These games will require a little more prep, like props or space specific requirements. Sometimes it is easier to have a game you can create from nothing, but when you have the space and time, these are great group bonding games.
A personal favorite. This is almost a name game, but doesn’t really work as such, it is part ice-breaker, part name game, part team-builder. Okay, so stand in a circle. The leader begins the game, tossing a ball to one person and says their name. That person passes it on to a person who hasn’t gotten the ball yet. It’s important to remember who you are throwing to! Once the ball has gotten to all participants, then have them repeat the pattern a little faster. After that round, start adding another ball. Between rounds, reflect on how the group is functioning, and see what suggestions people have for the group. I recommend having ridiculous objects at your disposal, because you can also bring up the topics of distraction and focus to group dynamics.
Opportunity for: communication, focus, laughing together, getting a rhythm as a group
A good starter is to have everyone stand around the tarp in a circle and then pick it up with their hands on the edge. Their goal is to flip the tarp over without anyone’s hands leaving the tarp. Then, when they’ve completed that challenge, move on to the next challenge: Have a group stand on a tarp that is just big enough for all participants to stand on. The objective is to have the participants completely flip the tarp over without any body part touching the ground and end up standing on the other side. There are two basic solutions: 1) have everyone crowd to one side and have someone twist a corner to the opposite side. One person stands on that turned over bit and twists that part bigger and another person joins. 2) everyone crowds on one side and they bring the opposite corner over, so there’s a triangle of turned-over space that one person stands on, and people have to shuffle to coax this one over. Topics to discuss – who was the leader? Who had an idea and didn’t speak up?
Other challenges: silently, blindfolded.
Opportunity to discuss:: communication, leadership, following, creative problem-solving
You need 4 milk crates for this one. Arrange the crates in a 2×2 square, with the solid bottom side on top. Have 4 participants sit on the crates, so when everyone lays back, their heads are on the lap of someone else, and someone’s head is on their lap, so in all different directions. Have everyone lay back so their heads are resting on the person’s lap to their left. Then engage their muscles so they are supporting each other and then you can pull the crates out. It is a great idea to have them see how long they think they can hold it.
Opportunity to discuss: communication, using your strengths combined with the strengths of others, who surprised you with their strength, goal-setting
Maze of Life
Make a grid pattern with tape or lines drawn in the ground. Start simple, such as a 3×3 grid with spaces big enough for a person to stand in. The objective is for the group to start on one side of the grid and to follow a pattern to the other side. The participants are trying to figure out the pattern the facilitator has thought of. Participants have to start on the side closest to them and end on the opposite side. The next step will always be a square touching theirs, side-by-side or diagonally. They will use every square. No one attempts twice, until everyone has attempted once, and so on.
Optional rules: 1 person on the grid at a time.
If you are on the grid, you can’t talk
If you are on the grid, you are the only one allowed to talk
No one crosses to the other side of the grid until everyone is on the grid.
Opportunity to discuss decision-making, how we handle making mistakes, peer pressure, paying attention to the mistakes of others, patience, strategic problem-solving
Closed-Eye Rope Shapes
Have everyone stand in a circle around a long piece of rope that is tied together in a circle. Their hands are now cemented to that part of the rope. Now, blindfold everyone. Give them a shape to make and have them let you know when the group has successfully completed that polygon. You can say they have to make it as perfect as possible. Or not. Then have everyone take off their blindfolds and laugh at the hot mess of a polygon they have made. Start with easy shapes like triangles, and squares, then move up to stars, or octagons or whatever geometry has to offer. On this plane.
Opportunity to discuss how everyone might have a different idea of “perfect” or “success,” communication, leading and following, group agreement
Crossing the River with pieces of stuff that you have to reuse
Often called the Peanut Butter River or Lily Pads, but I can’t get down with that. Anyway, the objective for this game is for everyone to pass over a “river” usually marked off with rope, only using some carpet squares or “lily pads”. Other rules to play with: no one can be on the opposite shore until everyone is off the first shore, if no one is touching a lily pad, then the facilitator takes away that pad, they can choose to start over at any time, and when they do, they get all their lily pads back.
Opportunity to discuss sacrifices (the lily pads), balance, communication, problem solving, the challenge of communicating in a line rather than a circle
Build a tower
This is a City Year goodie. We were given random assorted office supplies and told to make the tallest tower that we could in 20 minutes with a group. I believe everyone had different handicaps – one person could see and talk but their hands were tied behind their back, one person could be blindfolded and talk and they had to do the building. Or you could keep it simple and just say everyone had to be involved in some way. Then test each tower for height and strength and find something positive about each tower. Encourage other groups to say something positive and constructive about each tower.
