindered them. “But when you were trying to evade your tagger, were those same people helpful?” This time, the answer was a resounding yes. “How then is it possible that the same people could be both helpful and a hinderance at the same time?” Which brought about some very interesting conversation about the value of our contributions.
In a small group of players, one ninja invites the others to take their position, with much ceremony and respect. Ninja is basically a hand slapping game. At the very beginning, players stand in various combat positions. The lead ninja is allowed to make one simple movement with their arm in an attempt to connect with another player’s hand. The only point of contact allowed is hand to hand. The opponent in this case is also allowed a simple movement to avoid contact. If contact is made, that opponent is out. If not, play continues with the opponent having another simple movement to connect (with the player on either side of them). A simple moment is described as a single fluidly-moving body part (arm, body, elbow), while a complex move would involve multiple movements of arms, legs and body at the same time.
As ninjas are eliminated, players may use their turn to advance their position towards another opponent instead of striking. Play continues until a champion ninja is identified.
Inspiration for the game of Avalanche comes from the historically significant Russian game of Gorodki. This version is a bit more portable.
Begin by assembling two ‘villages’ about 15 feet (4.5 meters) apart. Use masking tape to create 18″ (45cm) square village boundaries, and within each boundary create similar collections of six wooden blocks. These can be traditional children’s alphabet blocks, or any similar wooden geometric shapes (cylinders, cubes, spheres). These wooden blocks are considered the houses and buildings of the village.
Each team takes a turn throwing a small stick (typically wood, but PVC tubes work fine too) about 1.5″ (38mm) in diameter and 9″ (23cm) long. This stick is the avalanche. The goal is to knock all of the wooden blocks out of their opponents ‘village’ within three throws.
The number of blocks remaining within the village boundary after three throws is the score. The game continues for six rounds. Lowest score wins. A perfect score would be zero, the maximum score is 36. In each successive round, teams take turns creating the location of the blocks (buildings) within their villages, with the opposing team copying their exact configuration.Teams alternate throws (so that the single avalanche stick can be passed back and forth). The ideal surface for this activity would be carpeting or a durable flat surface.
Balloon Bop for Three
Begin in groups of three holding hands, then add one well-inflated balloon for each group. The goal is to keep the balloon aloft, using only the technique suggested by the group leader. Begin with hands only (but stay connected to your partners). Switch to elbows only, followed by knees, feet, head and finally breath (just the air in your lungs). Consider additional variations, including: working with two balloons at a time, using multiple techniques at the same time, or allowing each player to use the technique they prefer. Be cautious of latex allergies, as most balloons have some latex in them.
Bigger, Better, Heavier
A few years ago, I happened to discover a book entitled One Red Paper Clip by Kyle MacDonald. It is the journey of a guy who traded up from a single red paperclip to a house in Canada (no kidding!) Step by step, he swapped for objects that were bigger, better and heavier, and eventually obtained his object of desire.
Bigger, Better, Heavier is a game of scavenging. It can be played in any ‘safe’ community. The goal is for each group to begin with the same small, insignificant, inexpensive item, and to go into the community and trade this item for bigger, better or heavier items.
During one such experience in Canada, one of our competing groups managed to start with a pack of chewing gum, and eventually traded up to an antique claw-footed metal bathtub which was sold for scrap metal at the conclusion of the event, and the money generated given to a local charity.
Bigger, Better, Heavier can last for a day, a week or an entire year. You decide. Start with a tennis ball, and see how far you can trade up.
Bite the Bag
This particular activity is more of an individual test of flexibility and balance than anything else. To begin, you’ll need one large paper bag, placed at the center of the group. The kind of paper sack used by grocery stores is ideal, as it has a flat bottom. Next, invite members of the group to approach the bag, one at a time, and bend over and pick the bag up with their teeth (only). The challenging part of this activity is that the person lifting the bag can only allow their feet to touch the ground, nothing else. After each attempt, the portion of the bag where the previous player connected is ripped away from the remainder of the bag (and so the bag continues to shrink in size and height as the game continues – which also increases the challenge for each successive player). The last person to successfully lift what remains of the bag, wins.
You can further challenge players by allowing only one foot to touch the ground, or asking them to simultaneously carry a book, bucket of water, or some other unbalancing object with them during each attempt.
This is without a doubt the best dice game that I know. Simple too! You’ll need one pair of dice and one pen for each small group, and one index card for each person. To begin, one person in each group rolls the dice. If they happen to get doubles, the group yells, “doubles,” and that person takes the pen and begins writing on their card the numbers, 1, 2, 3… Meanwhile, the dice continue to be passed around the circle, when another player rolls doubles, the group again yells, “doubles,” and that person gets the pen and begins writing. The first person to write from one to one hundred on their index card, wins!
Double Square Dance
I have always felt that teamwork is not necessarily easier. It is’better’but not always easier. It takes a great deal of effort to work together successfully as a team. This activity will demonstrate that principle.
Square dancing is a traditional dance style in the United States, as other formation and ‘called’ dances are in other countries. The basic formation requires four couples (8 people) to stand in a square formation, and to progress through a variety of movements. In general, the basic movements of Square Dancing can be taught in just a few minutes. Music accompanies each dance, and a prompter or ‘caller’ instructs the dancers which movements to perform.
The Double Square Dance requires 16 people. Each ‘couple’ is comprised of two men and two women. The two men link elbows to form a single unit, so that the free right hand of the man on the right is considered the right hand of that ‘person.’ The left hand of the man on the left is considered the left hand of that ‘person.’ A similar connection is needed for the women.
The challenge now is for these ‘double people’ to successfully navigate the movements of a basic square dance. Suddenly, movements that are fairly simple, such as ‘swing your partner’ become akward and clumsy as two men and two women each try to achieve the grace of a dancer while physically connected to another person. All the elements of teamwork are required here. Communication, problem solving, balance, trust, cooperation, leadership and feedback.
If you choose to conduct this activity, I would recommend that you begin with a simple square dance, and instruct a traditional group of four couples (8 people). Then combine two groups to form the unique Double Square Dance team, and repeat the same simple square dance. You’ll have a variety of things to discuss while debriefing this activity, including the difficulty in working closely with another person, the physical challenges and limitations present, the improvement of grace and balance with practice, and most of all, an awareness of what elements are required to create a high performing team.
Five Finger Rule
This simple strategy is a great way of remembering a simple life lesson forever. It involves an educational technique which enhances memory. Begin by showing your audience your right hand, and asking them to hold out their own right hand. Next, introduce the components of the Five Finger Rule.
The Thumb – Let’s be positive and focus on what is
good about our group (organization, school, team).
The Index Finger – Don’t point the finger at somebody else. When you are wrong, take responsibility.
The Middle Finger – Respect! Treat others with respect.
The Ring Finger – Commitment. Be committed to
your group and help them accomplish their tasks.
The Pinky Finger – Don’t forget the little things!
Now, ask the members of your group to repeat the elements of the Five Finger Rule and most of them will look to their hands (the educational ‘hook’) and be able to identify all five components. They have memorized the Five Finger Rule perfectly.
Get to Know You (Set Up: Enough space to end up in a large circle with your group. Plays well with 8 to 25 for 12 to 18 minutes.)
Process: The ultimate objective for the group is to be linked up in a circle. One participant is chosen to start (often times we as facilitators choose to start to role model the idea). This first participant places her right hand on her hip making a link area with her elbow. She then begins to share true statements or qualities about herself to the group. (We like to encourage qualities that are not common knowledge or visually apparent like clothes or physical features. However, this might be okay for some groups). As soon as someone else in the group has something in common with one of her statements they move over to “link” arms with this person (this new participant using his left to link with the first participants right), then forming the next link with a right hand on the hip. The participant that just linked up then starts making true statements or qualities about himself. This process keeps going until all are linked together. The last person must then be able to “link” back to the first participant, through a true statement or quality, to close the circle – reaching the ultimate objective.
Variations: You could use this process with the “Build a Story” game. The first participant opens a story with, “Once upon a time in a well lit room.” When someone in the group wants to add to that sentence they link up with the first participant and continue the story, “Crowds of people gathered to hear the news.” New participants can then link on to build the story from there.
What new things did you learn about your teammates?
Were you nervous for it to be your turn?
How did creativity come into play in this activity?
Keys to My Life
This icebreaker uses a fairly familiar prop, the keys we carry with us each day. Some folks have a significant collection of keys in their possession, while others maintain only the minimum number they require to navigate their daily lives.
Encourage members of the group to introduce themselves by identifying the various keys they have on their keyring. They can include order of importance or the value that each key holds for them, or what possessions each of these keys unlock. In the event that the members of your group do not have their keys in their possession, use a prop keyring full of various keys and ask participants to generically discuss the keys they have on their own keyring, or what keys they are looking for to help them unlock doors in the future.
As an alternative, participants could similarly identify the various things they carry in their wallet, purse, backpack or briefcase, or the contacts and apps they have on their smart phone or tablet computer.
This activity is probably one of the most physically challenging in this entire book. Begin by creating a boundary line (using a rope, sidewalk chalk, or a natural line boundary). Provide each group of three players with a single unsharpened pencil.
The challenge is for each group to push this pencil the farthest distance past the boundary line, with only their hands touching the floor past the boundary line.
If any portion of a players body touches the floor past the boundary line, that attempt is disqualified and the group is invited to try again.
Here is a high energy activity that is sure to have the members of your group achieve target heartrate in just a few minutes. Begin with two small groups of about 8 players. One team begins by inviting one of their members to throw a rubber chicken (the Texas Leghorn) as far as they can. This first group then forms a small circle, with the thrower running laps around them. The smaller and tighter the circle, the more laps the thrower can accomplish. During this time, all the members of the second team run to retrieve the rubber chicken. They line up, and the person retrieving the rubber chicken begins passing it down the line with one person passing it over their head and the next person between their legs, alternating like this until the rubber chicken reaches the end of the line, at which point the last person yells, “done!” and throws the chicken as far as they can, as the first team counts up the laps they accomplished and runs to retrieve the rubber chicken (and the team rolls are reversed). The first team to reach a pre-determined lap count (such as 20 laps), wins!
I once conducted this activity at the staff training weekend for the Detroit, Michigan YMCA day camps, with over 300 people. It is an exceptionally loud and boisterous (and fun) activity with large groups. To begin, each participant takes a piece of masking tape, doubles it over to make a sticky loop, and places it firmly on their nose. Next, two players meet, shake hands, and carefully press their respective pieces of tape together (touching nose to nose). When they separate, one person will retain both pieces of tape (the winner). The other player is not out of the game, they become the cheering section by standing at the back of the winning player, hands on their shoulders and chanting the name of their champion as the game continues.
With each respective round, the number of people following their champion increases, until just two long lines remain. In this final round, the sound volume is incredible as the two reigning champions face off, press their noses together, and one champion is victorious!
As an alternative to the masking tape version above, you can also present a no prop version, where meeting players play a quick game of rock, paper, scissors. As in the masking tape version, the winning team absorbs the members of the other team and the game continues until a single champion has won.
The only thing better than a simple stick tossing game, is a simple stick tossing game that explores a valuable character trait. Zoogle is called ‘the game of integrity’ and you’ll soon see why.
Begin in circles of about 8 people. Add one Zoogle stick to each group – a 3/4″ (19mm) diameter soft wood (pine) dowel about 16″ (40cm) long. Half of this stick is painted one color while the other half remains unpainted.
Next, instruct players how to carefully toss this stick to another player. First, make sure you have eye contact with the receiving player and don’t throw it at their head!
If the receiver catches the stick with one hand, and that hand is on the painted portion of the stick, it is considered a good catch. But if they catch the stick on the unpainted portion, that part is considered the ‘sword’ and they lose the use of that hand. If they catch it again on the sword end, they must stand on one foot. And the third time they catch it on the unpainted end, they lose their other hand and the game is temporarily over for them.
