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Team Building Activities

Team building activities are useful for improving team dynamics, building trust, facilitating communication and teamwork.  Here are some short and long activities The Food Project uses in our youth programs, including hints and suggestions for modifying the games for specific audiences.  They can be adapted for after school programs, corporate meetings, or youth programs.  For more team building games, please see our book Growing Together.  For a PDF version of the following games, click here.

 

TITLE: 123=12

IMPACT: Builds teamwork as the group attempts to solve a riddle; challenges participants to pay close attention while engaging in a physical activity

RISK: Medium (this can be frustrating)

GROUP SIZE: 8-20

TIME REQUIRED: 15-45 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • You will need a rope 20’ long or so to be used as a jump rope; space enough for the group to be able to move from one side of the room or area to the other; ceiling height to be able to have a jump rope turning.
  • Identify a person to join the facilitator in turning the rope.
  • Ask the group to stand on one side of the jump rope. Tell them that their goal is to get the entire group to end up on the other side of the room, but to do so, they must solve the riddle of 123=12. The only way they will be able to get information about whether they are on the right track is by noticing the rope. If it continues to turn, they are on the right track. If the rope stops turning, they are not solving the riddle. When the rope does stop, they must all go back to the beginning and start again. Read more

 

 

 

 

TITLE: Alaskan Baseball

IMPACT: Energizes a group with physical activity; challenges teams to work well together

RISK: Low emotional, medium physical

GROUP SIZE: 12 or more

TIME REQUIRED: 10 – 20 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Divide the group into two teams. One team (team A) is the “infield.” The other team (team B) is the “outfield.” 
  • Team A starts by throwing the rubber chicken anywhere in the designated play area. The chicken must be allowed to land on the ground.
  • Once the chicken has been thrown, team B runs toward it and forms a single file line behind it. The first person in line picks up the chicken and passes it over his or her head to the person directly behind, who passes it backwards through his or her legs. This over-under pattern continues until the chicken has reached the end of the line and the last person yells “STOP.” Read more

 

Project Adventure, used by permission.

 

 

 

 

Title: Assemble the Square

IMPACT: Builds teamwork and communication; breaks the ice in a new group

RISK: Low

GROUP SIZE: 20 or more

TIME REQUIRED: 10 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Divide participants into four teams.
  • Each team lines up shoulder-to-shoulder on one of the sides of an imaginary square. Everyone faces the center.
  • The facilitator goes into the center of the square as the spinner and stands, facing one of the teams.
  • During this time, each team has to observe and remember several things: first, the order in which their team is lined up (i.e. which people are next to each other) and, second, where the team is lined up in relation to the spinner. A team can be facing the spinner; it can be to the spinner’s left or right side; or it can be behind the spinner.
  • Without warning the spinner spins around several times and stops (facing a different team) the spinner calls, "Assemble the Square!" The teams must quickly regroup around the spinner in their original positions: to the spinner's front, left, right, or back and in their original order within the team.   Read more

 

 

 

 

Title: Beach Ball Away

IMPACT: Builds teamwork and communication; energizes the group through movement

RISK: Low

GROUP SIZE: Unlimited. Divide into groups of 10 or play in a large group with more balls going at once.

TIME REQUIRED: 10 – 15 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • The goal of this activity is to keep the beach ball off the ground for as long as possible.
  • Scatter the group and encourage them to hit the beach ball as many times as possible before it strikes the ground.
  • They must follow these rules:
  1. A player cannot hit the ball twice in succession.
  2. Each hit counts for one point.
  3. The group must count aloud with each hit. Read more

 
 
 
 

 

TITLE: Bears, Cowboys, Ninjas

IMPACT: Team builder.  Fosters fun and challenges opposing players to have quick minds.

RISK: Low

GROUP SIZE: Unlimited

TIME REQUIRED: 15-30 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • This is a variation of rock, scissors, paper.
  • Here, bears massacre ninjas, ninjas beat up cowboys, and cowboys shoot bears. Each of these is “thrown” by striking a pose; bears hold up their claws menacingly and roar, ninjas assume their ready position with hands up and feet apart and say “Hiya!,” and cowboys hold their pistols by their hips and make a cartoon-esque shooting noise. 
  • Participants should get into pairs, and play best of 3. They start back to back, and on the count of 3, they jump around and strike their pose. Winners should go find another partner, and the losers cheer on the person who beat them. 