Opportunity to discuss how people achieve the task, how we define success, goal setting
A favorite with many! Simple version: Have everyone stand in a shoulder-to-shoulder line. One person is selected to be blindfolded and find an object in an area where the whole group cansee. One person is selected to give instructions to the person finding the object. The instruction-giver can’t see where the object is hidden (by the facilitator), but they can see everyone else in the group. The people in line cannot move their feet or speak in any way. The game continues until the blindfolded person has found the object.
Fancy version: There are two lines of mimes, facing each other, two finders, and two instruction-givers. You can hide two objects or make it a race to find one object. You can also add a “singer” who stands on the opposite team’s side in a confined space like a hula hoop and “sings” as a distraction to the other team – no words allowed though.
Opportunity to discuss communication, working to people’s strengths, frustration, group goals, disappointment (everyone wants to be blindfolded), patience, agreement on strategy
Have the group stand in a circle. Give them a pitcher full of water, or if you can’t get messy, then a pitcher of tennis balls. They are to pass the pitcher around the circle without spilling it. Now without their hands, not without their arms, now without their feet – get creative on their limitations and creativity will come back to you. Lots of fun!
Opportunity to discuss creativity, blaming vs. encouragement, teaching, learning, trusting a person not to spill on you
This is a sneaky team-building game because kids don’t realize they are working together! Partner students together, one tank-driver and one tank. The tank is blindfolded and the tank driver cannot touch the tank, only give them verbal instructions. There are several soft and squishy balls scattered over the playing field. The tanks are the only ones allowed to pick up the balls and throw them at other teams. If either member of a team is hit, they are both out. Play to elimination.
Opportunity to discuss what successful teamwork looks like, encouragement, competition and teamwork, trust
Steal my Chicken
A popular one. The facilitator has some object at their feet- let’s say it’s a rubber chicken with their back turned to the group. The group is behind a line about 30-40 feet away to start with. When you say “Steal my Chicken” the students advance toward you. When you say “Gotcha” you turn around and the group freezes – if someone doesn’t freeze immediately, they go back to the beginning. They are trying to get the chicken back over the line before you can guess who has it on the way back. Tell the group to really plot against you and be sneaky.
Opportunity to discuss strategic thinking, planning as a group, agreement on a method, goals
Fun, and requires specialized materials. People sometimes make pipelines out of PVC pipe cut in half. When there isn’t that option, I’ve used bowls, pitchers and plates in between. You also need a marble. Set up a bucket about 20 feet away from a starting mark. I often tell the students that a tiny planet (the marble), has been flung out of its galaxy (the bucket) and needs to get back to the planet only touching the special objects you have given them, otherwise the planet will be flung back to the beginning. Also, it must pass through everyone’s pipeline in order to be protected. If you successfully complete it, you will be treated to dinner by anyone on the tiny planet when you visit next time. Cheesy story, but it works.
Opportunity to discuss frustration, persistence, changing a plan, patience when something goes wrong
Have a platform about half a foot high that the group has to squeeze to fit everyone onto. Then have them all fit onto the platform so no body part is touching the ground for however long of a goal they set.
Opportunity to discuss personal space and groups, creative problem solving, who was willing to sacrifice their comfort for another, using people’s strengths
This is essentially a giant jump rope game. Old climbing rope is fabulous for this because it’s nice and long. Have the group start on one side of the rope and tell them when they are ready, they have to ask you permission to turn the rope. Then they all have to get to the other side without getting hit by the rope. Variations include, having them all go at once, having them go in varying group sizes, give them an enigmatic pattern that they never get right.
Opportunity to discuss trust in team- mates, strategic planning, encouragement
Divide the group into pairs. One person is Helen Keller and is blindfolded and is not allowed to talk. The other is supposed to teach the person an action or concept without talking to them. Things to learn can be a number, the Macarena, kicking, waving, etc. Then have the groups switch.
Opportunity to discuss empathy for how another person processes information, patience, creativity,
Helium Hula Hoop
Have everyone stand in a circle with their index fingers out in front of them, palms facing each other. Then lower a hula hoop onto the participants’ fingers and tell them the objective is to lower the hula hoop to the ground. They are not allowed to hook their fingers or put anything on top of the hula hoop. This also works great with a tent pole with people in a line facing each other.
Opportunity to discuss how to handle frustration, problem-solving, leadership and following