The integrity part of the game happens when a thrower makes a particularly uncatchable toss and instead of asking the receiver to suffer the consequences, has the integrity to say, “that was my mistake. I’ll take responsibility.”
If the Zoogle stick hits the ground, someone is responsible for this error. Another situation that can often occur is that someone catches the Zoogle stick near the mid-point, so that their hand is touching both the painted and sword sides. Instead of assigning a penalty to this situation, simply say to the person, “you have integrity, what do you think?” and allow them to make their own decision. More often than not, they will act with integrity and take responsibility.
After an initial round of gentle play, encourage players to try more complicated throws (spinning, behind the back, higher) and catches. Although more difficult, these higher level of challenges include the potential for greater glory when a successful catch is made, and an increased opportunity for the group to celebrate.
Activity Area: Large open area Activity Level: High Supplies Needed: None
The Activity: This is a low-risk, minimal-skill, team/trust oriented action-packed activity. Form four equal-numbered groups. Nope.. .don’t do that. Try the following instead. Ask each participant to choose a number from one to four, but not to indicate in any way what that number is.
Now Announce: To discover the number you unknowingly share with other folks, mingle and shake hands. Purposefully pump your hand up and down as many times as will match the number you choose. If your number is two and someone tries to shake your hand three times, excuse yourself politely and continue your search for meaning, truth, and somebody who shares your number. When you find a hand moving up and down concurrently with yours, and if that hand stops at the appropriate number, keep that well numbered person with you, and operating as a harmonic dyad, find another free spirit vibrating on your joint frequency. Continue linking numerically until you have established your affiliation with the group of one’s, two’s, three’s, or four’s.
If you’re lucky, each group will contain approximately the same number of people but realistically it probably won’t happen. Instead, concentrate on gaining the satisfaction that comes from initiating something that’s FUNN (Functional Understanding’s Not Necessary) but not functional. Seriously, just ask a few uncommitted players to change groups to equal things up. Most people don’t care what group they’re in as long as the fun is the focus.
Now comes the leader’s role: Stand in the middle of the activity area and hold out both arms parallel to the ground. Ask the four groups to orient themselves around you, standing in columns beginning at your front, back and both sides (it should look like the spokes of a wheel, with you at the center and the spokes going out in four separate directions. Whatever position (orientation to the leader) each group chooses becomes specific to that group. For example, each time you change position the groups must realign themselves in columns beginning at your front, back or sides according to their initial positions.
Now Announce: I’m going to change positions, but your group can’t move until you hear me shout, “Do it!” At that signal, run to your new location. Remember that you are a trusting, “in-this-together” team. When your entire group forms a column, then shout together, “All for one and one for all; we’re back together and having a ball!” Shout the ditty as loudly and proudly as you can. Let’s all practice the ditty once together.
The first group to gain its position and simultaneously belt out the all-for-one ditty is designated the winner of that round and is applauded by the other three teams. To a certain degree, where you locate yourself helps to determine which team will win. If one team is dominating the activity, make it difficult for that team to get to its designated spot. For example, if the team oriented to your back is dominating, make sure you locate your posterior next to a wall or a swimming pool.
Ohhh nooo…A Few More Rules:
If a team moves before it hears you shout, “Do It,” they forfeit that round.
A team can’t begin yelling the ditty until all of its members are at the proper location and in line. Beginning the ditty before the line is established forfeits the round for that team.
Scriptural Support: Doers of the Word (faith in action, good deeds, servanthood)
Gather the group in a circle and ask:
– Are you a ‘Doer’ or a ‘Thinker’?
Are you more likely to act without thinking or think without acting? ”
Have people give examples then read the James passage and ask:
What does “faith by itself…is dead” mean ?
In what ways can we be “doers” of our faith?
Brainstorm ways to be doers of the faith, perhaps by reaching out to needy people. You might suggest that the group collect food for a food pantry, gather clothes for an outreach center, or serve the community in some other way. As a group, choose one idea and schedule a time to “do it.” Close by reading James 1:22, and then play the game again.
Variation: Experience a more raucous version of the game by allowing teams to try to keep one another from reaching their destinations. This, of course, keeps the holders from reaching their destinations also, but there’s certainly fun to be had in the attempt.
accompanied by the names of the people in the group. The tosser calls out his or her name and asks the person to whom s/he first passed the ball his/her name. The second person replies and the first tosses the ball. The second person, now with the ball, asks for the name of the person to whom s/he tossed the ball in the first go-round. This continues until all names are called out and the person who started this whole thing once again has the ball. The third session begins exactly like the second, except the tosser just calls out the name of the person who catches the ball. The pattern of tossing is the same, but after the second person has called the name and tossed the ball to the third person, the first person calls out the name of the second person and tosses him/her another ball. Keep adding balls until the air is filled will the names of everyone in the group and the collisions of numerous air-borne objects. Follow that one?
worn whs <%m
This is a game about forming and reforming groups as quickly as possible. The leader will direct the group to form smaller groups, based upon some criteria verbalized to the group, at a signal. The goal is to get as many people to introduce themselves to as many other people as possible. It is not designed to see how fast or successfully the group can accomplish the leaders directive. The leader needs to give the group enough time to incorporate and then introduce themselves to one another if the incorporation calls for it. It is important to keep the pace of the game rather fast. Example incorporations:
Get into a group of three and introduce yourself;
Get into a different group of five people and introduce yourself;
Get into a group of people who have shirts that are the “same” color and introduce yourself;
Get into a group of people who have the “same” or similar major and introduce yourself;
Get into a group of people whose names have the same vowel come first in their first name and share your first names;
Get into a group of people who were born in the same season (fall, winter, spring, summer);
In your season group, arrange yourselves by birth date (month and day)
Think of the last digit of your telephone number and get with every person who has the same last digit;
Get into a group often and sing the WAZZU fight song;
Get together with the entire group, link pinkie fingers, and when the whole group is together, shout “that’s another Cougar first down!”
Get into a group whose home town is west of the cascades and a group whose home town is east of the cascades. Wave to the other group over the mountains. Yell out a cheer for your side of the state.
Find another person who drove about the same amount of time to get to Pullman.
Human Treasure Hunt:
Everyone has been on some form of treasure hunt, right? So, on this treasure hunt we’re going to search for things we have within us and not necessarily on us. Our goal is to meet as many people as you can and find the similarities between each of you. If you don’t know the person(s), be sure to introduce yourself to them. Ready?
1. Find another person who has the “same” shoe size as you;
Find two people who had a test last week… tell each other what class… Or find a person who didn’t have a test but another “class assignment” due last week;
Find three people who are in the same class standing as you;
Find three people who live in a different type of living group than you (Residence Hall, Off-campus, Greek);
Find four other people who’ve attending a WSU athletic event; Tell each other why you enjoy attending these events;
Find three other people who enjoy the same type of music;
Fine two other people who drink at least one cup of coffee each day and tell each other your favorite thing about coffee; or Find two other people who don’t drink coffee on a regular basis, Tell each other why you don’t like coffee (or how you avoided becoming a caffeine addict);
Find another person whom you have not meet and introduce yourselves to one another.
Find a person who likes to or does not like to wear baseball hats.
Find a group of peoiple who enjoy the smae recretional activities (biking, swimming, watching tv, reading, playing music, etc.);
Everyone takes off their left shoe and throws it into a pile in the middle of the circle. Mix the shoe pile for a few moments. Everyone must then select a shoe, other than their own, and find the owner. They then exchange information about themselves, such as, name, home town, living group, major, reason for joining SAC, what they hope to get out of being a member of SAC, an embarrassing moment in his/her life, a moment for which they are proud, etc.
Each person is given a card with a letter of the alphabet printed on the card. Tell the group their task is to arrange themselves in to create words and use every letter in the group. The group can come up with many words or just a few longer words, but every letter must be used. After arranging themselves into these words, the individuals then introduce him/herself to the other people in the group. The individual’s then exchange thoughts about his/her favorite recreational activity, magazines s/he reads, etc. The group can then be directed to make new words and find new people. Be sure to include a proportionate number of vowels to the consonants. Also, go easy on the X’s, Q’s and Z’s.
On the other side of the cards with letters write one or two words of a famous quote. The quote may have some significance to the group’s purpose. Avoid selecting an “esoteric” or difficult quote. Also, arrange the words on the cards so each word of the quote is represented. This will result in some cards only having one word and other may have multiple words. Be sure to include all capitalization and punctuation. This will assist the group in constructing the sentence. Have the group arrange themselves in order to make a quote that makes sense. Once they have arranged themselves, have the group “read” the quote by each person speaking the word(s) in succession. This will serve as an accuracy check for the group and give each person a chance to speak in front of the group. The leader can choose to provide hints or not. By not offering hints and looking upon this exercise as an initiative, the leader(s) will receive some insights about the dynamics of the group (who are the people who exert some leadership, whose involved and who is not, how well are people communicating, how “at-ease” do people feel, etc.
Each person receives an index card with the title of a well known song printed on it. You may want to use both sides of the card for two rounds of this game, but be sure to delineate the sides so on
\Hf\ZM FU2Zie$ «* FU22 UWRMS
The group forms a circle. One person has a skein of yarn. S/he tells why s/he enjoys the group and tosses the skein to another person. This person states why s/he enjoys the group and tosses the skein to another person. This continues until everyone in the group has caught the skein. The web formed between all of the members illustrates the individuality of the group and the ties that bind them into a group.
Throughout the day, give a standing ovation to different members of the group. For example, winners of earlier icebreaker games. This person stands and everyone else stands to applaud and cheer that person’s accomplishments.
A great activity for the end of an event. Get everyone in a circle and let them know it is time for a group hug. People join arms around shoulders and hips and “hug” the group down towards the center of the group.
Hug Thy Neighbor
The leader tells the group to hug the person to his/her left or right or both. This may be a better activity for a group that has bonded. People may be a little reluctant to this activity in a newly formed group.
The group forms a circle at the end of the day when everyone is tired. The members in the circle all face one way (either left or right) so that each is looking at the back of the person ” in front” of him/her. Everyone then massages the shoulders of the person in front of him/her. Talking is encouraged. To ensure that everyone gets the type of massage they receive, have the group members turn 180 degrees and give a massage to the person who first gave the massage.
Pass the Key, Please
Divide the group into two equally numbered teams. Arrange the teams so they face one another. Team members then join hands. This leaves two “free” hands on each team (the two people at the ends of each line). Give a single key to one of the “end” people on each team. The tasks is to pass the key from one end to the other without unclasping the hands of the team. The key cannot be passed or kicked along the ground. If the key drops, it must be picked up while all hands remain clasped.
Divide the group into smaller groups of eight to ten people. Players stand in a circle and place their hands into the center of the circle. Join hands with two different people , neither of whom are standing next to you. A human knot is born! The goals is to untie the knot without letting go of hands. Be sure to be respectful of your neighbors! What you do may not be the best for them, so check it out before you work it out.
group. Have one person call out one of the chores and allow the two to begin acting out the chore. After a couple of moments, have another person call out one of the emotions. Watch with great hilarity as the two performers act out common chores with a twist. Examples of chores: dishwashing, clothes washing, washing windows, doggie doo-doo scooping, hanging a picture, taking out the trash, painting a wall, scrubbing the tub or toilet, sewing clothes, dusting, putting the groceries away, vacuuming, making the bed, moving furniture, sweeping the stairs or floor, raking the leaves, and others. Types of emotions you can match with these chores are: happiness, sadness, remorse, guilt, melancholy, apathy, love, distain, loathing, joy, excitement, lustful, disgust, jovial, sympathy, mourning, and others. NOTE: when pairing the chore and emotion, seek to achieve the greatest possible contrast. An example of this would be do direct a person to act out the task of scooping doggie doo with exaltation. It is the contrast that will provide the greatest humor to this activity.