 

 

 

 

 

TITLE: Bodyguard

IMPACT: Challenges group members to focus and to communicate with each other; energizes and builds teamwork

RISK: Low - medium

GROUP SIZE: 8 or more

TIME REQUIRED: 10 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS: 

  • Ask the group to stand in a circle. Ask for two volunteers, and designate one of them the President and the other the Bodyguard. The President and Bodyguard then stand in the middle of the circle. The people on the outside of the circle are all Assassins.   
  • The Assassins’ goal is to hit/kill the President using the ball. The Bodyguard’s goal is to protect the President by blocking the ball from hitting the President. 
  • If the Bodyguard somehow gains control of the ball, the bodyguard can kill Assassins by hitting them with the ball. The Bodyguard can’t be killed. Read more

 

 

 

  

TITLE: Bridge It

IMPACT: Challenges even very high functioning groups, demanding lots of communication and problem solving; develops leadership

RISK: Medium

GROUP SIZE: 6 or more

TIME REQUIRED: 30-45 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS: 

  • Divide the participants into two groups of “construction workers.”
  • Give each group an identical bag of construction materials. This can include canvas tarp, construction materials, such as pipes and connectors or newspapers, tape and straws, or lots of amusing recycled junk that doesn’t necessarily have a name. Divide this equally so both groups will have identical supplies and put the supplies in paper bags.
  • Using these materials each group must build half a bridge that begins on their side of the space and meets in the middle of the space with the other half of the bridge built by the other. Read more

 

 

 

  

TITLE: Bucket and Rope

IMPACT: Team building, group cooperation, communication

RISK: Medium – may be physically challenging for some people

GROUP SIZE: 6 or more

TIME REQUIRED: 15-60 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Place the two smaller ropes parallel to each other on the ground about ten feet apart. These mark the start and finish lines. Tie the large rope to a tree branch in between the other two ropes so that a person can swing across from behind one rope line to beyond the second one without touching the ground.
  • Tell the group they are lost in the wilderness and must stick together if they want to survive. They have only one bucket of water for drinking and must not spill it. They have come to a river filled with crocodiles and must get the entire group and the bucker of water across safely.   Read more

 

 

 

 

TITLE: Chaotic Group Juggle

IMPACT: Challenges a group to focus, to remember, and to multi-task; provides an opportunity for a group to reflect on how it handles challenges

RISK: Low - medium

GROUP SIZE: 6 or more

TIME REQUIRED: 10-15 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Starting with one ball, have the group develop a throwing pattern using these guidelines:
  1. People cannot throw to someone on their immediate left or right.
  2. In developing the pattern, each person can only throw and catch one time.
  3. Each person has to remember from whom she or he received the tossed object and to whom he or she threw so that the pattern can be recreated.
  4. The group practices the pattern a number of times.
  5. Begin with one ball, using the pattern created. Read more

 

 

 

 

TITLE: Circle Up

IMPACT: Teambuilding, problem solving, fun, energizing

RISK: Low, involves some physical contact

GROUP SIZE: 10 or more

TIME REQUIRED: 10 – 15 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Ask the participants to get inside a circle so that no one’s feet are touching the ground outside of the circle. 
  • Once everyone has accomplished that task, the facilitator should applaud them and then remove 2-3 of the circles.
  • Those participants who have lost their circle, now must join other circles. Again no feet can touch the ground outside of the circles. Read more

 

 

 

 

TITLE: Cluck and Clap

IMPACT: Provides refreshment and relief from intellectual work by people kinesthetically working together as a team

RISK: Low

GROUP SIZE: 5 or more

TIME REQUIRED: 5-10 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS: 

  • Create a flipchart with lines of “Xs” and “Os.” Mix the order of the X’s and O’s up in each line so that the pattern is varied. Make sure these symbols can be seen from the back of the room.
  • Tell participants that “X” = “cluck” and “O”= “clap.”
  • Ask them to stand. Lead them through the pattern you have created on the flip chart by pointing at each “X” or “O.” They cluck or clap each time its matching symbol is pointed to.
  • When the group has gone through the pattern once, speed it up and go through it again. Read more

 

Adapted from American Community Gardening Association, with permission

 

 

 

 

Title: Evacuation

IMPACT: Builds teamwork; requires problem solving with participation by all team members

RISK: Medium

Group Size: 10 – 20. The activity can be done with a larger group, but the team interactions needed to solve the problem will be challenging. It is better to divide large groups into smaller teams of 8-12.