Poetry Interpretation: The scene is a coffee house in Seattle’s Pioneer Square. A full house is drinking coffee and listening to various folks recite poetry. With the scene set, select four ‘Volunteers” to participate in this activity. One will become the poet, one the interpreter and the other two (don’t tell them yet) will become interpretive dancers. Inform the poet, away form the interpreter, that s/he will recite poetry for the group. However, the poet is from the land of Gibberish and, therefore, needs an interpreter to translate the poetry into English. The poet begins to recite his/her poetry to the group. (Make sure it is total gibberish). After a bit, stop the poetry, apologize to the group for the lack of an interpreter. Bring out the interpreter and inform him/her that his/her task is to translate the poetry into English. Allow for the individual’s reaction to take effect on the group. Smooth, cajole, beg with the person to interpret the poetry. Once the interpreter has performed this task for a short time, bring out the other two folks and, as you introduce them to the audience, inform all that they will perform as interpretive dancers. These two folks will convey the message and emotions through dance and movement. Allow time for the reactions. Once the dancers, interpreter, and poet have worked awhile, allow others to freeze them out and take the place of one of these individuals.
What Am I Doing: Four people volunteer to begin this activity. One of these four selects him/herself to leave the group (basically be ‘it’) so the group can plot in secret. The remaining three people come up with three different situations (the more contrast the better) they will act out in an attempt to get the fourth person to accurately describe or guess the situation or event. Examples of this might include, heart surgery, shaving a poodle, driving a race car, moving a piano, a tug-o-war match, pillow fight, pulling a tooth, having a baby, climbing a mountain, harvesting fruit, delivering the newspaper, blowing glass, .making sausages, attending a funeral et.al. The selected situation is communicated to the group and the group will act as referees. Remind the group about ‘the family’ hour guidelines as far as taste and decorum are concerned. The group spends a few moments figuring out how they will include the fourth person into the action in such a manner that allows the person the chance to figure out what s/he is doing. The group may “mime” actions and make sound effects. Absolutely no words or helpful hints, like head nods or swivels, thumbs up or down! Player’s receive their direction for the volume of applause, cheers, and general shouts of encouragement from the audience. The fun comes from the player’s attempt to discover by calling out descriptions of what s/he is doing while trying to interpret the “loudness” of the audience’s applause.
AD AGENCY: Not really a Theater Sports activity, AD AGENCY is a good follow-up to theater sports activities because people are in a creative mood.. Also, the group has broken down some of the walls to interaction and have already begun to work with one another, adapting to situations,
“Group Stand Up” start with two people sitting with their feet touching and holding hands. Have them stand up without disconnecting hands or feet. Keep adding people one at a time until the whole group stands up with their hands and feet connected in a circle. Have them start over if they disconnect.
“Back Pass” have your group get on their hands and knees with their heads in the middle of the circle. Then without using their hands, have them pass a Frisbee around the circle on their backs without dropping it.
“Two by Four” this initiative is done with a group of eight. Divide the group into two groups. For example, four boys and four girls or four in with hats on four without. Have the team line up facing you and alternating one from each team (boy, girl, boy girl, etc.). Tell them that the object is to end up with all the players belonging to the same group on the same side of the line. They want to do this in the least number of moves and all moves must be made in pairs of people who are standing right next to each other in line. The pair that moves creates an empty spot where a new pair will move. Players need to face forward the whole time. Here is the solution (four moves is the least number of moves to complete this.)
1 2_3 45 678 1 4 5_6 7 8 2 3 1564 7823 1564827 3 64827153
“Marble Movers” each person is given a marble mover which is a 3 foot long dowel with a plastic spoon taped to the end. They all sit in a circle around a plate filled with marbles. Each person has a cup next their right or left hip. Tell the group that the object is to get as many marbles as they can into their cup, but they must hold their marble mover behind the tape mark which is at the other end of the dowel.
“How Ya Doing”: place the youth in a circle and number off 1,2, etc. Have the 1 ‘s say, “How Ya Doing” and the 2’s say “Just fine thanks.” Blindfold all participants and have them walk around with bumpers up saying their line. After a few minutes tell the group that they need to now return to the same circle they started in, but must remain blindfolded and can only say their assigned line.
“Bottleneck”: give campers a large soda bottle with a plastic pen cap inside. Tell them that they are to get the pen cap out of the bottle without knocking the bottle over, turning it upside down, or touching it in anyway. Answer: pour water into the bottle until the cap floats to the top and out. Process by talking about creative “outside the box” ways to solve conflict or other problems.
“Tortoise and the Hare”: form the group into two lines facing each other, about ten yards apart. Choose one player from each line, one to be the tortoise and one to be the hare. Blindfold these players and have each one stand at either end of the area between the lines of campers. Then select three players to stand in the area. These players are trees that cannot move their feet, but will try to tag the tortoise and hare as they walk past. Each line then verbally instructs their player from one end to the other so that they do not touch the trees and do not run into each other. If they do touch either of these things, they must start again.
“Compass Walk”: in an open area ask campers to form a line facing you. Show them where you have marked a spot on the field in front of them. Blindfold all campers and tell them that they are
mute. Have them cross their arms over their chest and then slowly walk until they have reached the spot you marked. Tell them that it is not a race. When everyone has stopped have them take off the blindfold to see where they were. Talk through the activity, then try it again with campers working as a team; this time they can talk.
“Easy.. .Knot”: before hand, tie a 30 foot rope and a 10 foot rope together and tie the shorter rope’s other end to a tree. Ask everyone to line up and grab the long rope with one hand. The goal of the group is to tie a simple overhand knot in the short rope without touching the short rope in the process.
“Rising Pole”: ask campers to stand in two lines, elbow to elbow, facing each other someone from the other line. Then ask them to extend both pointer fingers at elbow level (pointing at the person across from them) and place them so that someone else’s finger is between theirs. Tell campers that for their challenge you will lay a tent pole on top of all of their extended fingers and they are to bring the pole to the ground. The rule is that everyone’s fingers must maintain contact to the pole the entire time or they must start over. This sounds easy, but it’s not.
38. “Handcuff: provide a 30” piece of string for each player. Have all players find a partner. Have a few assistants to help tie up the couples. Handcuff one player first by tying one of the strings to each wrist. Then, tie one end of their partner’s string to one wrist, loop the other end of their string through the first partner’s loop of string and tie to the second partner’s other wrist. The goal is for partners to get apart without either breaking or untying the string.
SOLUTION… Slip the loop of one of the strings between the wrist and the loop tied around the other’s wrist, and over the hand. This leaves the strings tied as before but the partners are separated.
“See, Speak, Move”: divide campers into groups of three. Describe the following three roles and then either assign or let campers choose which role they would like to have first: 1. This person may speak, but cannot walk anywhere or see. 2. This person can see, but cannot move anywhere and cannot speak. 3. This person can move, but cannot speak or see. (So basically, two in each group of three are blindfolded, 2 are mute, and 2 cannot move beyond the starting line). Have each group of 3 stand at a starting line and give them a ball or other small object. After blindfolds are on, put a bucket or bowl somewhere in front of them (make sure you use an area that is relatively flat and free of obstacles they could trip over). Ask each group to work together to get the object in the bucket. Play multiple rounds to let each person experience each role.
“Asking for Help”: blindfold all campers and tell them you are leading them to a rope maze. Have a helper tie a cord or rope around 3-4 trees, making a square, rectangle or circle of rope waist high. Lead the group to the rope and put their hand on it. Tell the group that they are supposed to try to get out of the “maze” (it’s not really a maze), that they need to always keep their hands on the rope as they walk around it, and if they need help to raise their hand and you will help them. The key is that when they do raise their hand for help, you go over, lead them off the rope and say, “because you asked for help, you make it out of the “maze.” Repeat the instructions again halfway through to remind people to ask for help. Once they are out of the “maze” they can take their blindfold off and watch silently.
w^^^pxic Waste – Description of a Teambuilding Exercise Page 3 of 4
lasts for the rest of the game. If a whole person enters the zone, they die and must then sit out for the rest of the activity.
If the group struggles to work out what to do, freeze the action and help them discuss.
If the group spills the waste entirely, make a big deal about catastrophic failure (everyone dies), invite them to discuss what went wrong and how they can do better, then refill the container and let them have another go.
Ideas for varying the level difficulty of the activity:
o Adjust timeframe
o Adjust distance between the
buckets o Include obstacles between the
buckets o Include red herring objects in
There are invariably plenty of key communications and decisions during the exercise that provide for fruitful debriefing.
The exercise will tend to naturally expose processes and issues related to many aspects of teamwork, including cooperation, communication, trust, empowerment, risk-taking, support, problem-solving, decision-making, and leadership.
Can be videoed for subsequent analysis and debriefing.
How successful was the group? e.g. consider:
o How long did it take?
o Was there any spillage?
o Were there any injuries? (Often in the euphoria of finishing participants will overlook their errors and seem unconcerned about injuries and deaths caused by carelessness along the way. Make sure there is an objective evaluation of performance – it is rarely ‘perfect’.)
How well did the group cope with this challenge? (e.g., out of 10?)
What was the initial reaction of the group?
Group Games for Camp
- Who’s on Your Back- Each player gets a name tag with a name of a cartoon character, or bible figure, or public figures on their back. They then need to walk around and ask other players two yes-or-no questions to try and figure out who is on their back. (Am I a girl? Am I old? Am I a cartoon?) The first person to figure out who they are wins, but continue until everyone has figured out their name.
Time: 10-15 min
Materials: Name Tags, List of question examples
- Silent Scramble- Have players line up without speaking or signing or trying to signal anything. Line them up alphabetically if everyone is trying to learn names. Or you can have them line up by school grade, or age, or birthdays.
Time: 2-5 min
- Digital Scavenger Hunt- Same as regular scavenger hunt except each team has a list and a digital camera. And instead of collecting the items they just need to take a picture of them. This makes possibilities of what can be on the list more fun.
Time: 20-30 min
Materials: Digital camera that shows picture for each group, Scavenger item list
- Three Step
- Kickball – Basically played like baseball, but no bat or gloves, and the pitcher rolls a kickball instead of a baseball. First team to ten runs wins.
Time: 15-20 min
Materials: Ball, Bases
- Memory Game- Place many items on a tray and give each player a pen and a piece of paper. Show the tray of objects to everyone for thirty seconds, then put the tray out of vision. Have everyone right down all the objects they remember. They are not allowed to start writing until the tray is gone. The person who remembers the most amount of items wins.
Time: 10 min
Materials: Items, Tray, Pens and Paper for each player
- Letterman’s Top 10 Lists- Have players pick a subject that interests them, and have them make a top 10 list about it. (Top 10 reasons to eat potatoes, or Top 10 excuses for not doing homework, Top 10 reasons they love Church Camp) Then have them read them out loud from 10-1, just like Letterman.
Time: 20-30 min
Materials: Pen and Paper for everyone
- Wink Murder – Everyone sits in a circle, one person (chosen player to be detective) will leave the room. Everyone closes their eyes and a leader taps one child on the head (this person is now the murderer). Everyone puts their head up and call the detective back into the room. The detective stands in the center of the circle and gets three guesses to try to find the murderer. If the murderer kills all the other players before being picked out they win.
Time: 5-10 min
- Ultimate Frisbee
Time: 15-30 min
Time: 15-30 min
Materials: Deck of cards
- Song Charades – Players are split into teams of two. One team at a time, a player from the team reads a charade song card and can either get three minutes to try to act out what is on the card and get their team to guess. Or they can not do the song card and take a nursery rhyme card instead, but only get two minutes to try and get their team to guess the nursery rhyme. Each team will get one point if they guess correct in the appointed time. The first team to eight points wins.
Time: 15-20 min
Materials: Song charade cards, Nursery rhyme cards, Pen and paper to keep score
- Ingredient Game- Have a numbered list of food and drink products that you can purchase at a grocery store. On individual index cards list the number from the list and all of the ingredients from that product. (wheat, flour, red dye, etc.) Put the players into two teams. Then read the ingredients to the players and whoever guesses the product first, their team gets a point. Whatever team gets ten points first wins.
Time: 10-15 min
Materials: Product list, Index cards with ingredients, paper and pen to keep score
- Rolls and Gloves- Players are split into two even teams, and line up sitting down. Each team has a set of thick winter gloves, and each player has a small tootsie roll in front of them. One at a time, each player on a team needs to put on the gloves and open the tootsie roll and put it in their mouth. Then they take off the gloves and give them to the next player in line, until all players on the team have the tootsie rolls in their mouth. The first team to have all tootsie rolls in their mouths win.
Time: 5-10 min
Materials: Tootsie rolls, Two sets of gloves
- Tag- freeze tag, cartoon tag, bible characters tag, elbow tag
Time: 10-15 min
- Ships across the ocean
- Walk this way- A version of charades. Make index cards of different types of movements or ways to walk. (walking on hot lava, like you have ants in your pants, like your stuck in a invisible box) Have a player pick a card, then silently act it out. Whoever guesses what the action is first, gets to pick the next card and act it out.
Time: 10-15 min
Materials: Charade cards, Pen and Paper to keep score
- Pictionary – Players are put into two groups, one player from one group starts first and looks at a Pictionary card, which will tell that player what to try to draw. That player then has two minutes to try and draw what was on the card, and get his team to guess what it is. If his team cannot guess what it is, then the opposing team gets thirty seconds to guess it. The team that guesses it gets a point, and the first team to 8 wins. If both teams get to 8 points in the same round, then a leader draws a card and whatever team guesses the drawing first wins.
Time: 10-15 min
Materials: Pictionary cards, Big pad of paper, Marker
- Water Balloon memory toss – Players are put into groups of around ten players each. Everyone stands in a close circle, and a water balloon is given to one person. The starting player with the water balloon says someone’s name and tosses them the balloon. That player then says someone else’s name and tosses the balloon, and so on until everyone has caught the balloon once each. The last player then tosses it to the starting player, and it starts over. If the balloon is dropped and breaks, get a new balloon and start over. If it doesn’t break the person who was suppose to have it when it dropped picks it up and continues. If the group can do it well without dropping it, add another balloon, and another. See how many balloons they can get up to.
Time: 10-15 min
Materials: Lots of water balloons
- Water Balloon pairs toss – Players are paired up in twos, and stand directly across from each other. Each pair gets a water balloon, and at the start of the game they throw it to their partner, and the partner throws it back. If either partner doesn’t catch it, the pair is out. If the pair does catch it, one player takes a big step back and waits for the whole group to be ready to throw the balloons again. The last pair to still have a water balloon wins!
Time: 5-10 min
Materials: Lots of water balloons
- The Perfect Square- Blindfold everyone and have them all hold on to part of a rope in a straight line. Tell them they have fifteen minutes to form a perfect square with the rope. Everyone has to hold onto the rope at all times.
Time: 5-10 min
Materials: Blindfolds for each player, Rope
- Circle Switch- Enough chairs for all the children except one in a large circle. The child without a chair stands in the middle of all the circle and yells out a fact (everyone in blue, everyone who is twelve, everyone who likes spaghetti, etc.). And those children who the fact is true to, and the child in the middle has to find a new chair, leaving a new child stuck in the middle with no chair. This game can go on as long as you want.
Time: 10-15 min
Materials: One chair for every player except one
- Circle Switch/ I have- Same game as regular Circle Switch, except the child in the middle has to say “I Have…” such as (I have been to Hawaii, or I have gone swimming in the ocean, or I have had Chocolate ice cream). And the statements from the children need to be true.
Time: 10-15 min
Materials: One chair for every player except one
- Mystery Partners- All players will need to fill out a paper with some basic questions on it. (favorite food, favorite place to go, favorite class, how many siblings). Mix up the papers and hand them back out, make sure nobody got their own paper back. Have the players find whose paper they are holding by asking these questions to each other until everybody finds their partner.
Time: 10-15 min
Materials: Mystery Partners worksheets and Pen for each player
- Hand Knots – Players should be put in groups of 10-15 players. Everyone stands in a circle and puts their hands in the center. Everyone needs to reach and grab two different hands with their hands. (make sure the two hands are from different people) Then without letting go of any hands, everyone needs to work together to try to unravel until they can stand in a perfect circle.
Time: 5-10 min
- Tarp Switch- A medium sized tarp is laying flat on the ground. All the players stand on the tarp. The players need to figure out how to flip the tarp over while everyone remains on the tarp. If anyone steps off the tarp, they need to start over.
Time: 5-10 min
Materials: Small size tarp
- Back to Back standing – Players are paired up and sit back to back, and their elbows are locked together. They need to work together to try and stand up without unlocking their arms. When they accomplish this, put them in groups of four and try again. Then larger and larger groups until they are all together.
Time: 10-15 min
- If You Build it…This team-building game is flexible. Simply divide students into teams and give them equal amounts of a certain material, like pipe cleaners, blocks, or even dried spaghetti and marshmallows. Then, give them something to construct. The challenge can be variable (think: Which team can build the tallest, structurally-sound castle? Which team can build a castle the fastest?). You can recycle this activity throughout the year by adapting the challenge or materials to specific content areas. Skills: Communication; problem-solving
- Save the Egg. This activity can get messy and may be suitable for older children who can follow safety guidelines when working with raw eggs. Teams must work together to find a way to “save” the egg (Humpty Dumpty for elementary school students?) — in this case an egg dropped from a specific height. That could involve finding the perfect soft landing, or creating a device that guides the egg safely to the ground. Let their creativity work here. Skills: Problem-solving, creative collaboration
- Zoom. Zoom is a classic classroom cooperative game that never seems to go out of style. Simply form students into a circle and give each a unique picture of an object, animal or whatever else suits your fancy. You begin a story that incorporates whatever happens to be on your assigned photo. The next student continues the story, incorporating their photo, and so on. Skills: Communication; creative collaboration
- Minefield. Another classic team-building game. Arrange some sort of obstacle course and divide students into teams. Students take turns navigating the “mine field” while blindfolded, with only their teammates to guide them. You can also require students to only use certain words or clues to make it challenging or content-area specific. Skills: Communication; trust
- The Worst-Case Scenario. Fabricate a scenario in which students would need to work together and solve problems to succeed, like being stranded on a deserted island or getting lost at sea. Ask them to work together to concoct a solution that ensures everyone arrives safely. You might ask them to come up with a list of 10 must-have items that would help them most, or a creative passage to safety. Encourage them to vote — everyone must agree to the final solution. Skills: Communication, problem-solving
- A Shrinking Vessel. This game requires a good deal of strategy in addition to team work. Its rules are deceptively simple: The entire group must find a way to occupy a space that shrinks over time, until they are packed creatively like sardines. You can form the boundary with a rope, a tarp or blanket being folded over or small traffic cones. (Skills: Problem-solving; teamwork)
- Go for Gold. This game is similar to the “If you build it” game: Teams have a common objective, but instead of each one having the same materials, they have access to a whole cache of materials. For instance, the goal might be to create a contraption with pipes, rubber tubing and pieces of cardboard that can carry a marble from point A to point B in a certain number of steps, using only gravity. Creative collaboration; communication; problem-solving
- It’s a Mystery. Many children (and grown-ups) enjoy a good mystery, so why not design one that must be solved cooperatively? Give each student a numbered clue. In order to solve the mystery — say, the case of the missing mascot — children must work together to solve the clues in order. The “case” might require them to move from one area of the room to the next, uncovering more clues. Skills: Problem-solving, communication
- 4-Way Tug-of-War. That playground classic is still a hit — not to mention inexpensive and simple to execute. For a unique variation, set up a multi-directional game by tying ropes in such a way that three or four teams tug at once. Some teams might choose to work together to eliminate the other groups before going head-to-head. Skills: Team work; sportsmanship.
- Keep it Real. This open-ended concept is simple and serves as an excellent segue into problem-based learning. Challenge students to identify and cooperatively solve a real problem in their schools or communities. You may set the parameters, including a time limit, materials and physical boundaries. Skills: Problem-solving; communication
- While education technology is a basic and crucial component of the 21st century classroom, educators must still ensure that students are engaging with each other in meaningful ways. Team-building exercises are a great way to do this, and because of this, they will never go out of style.
The following activities are for groups of 5-20. These are wonderful suggestions for a cabin activity time. Many are great for rainy days inside your cabin! Unsolvable Maze
Set-up: ahead of time run a piece of rope around several trees with no exit! The more twists and turns the better, don’t let your group see the maze in advance. Blindfold your entire group and carefully lead them
into the maze. Tell them they can not go over or under the rope and there is a way out. The only way for
someone to exit is to verbalize that they need help or they can’t do it alone. Once people are out, they may
talk but do not give away the secret. Once the entire group is out, talk about how we all need help even
with simple things.
Circle Simon Says
Everyone is sitting in a circle. One person has to shut their eyes while a leader is chosen. The leader than
starts a rhythmic beat, and the group follows. The point of the game is for the person who had their eyes
shut has to find the leader of the group. To make this work, you have to make sure that the leader changes
The boatman must verbally guide the “boat”, a blindfolded person, through a channel cluttered with
obstacles (the remaining campers). The obstacles can be rocks, bridges, etc., but they may not move once
the “boat” has begun its journey. The boatman (one camper) can’t touch the “boat” (a second camper) as
s/he guides them through the channel. Give all a chance to be either a boatman or a boat.
Ah, So, Go!
The group sits in a circle. Begin to pass the word “AHH” to the person to your right or left. The next
person passes with the word “So” to their right or left The next person point to someone in the circle and
says “GO” the person pointed to either start a new pass with “AHH” or they can say “No” and the person
who passed it must start with “AHH” Keep it going as quickly as possible.
The counselor calls out an item, and the first person or team to bring it back to you gets a point. Be
creative. On a rainy day you can ask for things that they have in their suitcases as you play inside the
cabin. Let the campers be creative also. If they don’t have the hat that you asked for, let them convince
you that the sock they brought is really a hat!
Players sit in a circle. Each individual is given a slip of paper. One of them has a D on it, another slip has
an R on it. The R is the robber. He must non-chalantly wink at someone in the circle. Discreetly, the
person who was winked at then says “A robbery has been committed”. At this time, the D, or Detective, \^ J
must flip over his “D” and begin trying to solve the puzzle of who winked at who.
What Is Your Ailment?
Players should be standing or sitting in a circle so that all can see each other. The first person chooses their
ailment and describes it. They may say, for example, “I can’t open my eye”. Then they close one eye, and
everyone else must close one eye. The next person may then say, “My left foot has the jumps” and
bounces their foot up and down. Everyone must do the same while they continue to keep their eye closed.
This continues around the circle, and by the time it reaches the end, everyone should be in stitches!!!
Each player gets a partner. One person in each pair is “IT” and they carefully observe the appearance of
their partner. Note the way that they are dressed, the way their hair is combed, etc. “IT” must then turn
around, and their partner changes one thing about their appearance. They can change the part in their hair,
turn their watch around, or untie a shoe, etc. When the signal is given, “IT” turns around and tries to find
out what their partner changed. They have 30 seconds to decide. If “IT” names the change correctly, their
team (all of the IT’s) gets one point. Switch, and repeat with the other partner being “IT”.