Time Required: 10 – 15 minutes

 

Directions: 

  • Divide large groups into teams of 10 to 20 if necessary. Tell participants that their organization is concerned with their safety and that the organization wants to make sure that everyone could get out of their building or vehicle quickly in the event of an emergency. Therefore they are going to practice an evacuation procedure.
  • Present each group with a stretchy band, and explain that this is their exit out of the building/vehicle. The object of the exercise is to get everyone out of this exit as quickly and as safely as possible. To do that they must follow a few rules: Read more

 

 

 

 

TITLE: Flip the Duck

IMPACT: Challenges all group members to use cooperation, strategy, and creativity, energizer

RISK: Low

GROUP SIZE: 5-15

TIME REQUIRED: 10- 20 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS: 

  •  Ask all participants to get in a circle.   
  • Hand them the sheet, and ask everyone to hold onto the edge with two hands and stretch it out flat in the air, not on the ground.
  • Place the duck in the center of the sheet.  
  • The mission is to get the duck to the other side of the sheet without letting it fall on the ground. Read more

 

 

 

 

TITLE: Frozen Ts

IMPACT: Gets people loose, laughing and wet

RISK: Low

GROUP SIZE: 4 to any size

TIME REQUIRED: 10-20 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS: This game is literally an icebreaker! Split the group into even teams.

  • The night before, submerge t-shirts in a tray or container full of water and freeze overnight. Can be frozen in a block of ice or just frozen wet (depends on the challenge level you wish).
  • Tell the group they'll be playing an icebreaker game, then bring out the t-shirts.  Give one to each team, and explain the first team to have a team member put on the t-shirt wins.  Depending on how frozen the shirts are, it can take a while for them to bash out the ice.  Let them be creative in the way they thaw it out (pouring water over it works well!)
  • The team to come back with someone wearing the t-shirt is the winner.

 

 

 

TITLE: Lily Pads

IMPACT: Requires decision making, planning, communication, and helping others as they share a physical activity

RISK: Medium

GROUP SIZE: 8 or more

TIME REQUIRED: 30-60 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • The goal of the activity if for all team members to cross a marked area designated as the river using only the lily pads. Lily pads can be pieces of cardboard or paper, etc.
  • Participants must stay in contact with the lily pads at all times, or the lily pads will be swept away down the river (i.e. the facilitator will remove them). If a participant steps off the lily pad into the river at anytime after leaving the river bank s/he will have to pay the consequences; and either the individual or the entire team will have to return to the river bank (the facilitator’s choice). A successful team will get everyone across the river in as short a time as possible. Read more

 

 

 

 

TITLE: Links In My Chain

IMPACT: Requires focus, concentration, problem solving, teamwork and consensus building

RISK: Low - medium

GROUP SIZE: 5 or more

TIME REQUIRED: 10 – 30 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Tie each length of rope in a circle. Each rope or string should be about 6-8 feet long. One of the five lengths should be tied so that it passes through all the other circles of rope, similar to the ring on a key chain. The other circles should all be independent of one another. Mix the ropes up in a pile on the floor.
  • Ask the group to assemble around the pile of ropes.
  • Tell them that their task is to determine which is the rope that is linked to all the others. Read more

 

 

 

 

TITLE: Mass Pass

IMPACT: Challenges a group to function as a team, to set and execute a strategy, all in the context of a simple game of “pass”

RISK: Medium

GROUP SIZE: 8 or more

TIME REQUIRED: 20-30 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Make a square out of the boundary rope. Set up a hula hoop at one corner with all of the objects inside of it. The hoop should be outside the boundary rope. 
  • Set the other hula hoop diagonally across from the first one. This hoop is also outside of the boundary, and it is empty.
  • Ask the group to stand around the square. Tell them that their task is to accumulate points by passing as many objects as they can from the beginning hoop (hoop A) to the ending hoop (hoop B). Points will be counted in 90-second rounds. They will have 3 rounds to complete the activity.
  • Guidelines:
    • All objects must start inside hoop A at the beginning of each round. Objects must be passed individually.
    • All sides of the square must be occupied by at least one group member. Read more

 

 

 

TITLE: Pencil Drop

IMPACT: Bonding, problem solving, physical challenge, fun

RISK: Low

GROUP SIZE: 2 or more

TIME REQUIRED: 10 – 20 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS: 