One player starts the game by saying “one”. The others in turn say two, three, four, etc. But when SEVEN
is reached, that player must say “buzz”. The counting goes on, but each time there is a multiple of seven or
a number with seven in it, the player must substitute the word “buzz”. Each time the word “buzz” is used,
the direction of counting can switch within the circle. If the kids get really good at this, add double digits
The group is seated around a table, one team on each side. One person is chosen to be “IT”. “IT” puts
his/her hands on the table while the others pass a quarter from hand to hand. When the person chosen to be
“IT” says “Up Jenkins”, all must put their elbows on the table, fists closed. When the one who is “IT” says,
“Down Jenkins”, all slap their hands on the table top hard enough to muffle the sound of the quarter hitting
the table. “IT” must point to the hand under which they think the coin lies. If it isn’t there, the hand is
raised and counts one against “IT”. “IT” keeps pointing at hands until the coin is found. Score may be
kept to see who finds the coin with the least guesses. Word Search
Give each player a pencil and paper. Choose a word, and have them write it down at the top of their paper. Set a certain time limit, and have each person try to find as many words in this one word as they can. Compare them and then choose another word. Words should be at least three letters long. Stone Stone
(Kind of like Doggie Doggie where’s your bone) Find a small stone or object that can fit inside the camper’s hand. Group sits in a circle, knees touching. One person volunteers to sit in the middle and close their eyes. Players hold out left hand up, right hand positioned to pick up rock from neighbors hand. While moving right hand back and forth, the group sings, “Stone, stone how I wonder from one hand into the other. Is it fair? Is it fair? To keep poor [insert name here] standing in the middle” over and over. The person in the middle attempts to find the stone as it moves around the circle. The middle person has 3 tries to find the stone. Whoever holds the stone when it is found goes into the middle. Frogger
Group sits in a circle, with one person in middle. That person closes his/her eyes while the leader or the last person who was in the middle picks the frogger. The person in the middle opens his/her eyes and tries to identify the frogger with three chances. The frogger “kills” by sticking his/her tongue out at an individual. That individual waits about five seconds and “dies” a dramatic death and lies down. Pass the Needle
Sit or stand in a circle with one person in the middle. One person in the group begins to pass a small twig or pebble around the circle. The rest of the group must continually pretend they are passing objects as well. The object can change directions or be held by one person at any time. When the leader says, “stop,” the person in the middle has to guess who is holding the object. Ring on a String
Sit or stand in a circle, one person in the middle. Put a piece of string through the loop of a ring and tie the
string in a circle. Have every person hold the string with both hands. Slide hands along string as ring is
l passed along, keeping ring hidden from the person in the middle. That person taps the hand of he person
^ws s/he thinks has the ring. If your hand is tapped, you must open it to reveal whether or not you have the ring.
If you are caught with the ring, you are in the middle. Flinch
People stand in a circle with arms crossed and a serious look on face. Person in middle holds a soft, round object (like a pair of socks rolled up), s/he can pretend to throw it to anyone in the group. If the person flinches, s/he becomes the new “it”. If “it” actually throws the ball, it must be caught or the person that missed is “it”. Ball must be thrown underhand and must be catch able. This is my nose
Form a circle with “it” in the middle. “It” approaches someone in the circle and says, “This is my nose,” while pointing to a different body part, such as his/her chin. The person approached must point to his/her nose while saying, “this is my chin.” Game continues using various body parts. If the person goofs or doesn’t make it by the count of five, s/he becomes “it”, Towel Throw
Sit in a circle with “it” in center. Group passes or throws a towel around the circle (to anyone). “It” must tag the person who has the towel. When a person is caught, s/he becomes the new “it”. If “it” catches a towel in mid air, the person who threw it is “it”. Follow the Leader
Sit or stand in a circle with “it” in the center. “It” closes eyes while you pick a leader in the circle. Leader begins an action (clapping, snapping, jumping…) and everyone else copies it. As soon as action is started, “it” opens eyes and tries to pick the leader. Leader change actions as often as possible, with group following as soon as they notice the change.” It” has three chances to pick the leader. Leader becomes” it” and you pick a new leader. Object Charades
Collect various objects ahead of time that campers can use. One person begins by choosing an object and pretending that it is anything besides what it is. From the charades, the rest of the group must guess what Steal the Bacon
Two teams (of no more than 10) are identically numbered (0-9) and line up behind two goal lines facing each other. A bandana or similar item is placed in the center. A number is called and the person on each team with that number runs out and tries to grab the bandana and bring it back to his/her own side before being tagged by the person from the opposite team. Strategy develops when leader calls out numbers such as 54 (both fives and fours must run out) or time of day (11:30 means ones, threes and zeros run) Variation: Play around a circle. Teams line up perpendicular to the circle on opposite sides. First person from each line goes out and if the bandana is not retrieved within 30 seconds, second people can join them. People on the same team may pass the bacon between themselves. Bacon just has to make it over the edge at any point on the circle. Progressive Stories
Beginning person begins story with one sentence. Each person following adds one sentence until the story is complete.
Variation: have many groups and yell “SWITCH!” and the person telling the story at that moment switches groups and keeps telling that same story so each group has a new story to work with.
LARGER GROUP GAMES:
The following activities are done in larger groups, usually three cabins or more. Some of these may be played with smaller groups and some with larger groups.
Protect the Egg
One player is selected as the fox and walks away from the group, the group then circle up and secretly selects an egg, once this is done the Chickens circle up, holding hands, and the fox comes in to try to figure out who is the egg and then tag that person. The group must protect the egg from the fox. A few rules , the chickens cannot put the egg in the middle of the circle, the fow canot jump over or into the circle, the most run around.
Yippee Chi Aye
The group stands in a line in front of the leader, the leader then does one of 3 motions, draws guns, hands up, or hand in front of face. As soon as the leader moves the group does one of the 3 motions. Anyone who matches the leader is out. The game continues until all but one is out.
All players are arranged in a large circle. One player is chosen to be the president and stands in the center of the circle, and another player is chosen to be the secret service agent, and they stand in front of the president. The point of the game is for the people in the circle to try to hit the president with a throwable object. The secret service agent is to guard the president by blocking the object. The president is not allowed to move during the game. When someone hits the president they become the secret service agent, the secret service agent becomes the president, and the president joins the circle. Safety rule: shots to the head of the president DO NOT count so don’t throw at the head, and all throws MUST be underhand. Encourage the player to pass the object around the circle to tire the SSA out and get a clear shot.
Guard The Castle
Players form a large circle around a plastic milk carton “castle”. One player is chosen to stand guard. They then take turns kicking a ball, attempting to knock down the castle walls. All must work together to keep up the attack. The prize for striking down the castle is that you get to try your luck as the guard. (No one said you can’t use more than one ball!!)
Each team is formed of five or more players and a captain. Teams are an equal distance from the leader who shouts a letter of the alphabet. The captain then quickly arranges teammates in a formation to look like the letter called. The captain can be part of the letter. The first team to finish wins the round.
When it comes to high performing teams, the four members of a bobsled team may be the best example ever. This activity explores that level of high performance and teamwork. Begin with teams of four people standing in a line (like a train), hands on the shoulders of the person in front of you. Then introduce the following three commands:
Change – the person at the front of the bobsled team moves to the rear of the same bobsled. Switch – team member two trades places with team member four. Rotate – everyone individually turns 180 degrees. In round one, invite teams to listen and follow your commands. Then give teams two minutes to practice the change, switch and rotate commands on their own.
In round two, stack more commands together (change-change-switch-rotate). In round three (the final round) add one more command (Loose Caboose – where everyone scatters and must quickly become part of a new bobsled team of four).
BOX THE LEADER
Here is a high energy activity that requires teamwork for success. A leader or facilitator stands at the center of the group. One quarter of the group forms a line on each side of the leader (north, east, south and west), always remembering their compass position. Next, the leader re-positions themselves by moving to a new location, turning to a new direction, or striking a new pose, and saying, “this direction is ” (north, east, south or
west). The rest of the group must quickly move to the new location, position themselves in their correct position relative to the compass, and strike the same pose as the leader. When each side of the compass has completed their line-up, they yell ‘done!’ For a higher level of challenge, the leader can move to a new location, provide a direction clue AND ask each group to line up in a specific order – such as tallest to shortest, or oldest to youngest, or the colors of the rainbow in order (ROYGBIV).
This challenge was first created to provide a teambuilding activity as participants walked from one location to another. Buddy breathing (where one scuba diver ‘shares’ the air from their diving buddies tank) is a life saving concept. On dry land, form teams of four people. The challenge is for these four people to walk from here to there, with one of the four people holding their breath at any time. It seems like a long way to ‘there’ so each group needs to rotate breath holders, and they’ll need a strategy, including signals to make the journey. After the initial journey, even less air is left in the tanks, so for this second half, three people must be holding their breath at any one time along the way. The distance traveled by each group should be about the length of a football or soccer field, 110 yards (100 meters).
Begin this challenging activity with your entire group standing, sitting or lying down in a completely random order (i.e. not in a circle!)
The goal is for this group to count from one to ten. Fairly simple it would seem, until you add the following constraints. Everyone must have their eyes closed. No physical contact is allowed between players. Each person can only say one number. If any two people speak at the same time, the group must start over. If you happen to have a high performing group, you can additionally challenge them by requesting that no additional conversation can happen in between counting attempts (that is, no problem solving, planning, or discussion of any kind – just focus on getting the job done).
This simple challenge is harder than it appears. If you happen to have more than 10 people in the group, consider raising the number counted to match the number of people in the group.
COUNT TO FIFTY
Welcome to a modern version of Buzz-Fizz. Invite your small or medium size group to have a seat in a circle. The challenge here is to have the group count from one to fifty, without making a mistake, given the following guidelines.
Play begins with each person saying only a single number, and their neighbor stating the next higher number, and continues around the circle in this same direction. Players must substitute the word ‘buzz’ for the number five, any multiple of the number five (5,10,15…) or any number with five in it (5,15, 25…). If a player forgets to say buzz when necessary, the group starts over again starting with the number 1. Once the group has accomplished this task, ask them to additionally substitute the word ‘fizz’ for the number seven, any multiple of seven (7,14,21…) or any number with a seven in it (7, 17,27…).
So the count would be, “one, two, three, four, buzz, six, fizz, eight, nine, buzz, eleven, twelve, thirteen, fizz, buzz, sixteen, fizz,…
CROSS THE LINE
Here is an excellent opportunity to discuss conflict, negotiation and win/win, win/lose and lose/lose scenarios. To begin, invite participants to find partners of approximately the same physical size and to stand on opposite sides of an imaginery line between them.
Begin the activity by having the partner on one side of the line say the following phrase:
There ain’t no flies on me.
There ain’t no flies on me.
There might be flies on you,
but there ain’t no flies on me.
Then instruct the other side to repeat this phrase. Next ask the first partner to step closer to the line and repeat the phrase with twice the energy. Finally the second partner also steps closer and repeats the phrase with twice the energy. At this point, the facilitator says, “you have five seconds to get that person on your side of the line. Go!” Typically, the phrasing and urgency of the challenge results in a rather quick tug of war between partners, and usually a physical resolution to the challenge. Leaving open a major opportunity to discuss conflict, challenge, attitude, negotiation, and how to resolve differences between people. Safety Note: During this activity, some participants may try to pull their opponent over to their side. Be sure your audience knows of the physical nature of this activity before the challenge begins.
EAGLE IN THE WIND
If you happen to have less than a few acres of open space, this next activity can be used in a space about the size of a basketball court.
A volunteer (the eagle) stands in the center of a large circle of spotters – that stand about 6 feet (2 meters) apart from each other. This volunteer closes their eyes and spreads their arms horizontally (like the wings of a soaring eagle). Next, they jog towards the members of the circle. The spotter nearest the eagle says aloud, “I’ve got you,” and grasps one of the extended arms of the runner, gently swinging them around and sending them back into the center of the circle. This continues until five or six spotters have turned the eagle. Then a new eagle is chosen. The verbal connection of the spotters to the eagle is just as important as their physical assistance in turning the eagle around. A special thanks to Sam Sikes for creating this unique trust building activity.
Instruct the members of your group to create a large circle. Next invite 1/3 of the group to stand near the center, eyes closed, bending at the waist and grasping their ankles. The remaining 2/3 of the group joins hands in a circle, except at one location (which is the exit). The members of the inside group are instructed to find the exit of the circle, and communicate that information to their teammates. But there are several things that make this process a bit more challenging. First, players inside the circle must always be grasping their ankles, eyes closed, and they can only move backwards. Second, these same players can only communicate by saying a single nonsense word (such as ‘quack’). And third, the location of the exit could potentially move several times during the course of the activity. Once players inside the circle pass through the exit they may open their eyes (but they are still required to grasp their ankles, walk backwards and communicate with only one word).
In square dancing, there is a movement known as the ‘balance and swing,’ where dancers rock forwards with their partner and then step back as they take a small jump. When performed with dozens of dancers at exactly the same time, a satisfying ‘thump’ is created in the dance hall, raising the energy of the dancers to an even higher level. This team challenge attempts to recreate this staccato ‘thump.’ It is best performed on a hardwood floor. Starting with a small group (initially without touching one another), ask them to jump and land at exactly the same time. Most likely, in the first attempt, the sound of feet hitting the floor will not be a single thump, but multiple ones. Then ask them to work together to develop a process where they can produce one staccato thump together as a group each time their feet hit the floor. A group that can produce such a thump three times in a row has developed great problem solving, communication and teamwork skills! You can also try this activity with a tarp to see if your team can jump in unison and have the tarp removed before they land!
This is one of the first problem solving and teambuilding activities that I ever experienced! Instruct the members of your small group to stand in a circle. Next, invite each person to reach across the circle and grasp right hands with another person, and then grasp left hands with a different person. This configuration results in what can best be described as a gordian knot. The problem solving opportunity is for this group to un-knot themselves so they are again standing in a circle. The challenge is to do so without anyone in the group disconnecting their hands. Depending upon the intensity of the knot formed, some groups may finish quickly while other
groups need more time. For especially difficult knots, a visit from the ‘Knot Doctor’ is possible. The Knot Doctor allows one set of hands to be temporarily disconnected and then immediately re¬connected in a different location, to facilitate a successful completion to this challenge.
Next in the trust building sequence is a fun partner activity. Invite everyone to find a partner of similar physical size (height and weight). Stand facing each other at a distance where partners can touch each other’s shoulders.
Spread your feet to shoulder width and raise both hands so that your palms face, but do not touch, your partner. It is important to keep your feet spread (like the letter A) to provide side-to-side stability for your body.
Next, talk to your partner, and when both of you are ready, rock forward (keeping your body straight) and touch palms with your partner, using your elbows as ‘springs’ to catch your weight. It is important to keep your body straight. DO NOT BEND AT THE WAIST. When touching palms with your partner DO NOT INTERLOCK FINGERS, but rather keep the fingers of your hands together. Then, push off with just enough energy to return you and your partner to a vertical standing position. From this position, you and your partner can each take half a step backwards (about 6 inches for each person) and try the human spring activity again from this new position. Continue for two or three additional steps. DO NOT CONTINUE UNTIL FAILURE. Do not attempt to back up until you and your partner collapse. The goal of this activity is to create trust, collaboration and communication, not to find the ‘breaking point.’ A Word About Spotting: In the first two trust building activities of this chapter, you and your partner were actually beginning to watch out for each other. Helping your partner verbally, visually and physically are all forms of spotting. The remainder of the activities in this chapter require significant physical spotting. The next activity is a good way to begin practicing spotting techniques. Just remember, both partners are responsible for helping each other. Communication, feedback, physical and emotional support are essential to a positive trust building experience.
Here is an extremely loud communication exercise. Begin by dividing a large group into three smaller teams. Team One (the senders) occupies the space at the far left of the playing area. Team Two (the receivers) stand to the far right – about 20 feet (6 meters) away. Team Three (the interference) occupies the space in between. Next present Team One with a short message to send to Team Two. Team One members can only verbally or visually convey their message (they cannot relocate or write and pass the message). During this one minute communication period, the members of team three try to block (interfere with) the message, by visually and verbally scrambling the information. After each round, invite teams to change locations (l->2,2->3,3->l). After three rounds, debrief the activity and ask teams which role they enjoyed the most and why.
Potential messages include: In order to listen, you must first become quiet.
The best things in life are not things. Listen carefully, we have an important message for you.
This final activity in teambuilding, trust building and working together as a group is a playful way to demonstrate what can be accomplished when all members of the group work together. Begin by inviting the members of your group to stand in a tight circle, with everyone facing clockwise (right shoulder towards the center of the circle). The toe of each person’s right foot should be touching the heel of the person in front of them. Next, ask everyone to place their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them (this connection is important). On the count of three, invite each person to sit down, knees together, on the lap (or knees) of the person behind them. If your group isn’t successful on the first attempt, give them the opportunity to try again.
Each member of a group of three (triads) has a different role. One person is the ship. They attempt to navigate through the rocky coastline waters (with their eyes closed). Another person plays the role of lighthouse. They provide verbal information to help the ship navigate (eyes open). The third person plays flotsam and jetsam (floating debris, wreckage, discarded junk and other natural obstacles). The goal is for the lighthouse to help their ship reach port (shore) safely while navigating the debris-laden waters.
To make the process a bit more challenging, all ships, lighthouses and debris fields are located in the same space (a large square playing area). Each lighthouse must keep their ship safe from all debris fields and other ships in the region. In the event that a ship touches anything while attempting to make port (shore) they must return to their starting position and try again. After each successful crossing, triad members switch roles.
EILNPU = Line Up in Alphabetical Order!
Line Up is a linear teambuilding activity. Ask the members of your group to form a line by each of the following criteria:
Line Up by birthday, from January 1st to December 31st, without talking.
Line Up by height, from tallest to shortest, with your eyes closed.
Line Up by the first letter of your middle name, from A to Z, without saying that letter.
Line Up by number of years of service in this organization, without talking and with your hands behind your back.
Line Up, from zero to nine, by the last digit of your telephone number.
The challenge for this teambuilding activity is fairly simple – using only the resources currently available to the members of each small group, construct the longest continuous line from one location towards another. Group members can use anything now in their possession to construct the longest line (belts, shoelaces, themselves…). This activity encourages problem solving, resource management and team commitment. To incorporate a bit of planning into this activity as well, invite teams to brainstorm and prepare for five minutes, following which they’ll have one minute to demonstrate their technique. Mark the location of the distance they achieved on their first try. Then after their first attempt, invite them to see if they can invent a way to stretch even farther, and try again.
Your group has been selected to take part in an annual parade, but due to limited space, your group is only allowed a limited number of points of contact with the pavement during the parade. The challenge here is move your group, from point A to point B, a distance of perhaps 25 feet (8 meters), while all members of the group maintain contact with each other during the parade. In this first round, the number of points of contact allowed is the same as the number of people in the group. For ten people, this means ten points of contact. In round two, the number of points of contact is reduced by two, and the group is given a few minutes to alter their original design and present a new parade configuration with less points of contact. For the final round, teams are asked to brainstorm the minimum number of contact points possible, and demonstrate this technique. Since it is a parade, music (singing), movement (waving) and other theatrics are encouraged.
Two people form a partnership. The one in front is the robot. The one behind is the controller. Controllers have four commands. If they touch their robot once on the back, this means ‘go.’ If they touch twice, ‘stop.’ If they touch the left shoulder, the robot turns 90 degrees to the left, and if they touch the right shoulder, the robot turns 90 degrees to the right. For this activity, both the robot and the controller have their eyes open. If a robot encounters a position where they cannot move forward (due to another robot, wall or obstacle), they go into ‘safety’ mode, with arms held up while making a ‘whooping’ sound. After introducing these parameters, invite controllers and robots to practice. After a few minutes, yell, ‘switch!’ and robots and controllers switch roles. Next, invite groups of four with three controllers and one robot. After a few minutes, and for a change in energy, yell, ‘switch – one controller! Three robots!’ and watch the mayhem happen. Even in the final chaotic situation, some controllers are able to invent ways to successfully organize and manage their robots. You can also use the Robot activity as a means of moving participants from one location to another. Teach the basic commands and then send teams to the next location. While not necessarily efficient, this technique does incorporate teamwork and communication along the journey.
ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK
Begin by invitingparticipants to stand in a circle, with their feet touching their neighbor’s feet. The challenge here is for the person in the 12 o’clock position to rotate clockwise around the circle to the 6 o’clock position, moving everyone else in the process, without anyone loosing contact with their neighbor’s feet. Additional contact (such as holding hands) is optional, but a good problem solving technique. This is one of those ‘easy to present – difficult to perform’ challenges. If the group experiences difficulty, invite them to have a seat on the floor, place their feet in contact with their neighbor and brainstorm a solution from this position. Groups quickly discover that it is easier to complete the challenge from a seated position, compared to a their initial standing position. Debriefing questions include: Why didn’t the group consider the sitting position solution earlier? Did participants call out their own mistakes, or did they try to hide them.
After Spotting Forward & Backwards, this next exercise will demonstrate for participants how to maintain a rigid posture and stay relaxed. Three participants of similar size are needed for this activity. One person in the middle and two spotters (one in front and one behind). This activity combines both of the previous spotting activities by performing them at the same time. The person being spotted in the middle is spotted both front and back. With spotters in position, and again when everyone is ready and communicating, the person being spotted rocks forward and this spotter gives them enough of a push to return them to vertical and a bit more as they rock backwards to be caught by the other spotter. This forward and backward travel continues until both spotters simultaneously place their hands on the shoulders of the person being spotted, so they understand the ‘rocking chair’ practice is complete. Participants can now change places with each other and continue the process until all three members have experienced the ‘rocking chair.’
RUNNING AROUND IN CIRCLES
For this trust activity, you’ll need acres of flat, obstacle-free open space and at least 10 people. One person is asked to volunteer to be the runner, while the remaining members of the group are the spotting team (security detail).
The runner in this case isn’t necessarily all that fast, but they can run at the speed they choose. What is unique about the runner is that they are requested to move about with their eyes closed, while the spotting team effectively encircles them, keeping them away from obstacles in their path. Hence the name, running around in a circle of spotters. The spotting team is allowed to talk to the runner, and can provide both physical instructions (with a gentle tap in one direction or another) and verbal information, “slow down and turn towards the left in about five more steps.” To demonstrate the power of positive encouragement, try this activity with the spotting team providing no verbal communication during the run. Most runners appreciate the feedback and encouragement of their spotting teammates.
Here is a simple team building challenge for partners, provided that at least one of them has shoes with laces that tie. Begin by asking one person in each group of two to untie the bow of the laces on their shoes. Next, with one partner supplying one hand, and the other partner also supplying just one hand, ask them to work together to re-tie the shoe laces. After this first attempt, ask them to repeat the process, this time using their non-dominant hands. Finally, ask them to repeat the process again, but this time with their eyes closed. Partners will need communication, problem solving skills and teamwork to succeed in this task.
Here is a teambuilding activity that requires both mathematical and kinesthetic skills. Begin with the entire group facing you. Demonstrate the following arm positions and invite your audience to replicate your movements. With the right arm:
1 – Right arm straight up.
2 – Right arm straight out, level with the ground
3 – Right arm straight down, towards the floor
4 – Right arm straight up
5 – Right arm straight out, level with the ground
6 – Right arm straight down, towards the floor
Next introduce the following movements with the left arm.
1 – Left arm straight up, towards the ceiling
2 – Left arm straight down, towards the floor
3 – Left arm straight up, towards the ceiling
4 – Left arm straight down, towards the floor
5 – Left arm straight up, towards the ceiling
6 – Left arm straight down, towards the floor
Now invite the members of your audience to replicate these movements using both hands at the same time! It is not so easy.
Invite the members of your audience to form small teams of six people each. Inform them that they have four minutes to create a high performing team capable of demonstrating that they are proficient performing this challenge.