  • Beforehand, tie two pieces of string around the eraser end of a pencil
  • Ask everyone to find a partner.
  • Choose one of the pairs, and ask the players to stand back to back.
  • Tie the two pieces of string around their waists so that the pencil is hanging down between them.
  • Place the bottle on the floor between them.
  • Challenge them to lower the pencil into the bottle without using their hands. Read more

 

 

 

 

TITLE: Pick and Choose

IMPACT: Group initiative, problem solving, cooperation, listening, and creative problem solving 

RISK: Moderate to high

GROUP SIZE: 10 or more 

TIME REQUIRED: About 30 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Start by telling the group that there are a few areas in life where people can’t find a way to contribute to a group goal or idea. Where do they fit in? How do they think they can make the biggest contribution?
  • The object of this activity is for your group to try to throw as many tennis balls as possible into the wastebaskets during a two-minute time period.
  • Place the wastebaskets at varying distance from your pre-designated baseline. Each wastebasket has a different point value, with the closest scoring 1 point, the second 3 points, the third 5 points, and the furthest 9 points. Read more

 

Diversity in Action, Project Adventure, used by permission.

 

 

 

 

TITLE: Pipeline           

IMPACT: Teambuilding, problem solving, energizing, leadership, fun

RISK: Low-medium

GROUP SIZE: 4 or more

TIME REQUIRED: 5 – 15 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • The object of this activity is to get the ball from one end of the playing area to the other and into the cup.
  • The ball must move by its own momentum; it may not be carried by any of the participants.
  • The participants cannot touch the ball once it has passed over the starting line.
  • Everyone in the group must participate in the solution.
  • If the ball stops moving or is touched by a person, the ball has to be returned to the starting line. Read more

 

 

 

 

TITLE: Secret Agent/Guardian Angel

IMPACT: Fun, energizes a group, can be used to discuss dynamics in a group that is not reaching goals or is stagnating

RISK: Low

GROUP SIZE: 10 or more

TIME REQUIRED: 10 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Ask the group to form a circle. Tell them that each person should look around the group and select one person to be his or her ‘secret agent’ without acknowledging who that person is. They are not to show or tell anyone, including the secret agent, who they picked.
  • Secondly, ask each person to select a guardian angel, using the same guidelines as above.
  • Tell the group that sadly, their secret agent has turned against them, and they will need help from their guardian angel. In order to do that they must always keep their guardian angel between them and their secret agent. Read more

 

Project Adventure, used by permission.

 

 

 

 

TITLE: Tire Pass

IMPACT: Teambuilding, communication, problem solving, leadership

RISK: Medium

GROUP SIZE: 8 or more

TIME REQUIRED: 30-60 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Tie the tire 5-6 feet above the ground. It should be tied off in 3-4 directions so that it does not move too much.
  • The object of the game is for everyone to pass through the center hole of the tire as quickly as possible without touching the sides of the tire.
  • The group must decide on two people who will be designated as the spotters; they are responsible for helping the first and last persons through the tire. 
  • Then the group should decide on a strategy that will get everyone through the tire quickly and safely.  Read more

 

 

 

 

TITLE: Turning Over a New Leaf

IMPACT: Develops leadership and requires patience of a group trying to accomplish a challenging task

RISK: Medium

GROUP SIZE: 6 – 10 or more

TIME REQUIRED: 5 – 10 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Ask participants to stand on top of the sheet. 
  • Once all are on the sheet, tell them that they must turn it over without stepping off it. 
  • All participants must be standing on the sheet at all times. There can be no stacking or people on top of each other.  Read more

 

 

 

 

TITLE: What Makes the World Go Round 

IMPACT: Trust building, problem solving, cooperation, and team skills

RISK: Low to moderate 

GROUP SIZE: Any number over 4 or 5 

TIME REQUIRED: 30 minutes

 

DIRECTIONS:

  • Start by telling the group that a lot of times we get so caught up in what we think we have or don’t have that we don’t realize that we are all in the same boat.
  • If you have more than 10 people in your group, divide them into 2 groups with two puzzles. Have the group choose 2 people to be their “guides”. The two people need to be perceived as “different” from each other. In a few minutes, the rest of the group will be blindfolded and their task will be to put the puzzle together in a safe manner without talking or touching their guides. It’s OK if they touch other members in their group, but they cannot talk.  Read more

 
Diversity in Action, Project Adventure, used by permission.

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