Once again, I thank Sam Sikes and Chris Cavert for sharing yet another wonderful activity.
This is an excellent technique for demonstrating the T.E.A.M. concept that Together Everyone Achieves More. Try this activity in three stages. First, invite everyone simultaneously to back up a few steps, and then sprint forward and jump as far as they can. In this first stage, participants will see the relative differences in abilities between team members, and also the relatively short distance covered by even the most fit person in the group.
Next, form small teams of about 7 people. Invite the first person in each group to back up and jump from a visible starting line. Their landing position becomes the starting line for the second person in the group and so on, until everyone has jumped. If multiple teams are simultaneously performing this activity, it is normal for a bit of competition to occur.
In the third and final stage, invite teams to brainstorm methods to further increase the distance covered by each jumper and the team as a whole. One strategy, where volunteers ‘lift’ the jumper each time, can substantially lengthen each jump! Together we can accomplish more!
In this fast-paced activity are elements of teamwork, communication, connection and fun. Begin with a large group of people, and ask them to form smaller teams of about eight people. Next introduce the various ‘artistic expressions’ that you’ll be asking each group to create.
Box of Rocks – requires everyone in the group to form small, rock-like shapes and bunch together.
Waterfall – the group stands in order, from tallest to shortest, with arms forming the impression of falling water.
Caterpillar – requires the group to stand in order, from shortest to tallest, while using their legs to imitate the multiple legs of a caterpillar.
Spinning Earth – everyone in the group joins hands in a large circle, and rotates clockwise.
Zen Garden – sit back to back, legs crossed, thumbs connected to middle fingers on both hands, and hum.
One point is assigned in each round for the best interpretation of each art project. First team to score 5 points wins. You can also combine the various artforms. For example, a spinning box of earthly rocks is an interesting choice. How about a zen waterfall?
While there are many trust building techniques, this activity is one of the best for beginning the process of building trust. Begin with partners of similar heights, in an open space with no obstacles, with one partner standing behind the other, both facing forward. The front ‘driver’ holds onto an imaginary steering wheel and closes their eyes. The ‘backseat driver’ eyes open, places their hands on the driver’s shoulders and tells them, “I’ve got your back.” The front driver controls the speed, while the rear driver provides information and direction (sort of a human GPS system), avoiding collisions with other drivers and fixed objects. After a few minutes, the front driver opens their eyes and provides the following feedback to their backseat driver: What was good about their technique? What could they do to be even better? Next the two participants exchange roles, after which another feedback session is provided. This is an excellent activity for beginning a more in-depth trust sequence. Be sure to have plenty of supervision and a safe, level, open space. You can also use this activity to ‘diagnose’ the readiness of your group to explore activities that require an even higher level of trust and commitment. If you happen to see a few ‘fender-benders’ or collisions, your group may require additional work before they are prepared to take care of each other. If you observe caution, carefulness and no accidents, your group is probably ready to proceed to another trust building activity.
Invite your group to form two long lines, facing each other, about 6 feet apart. Next ask for a volunteer to stand at the end of this double line. All remaining members of the group turn 90 degrees and face the runner. From this position, each person in line raises the hand nearest the center of the two lines to shoulder level (horizontally), forming a long honor-guard (and temporarily blocking the path of the runner). The runner yells, “ready?” to which the group members in lines bark, “ready!” The runner then replies, “here I come!” and begins to run down the center between the two lines. Just before the runner passes each person in line, they quickly lift their hand high, allowing the runner access to pass through, before just as quickly returning their arm to horizontal position after the runner has passed. While physical spotting is not required in this activity, verbal commands are essential and careful attention must be paid by those in line, to avoid contacting the runner during each run-thru.
WHERE DO I BELONG?
Observation, Social and Emotional Intelligence, and Cultural Awareness are all themes explored by this activity. In a large group, send several people out of the immediate area. The remaining group members now create several smaller groups based upon a central theme, such as number of children in your family. When the original members rejoin the group, their task is to observe each smaller group and try to decide which group they belong to – without specifically asking about their group formation strategy. When all of the original group members have joined a group, they are allowed to guess the membership criteria. While the original group members cannot ask questions, they can listen to conversations in each group. For the ‘number of children in my family’ criteria above, groups may be discussing their favorite sibling memories or family vacations. Other themes can include obvious features like height, shoe size or eye color, or less obvious categories such as birth order, native language, or cell phone provider network.
WILLOW IN THE WIND
For some individuals, the following activity can be the highlight of the trust building sequence. Invite a single person to stand at the center of a small circle of eight to ten participants. The center person (the willow) crosses their feet, and folds their arms over their chest, while the members of the circle stand in spotting position (lunge forward, hands up, elbows slightly bent). Spotters should be initially within 12 inches (30cm) of touching the Willow with their hands. The Willow is now carefully passed around the circle with each member of the circle spotting them physically and verbally encouraging them. After a minute or two of this experience, ALL spotters place their hands on the head, shoulders or arms of the person and press gently, placing the Willow vertical again and letting the Willow know that the experience is complete. Continue until all group members have had this opportunity. Encourage the members of your group NOT to use the person in the center of the circle as a pinball, carelessly pushing them about, but instead, pass them with kindness and care.
Some Thoughts About Trust Activities
One of the trust activities most often portrayed in television programs, at best as silly and at worst as dangerous, is the trust fall initiative. At the time of writing this book, I know of at least one current lawsuit stemming from a participant’s inclusion in a less-than-successful trust fall. Simply stated, the risk-benefit ratio of the trust fall initiative is wrong. Too high a risk for the limited benefit provided. In as many ways as possible I have attempted to illustrate alternative ways of building trust through physical activities in this book. I would gladly replace the trust fall with ANY of these activities, including my preferred concluding trust activity, The Trust Lift, which can be found on page 48 of The Revised and Expanded Book of Raccoon Circles.
When attempting to build trust within the members of a group, it is essential to choose activities which maximize the potential for success and minimize the potential for error. Be safe, and give some serious thought to replacing the high risk trust fall activity with another, less risky and more suitable alternative.
SPOTTING FORWARDS & BACKWARDS
Invite participants of similar physical size to become partners. Next, demonstrate appropriate physical posture for effective spotting. Lunge position, knees slightly bent, arms up, elbows slightly bent (so that the arms can act as springs). For the first spotting exercise, the person being spotted faces their spotter. Arms folded over chest (male or female), feet shoulder width apart, body straight and stiff. The spotter’s hands, when in position, are only about a foot (30cm) away from the shoulders of the person being spotted. When both partners are in position, and a verbal conversation between these partners has been initiated (they talk to each other to insure each is ready) the person being spotted rocks forward and the spotter catches them and returns them to the vertical position. After the first attempt, and if the person being spotted desires, they can move backwards about 6 inches (15cm) and repeat this process. The further a participant tips over, the heavier they become to the spotter, so the best spotting strategy is to stay close to the person you are spotting. Again, the goal here is to build trust, not to find the point of failure of this human system. After two or three attempts at increasing, but still minor distances, partners can reverse rolls and repeat the sequence. For the next level of spotting, the person being spotted has their back to the spotter. You can immediately see that this requires a higher level of trust, as the person being spotted no longer has eye contact with their spotter. Both the spotter and person being spotted assume the same posture as in the previous example, but this time, the spotter is catching as their partner falls backwards. Just as before, the distance between the spotter’s hands and the shoulders of the person being spotted is only about 12 inches (30cm). A verbal conversation is even more important in this version, to insure that both partners are ready. When they are ready, the person being spotted rocks backwards, keeping their feet shoulder width apart, and maintaining a rigid body, and the spotter catches them at the shoulders, elbows acting as springs, and returns them to vertical position.
Here is a fun activity that encourages spotting practice. A slackline or a traditional circus tight rope is imagined for the group at ground level. One participant at a time can attempt to traverse this imaginery line, with multiple spotters on each side. At any moment, they may need the support and spotting of their group members, who remain in ready spotting position throughout this activity. As they begin, they may travel a few steps confidently and then find their legs intentionally wobbling before dramatically leaning to one side (and being caught by spotters), only to be righted and then tilted to the other side. The most important element of this activity is for spotters to be ever vigilent and ready to catch their partner at any moment. Carefully observe your spotters in this activity, and offer suggestions and recommenations for improvement where appropriate.
- Counting to 20: a small group stands in a circle, touching shoulders, and eyes closed. The group must try to count to 20. The rules are that only one person can say a number at a time (if 2 people say “12” at the same time, the group goes back to 0). One person cannot say more than one number in a row and the next person to go cannot be the person standing next to the one who just spoke.
- Grizzly, Trout, Mosquito: this game is played like rock, paper, scissors where 2 teams decide on grizzly, trout or mosquito and then meet in the middle of the playing field. The counselor counts to three and the teams show their sign. Grizzlies would chase trout back to their base line with anyone who is tagged joining their team for the next round. If both teams are the same thing, the counselor points in a direction to run.
- American Flag: campers are divided into two groups who stand behind 2 boundary lines. “Its” are chosen who call out a describing characteristic like, “everyone wearing shorts.” Those who fit the characteristic run to the other side of the field and try not to get tagged. If they are tagged, they stand like a tree and try to tag other campers. When “American Flag” is called everyone runs.
- Sleeper: while campers’ eyes are closed, a “sleeper” is chosen. Then campers mingle around shaking hands. The “sleeper” tries to put as many people to sleep as possible by poking them in the wrist with their pointer finger while shaking hands. Campers can guess the “sleeper” by asking the counselor. If they guess wrong, they sleep.
- Frogger: campers sit in a circle. While their eyes are closed, select a “frogger,” everyone else are “bugs.” Everyone opens their eyes; the frogger tries to catch the bugs by sticking out his/her tongue at them without being noticed by anyone. When they’re noticed a new round begins.
- Elbow/Link Tag: campers pair up and stand linked at the elbows. A chaser and chasee are chosen and begin to run. The chasee can link up to any elbow and the partner of the person linked then begins to run and be chased. When someone is tagged, they become the chaser. A counselor can also yell, “switch” at any time when a chaser is having trouble catching someone, or is too tired.
- Blob Tag: campers spread out with a couple people being it and chasing others. When they tag someone, they link hands and chase as a blob. The blob will grow larger until everyone is caught. Blobs can split in groups of at least 3 to help in the chasing.
- Run Around: campers are split into 2 teams each having half of the field. Each team has a “jail” at the back of their half of the field. Once players cross to the other teams half, they can be tagged by that team and put in jail. If a player makes it to the other team’s jail, they get a free walk/run back holding up the hand of a teammate they’ve rescued. Players can also put the other team’s members in jail by crossing to their side and running in a circle around them and back to their own side without being tagged.
- Line-up Kick Ball: this is played like regular kick ball except when the ball is kicked, someone in the outfield catches it and the whole outfield team must line up behind that person. The kicker runs the bases, getting a point per base, until the other team is all lined up and has passed the ball from the front of the line to the end. There are no outs; let each team have 5 kickers and then switch.
- Water Balloon Volleyball: campers form pairs holding onto beach towels. A water balloon is then launched from the towels over the net. The other team tries to catch it with a pair’s towel. See how many times they can pass it before it breaks.
- Pass the Stone: campers stand in a circle with an “it” in the middle. They close their eyes as a stone is put in someone’s hand. Campers sing “Stone, Stone, how I wonder, from one hand into the other. Is it fair? Is it fair, to leave poor _____ standing in the middle” as each person makes a passing motion with their left hand cupped and their right hand passing to and from their neighbor. The person in the middle tries to guess who has the stone.
- Bop, Bopitty, Bop: campers stand in a circle with one or two “its” in the middle. They have many choices on ways to get another person to take their place. They can say “bop” and the person tries to remain silent, they can say “bop, bopitty, bop” and the person has to say “bop” before the “it” finishes. Various 3 and 5 person motions can be done with the “it” counting to 5 before the action is completed. The actions include: cow, Elvis, rocket, mosquito, elephant, jello, etc. (You can also add that the “it” can say Right (or Left)-Bumpity-Bump-Bump to someone who has to say the name of the person on their right (or left) before “it” gets to the last “bump.”)
- Winds of Change: campers sit in chairs or stand in a circle with place markers. Someone in the middle says, “The winds of change are blowing for everyone who______? Everyone who fits that description must find a new spot and a new person in the middle will start another round.
- Large Group Duck, Duck, Goose: many small groups sit in circles around the field. Duck, duck, goose is played at each circle, but the runners can go to any other small group open space to sit. The “it” then starts another round at that circle.
- Hum and Hug Tag: campers play tag with 2-3 “its.” Campers are safe when they are standing with another camper and humming. As soon as they stop humming, they must run again.
- Catch the Dragon’s Tail Tag: campers form a line holding on the shoulders of the person in front of them. The last person in line has a bandana tucked into their pants pocket. Now you can have one line with the head trying to catch the tail’s bandana, or have numerous lines trying to catch another group’s bandana.
- 4 on a couch: (to play with jr. or sr. high or adults) campers sit in chairs with a couch or 4 chairs slid together as part of the circle. Make sure that 2 teams are formed with 2 people from each team sitting on the couch. Have each person write their name on a slip of paper and then pass these back out so each person has a new name that is a secret to the group. There should be an empty chair and the person to the right of the chair picks a name and that person moves to the chair. This continues with one team or gender trying to fill the couch with people from their team.
- Touch Telephone (to play with Pioneers): campers sit in a line and then person at the back draws an object on the back of the person in front of them. This continues on up the line with the last person guessing what the object was.
- Ducky Wucky: campers sit in a circle with an “it” in the middle who wears and blindfold and holds a pillow. The campers all switch places in the circle. Then the “it” finds a lap to sit on, using the pillow instead of hands to find a lap and to sit on. They then ask the person “Will you be my ducky wucky?” The person must answer, “No, I will not be your ducky wucky.” The “it” tries to guess whose lap they are sitting on by the sound of their voice. This game can also be played without the blindfold and pillow with the “it” asking the same questions to a person, trying to make them laugh. If they laugh, then they are the next “it.”
- Crazy Relays
- Mrs. Mumble: campers sit in a circle. One person starts by asking someone, “John, do you know Mrs. Mumble.” John then answers, “No, I do not know Mrs. Mumble” and then asks someone else. All this continues, the only catch is that each person talking cannot show any teeth or gums. If they do, they lie down and the game continues.
- Shuffle your buns: campers sit in chairs in a circle with one person standing in the middle and one empty chair. The person in the middle tries to sit in the empty chair, but the person to the right of it will try to slide over to fill it before they can sit down. This continues around the circle. Campers can change the direction that people are moving by slapping the empty chair instead of moving to fill it.
- Uno stack it up: campers sit in a circle and each is handed a card with a color. Then the counselor picks a card from the deck, everyone with that color moves one place around the circle, often stacking up on other’s laps. Campers can only move if no one is sitting on their lap. The object is for campers to be the first to make it all the way around the circle.
- Earth, Air, Water: campers form a circle with an “it” in the middle. This person will call out someone’s name and then say earth, air, or water. (ex: “John, earth) John must then say an animal that lives on land before the “it” counts to five. For air, they say a kind of bird, and water, a kind of water creature. They must say an animal that has not already been said. If they don’t say it in time or repeat, then they are the next “it.”
- Electricity: campers for 2 lines sitting down, holding hands and facing each other with about 5 feet between each line. A counselor sits at the beginning of each line and flips a coin, (only the front person from each line can look at the coin, everyone else looks away) If it is heads, then the front person starts a squeeze down the line with the last person trying to be the first to grab an object at the end. Whichever team grabs it first rotates one person down the line. The object is to be the first team to rotate the whole line through. If the coin is tails and a group grabs the object, they must rotate back a person, (they cannot yell to stop the squeeze once it starts.) Have a counselor sit at the end to judge the grabbing.
- Playdoh-tionary: use pictionary cards to take turns sculpting an item from the list and having the group guess what is sculpted.
- Hospital Tag: everyone is “it” in this game. When a camper gets tagged the first time, they put a “bandage” (which is their right hand) on the spot where they were tagged. They do the same for the second time they are tagged with their left hand. When they are tagged the third time, they must sit down and yell for a “medic.” This counselor comes over and has the camper do something or simply tells them they are healed and then they run again.
- Who’s the Leader?: send one person out of the room. Sit in a circle and pick a leader. The leader picks and action (snapping) and the group follows. The person sent out is brought back in and they try to guess whom the leader is. The leader changes the action throughout the game.
- Frisbee Golf: set up a course of trees and play golf with Frisbees and the trees as the holes. This can be played in teams, each taking a turn from where the frisbee landed.
- Board Game Rotation: set up many board games with campers assigned to each game. After a certain amount of time have campers rotate to a different game. (Either have the person who is winning rotate or have one rotate left and one rotate right to mix up whom they play with.
- Bunko: campers sit in groups of four and play a dice game where they are partnered with the person opposite them. Each round has a number from the dice that is worth points. In round 2, for every 2 that is rolled, the team gets one point. If all 4 dice are 2’s they yell out “Bunko” and get 21 points. Once the person does not role a 2, they pass the dice to the next person. This continues with teammates totaling points together until the group at the top position gets 21 points. Then the winning team rotates to the next group, but they switch positions to play with a new partner. These rounds continue with campers trying to be the ones with the most wins.
- Indoor snowball fight: campers are in teams and sit in a section of the playing area. Each team has a “king” who wears a paper hat. The teams through crumpled pieces of paper (snowballs) into the other team’s area and trying to knock off the hat of their king. After the time is over, each time counts up how many snowballs are in their area (1 pt. Each) and adds 10 points for every time their kings hat was knocked off. The team wit the least points wins.
- Minute Mysteries
- Triangle Tag: form groups of four. Have one person step away from the group while the other three pick who is “it.” The fourth person comes back and the other three hold hands in a triangle as the fourth tries to figure out who is “it” and tag them.
- Circle Slap: players sit in a circle and put their hands on a table, putting their right arm under the arm of their neighbor so that they don’t have both hands next to each other on the table. Someone starts the game by slapping the table and picking a direction. The slaps continue around the circle until someone double slaps. This changes the direction. If you slap out of turn you take that hand out of the game.
- Boop: form small groups of 6-8. Give each group a balloon and have them stand in a circle. Tell the group that they can use any body part except their hands to keep the balloon up in the air and one person cannot hit it two times in a row. Have them practice for a while, then call out a body part like “elbow.” Now they must keep it in the air using only their elbows. You can call out different body parts as you go, or a sequence like “nose, heel, shoulder” which they must follow in that order.
- Hagoo: have the group form 2 lines, facing each other about ten feet apart. The players from the right end of each line step in from the line so that they are standing in between the lines, facing the person from the other line. These two people must turn away from each other and then on the count of three they face each other and using any voice or actions they want, say “Hagoo.” If someone laughs or smiles, they become part of the other team. If neither person laughs or smiles, they take three steps closer and repeat the “Hagoo.” The players on the sidelines can try to make the other team’s player laugh but they cannot touch the person or step out of the line. The next round begins with the next person from the right end of each line stepping forward.
- Sense of Rumor: ask participants to line up facing the back of the person in front of them. Stand at the back of the line and ask that person to face you. Give that person a short scene to act out (filling a car with gasoline). Then ask that person to act the scene for the next person in line who turns around to watch. The scene is then passed from person to person as each turns around to watch and then acts for the next person. At the end, talk about how the scene was changed and how rumors also distort and change stories.
- Garbage Bag Soccer: fill a large garbage bag with inflated balloons, tie it off and wrap masking tap around it. Use this as the soccer ball and play with the following rules: players must not kick the ball, but can hit or throw it, and the goalie may not use his/her hands to block the ball.
- Frisbee Swat: this game is played like Ultimate Frisbee in that each team tries to move the Frisbee down the field by passing it (no one can take more that three steps with the Frisbee) to their teammates. Each team tries to throw the Frisbee into the end zone to get a point. When the other team swats down the Frisbee, it is then their turn to try to make a goal. To make this game less competitive: whenever someone scores a goal, they will become a member of the other team.
- Volley Bounce Ball: lower the volleyball net so that the bottom touches the playing court. Play with regular volleyball rules except that the ball can bounce once between each hit. There are still only three hits per team but the ball may bounce between each one. The server lets the ball bounce one before hitting it and other players may help it over the net.
- Elbows Up: this is a game that is played around a table. Choose one person to be “it” and give a stone or coin to the players gathered around the table. Ask the “it” to close their eyes while the group passes the stone from hand to hand underneath the table. When “it” says “elbows up” she opens her eyes and all the players must put their elbows on the table with their fists in the air (one fist will contain the stone). Then “it” says, “hands down” and everyone puts their fists on the table. “It” then tries to identify two hands that do not have the stone. If they guess right, those hands are not involved in the next round. This continues until either the “it” narrows it down to the final hand, or incorrectly guesses a hand and a new “it” is found.
· Contagious Praises: For this game, have all campers stand in a circle. Each person in the circle is going to say, “God is so good, I just want to _____” and filling in the blank in a unique way (laugh, wink, sing, dance, clap, wiggle, jump, tap my toes, and so on). As each person says his or her sentence, everyone in the circle does that action. When the next person says his or her sentence, those actions are added to the previous actions that have been said. The thanks and praises will grow loud and be challenging, but should be amusing for everyone!
· Cross the Red Sea: The idea of this game connects with the escape of the Israelites across the Red Sea. It can be fun to play with a larger group, so consider inviting another cabin or village to play. The game is like Rock, Paper, Scissors but with body motions. There are three choices: Egyptians, Israelites, and the Red Sea. Egyptians overcome Israelites, Israelites overcome the Red Sea, and the Red Sea overcomes Egyptians. The motion for “Egyptians” is to move arms so they form a Z-shape like that used in the song “Pharaoh, Pharaoh.” The motion for “Israelites” is one hand on top of the other and bringing them down as if they are holding the staff Moses used to open the Red Sea. The motion for “Red Sea” is to put arms over head and do the wave. To play, campers are paired off back to back. They count to three and then pivot with their motion in place. The “winner” finds another partner and the game continues until all are out. The “losers” move to the side and sit in their group of Egyptians or Israelites. The object is to see how many Israelites will make it across the sea in each turn. The Israelites will sit and wave their arms back and forth thanking God that they have been saved. The Egyptians will sit arms folded on their chest making “Hmmmph” noises. This game can be played in competition with another group if you wish. See how many turns it takes to get as many Israelites across the Red Sea as possible.
· Who’s in the Frying Pan?: Ask the campers to sit in a circle, and say that this game will require some persistence in figuring out the riddle. Explain that in each round there will be three items in the frying pan plus one person from the group. It is up to the group to figure out who is in the frying pan. Begin by looking around and naming three objects, such as a bird’s nest, a fluffy cloud, and a frog. Then ask, “Who’s in the frying pan?” Campers will likely try to figure out something that each of the three items have in common and someone in the circle who also has that trait. However, the trick of the game is that the person in the frying pan is always the person who says the first word after your question. After a few people seem to be catching on, discuss the game and whether or not it was difficult to keep playing even though it was hard to figure out. Explain that persistence is about continuing on even when we are frustrated and tired, and wishing things were easier or more obvious.
· Screamer!: Everyone sits in a circle looking down at their laps. On the count of three everyone looks up at someone in the circle. If the person you are looking at is also looking at you, then you both scream and the person who screamed second falls asleep. If the person you are looking at is not looking at you then you are safe that round and stay awake. However, if the person you are looking at is not looking at you, but you scream anyway, you are asleep. Rounds continue until only 2 people are left.