1. Human Knot
Have everyone stand in a close circle. Everyone put in their right hand and grab the hand of someone who is not standing next to them. Then they put their hand and grab the hand of a different person. The goal is for everyone to be standing hand-in-hand in a circle, untangled, without breaking hand contact with the people they are attached to.
Opportunity to discuss: communication, physical challenge, problem solving, thinking ahead
2. Back-to-Back stand-up
Good ice-breaker kind of activity, and particularly great for younger teams – the physical contact isn’t embarrassing and its fun. Have team start in groups of two. They sit on the ground, back-to-back and then link arms. Their challenge is to stand up using the balance against each other, and no pushing on the ground with their hands. Then have groups of 3, then 4, and on and on until the whole group has to figure out a solution.
Opportunity to discuss: communication, the dynamics of group when just one person changes, balance
3. Group Push-up
Similar to the Human Table, have groups of 4 of similar heights lay on the ground in a square, so their feet are resting on the back of the person to their left. When the group is ready, they try to push up with their arms and feel the support of others.
Opportunity to discuss communication, using your strengths combined with the strengths of others, who surprised you with their strength, goal-setting
4. Lap Sit
Have the group stand in a circle (some people find it helpful to arrange people in height order), then have everyone turn so their right shoulder is in the center of the circle. Then have them take small steps together towards the middle until they are almost touching. Have everyone put their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them and have a countdown, and everyone sits down on the lap of the person behind them. See how long they can hold, or have them sing a song in position.
Opportunity to discuss communication, readiness, supporting one another, trust
5. Zen Counting
This can be done anywhere, anytime. The objective is to have the group count to a certain number, they can set the goal. Only one person can say a number at a time. You can’t say a number after the person next to you has gone. Your eyes must be closed. If those rules are broken, you must start over.
Opportunity to discuss how we handle frustration, patience, feeling it, goal-setting
6. Trust Fall
Teach the group the proper method of catching people, their arms in a “zipper” formation, with someone making sure to support the “golden triangle” of head and shoulders, those all-important bits. Spotting stance is with one leg slightly in front of the other to make that stable triangle with the legs.
Have partners begin with trust leans – have people of similar heights pair up, and have the spotter stand in spotting position. The leaner stands with their back to them and crossing their arms on their chest, makes their bodies stiff and then leans back into the arms of the spotter. When both have had an opportunity to try out roles, have someone stand on a low (2 ½ to 3 ft) platform with their back to the group. Do a safety check to make sure everyone is lined up and safe – have the group do a safety check for that matter. Have the faller say “Ready to fall” and the group responds “Fall away.” You can also add a “Spotters ready?” “Ready to Spot!” command. Then the faller leans back with arms crossed on chest and body stiff. They are released feet first to the ground.
Opportunity to discuss trust, readiness, maturity, when do you feel safe?
7. Wind in the Willows
This is a fun activity for teaching spotting. First, teach everyone proper spotting techniques according to your organization. Then have the group stand in a tight circle with a foot forward. Then a team member volunteers to be in the middle. They are to cross their arms and keep their body stiff – no dead weight! Everyone in the circle should have one foot against the person in the middle’s feet and one foot behind them for stability, and their hands up with fingers together to protect them. Then the person leans back and is GENTLY passed around the circle. Everyone gets a turn in the middle. It is a good incentive to have kids know that if they are not safe in this activity, they are not going to be able to do the low ropes elements, which is a good incentive, cuz that stuff is fun. Remind them that they spot for the person who is doing something a little risky, and also to protect themselves. It keeps people focused on that person, which is helpful, too.
Opportunity to discuss support, focus, trust, patience (this takes a long time so maybe limit people’s passing to one time around the circle)
8. I am Robot, Stand Me Up
This one is too much fun for the instructor! It’s a personal fave because it is FUN.. Introduce yourself as a robot from outer space who has learned the human language only to the degree where we can only understand literal instructions. Then the facilitator lies on the group and tells the group it is their job to get the robot to stand up. NOSTUESO (No One Speaks Twice Until Everyone Speaks First) is a great rule, and literally do what they tell you, for example, they’ll say “Stand up” – be silly and try to spontaneously stand up. The group will eventually get the idea that they need to give really specific and step by step instructions. I’ve had kids get down on the floor and see what the first step to getting up is. This is a great doorway to discuss seeing things from other people’s point of view.
Opportunity to discuss empathy (they had to think like the robot to stand it up), communication, how people receive and give information according to their needs,
9. Insignificant I–
This can be very powerful. I love it. Have the group stand in a shoulder-to-shoulder circle, then take three average steps backward. Their goal is to make it back into the shoulder-to-shoulder circle following these rules: Everyone is silent, No one steps twice until everyone steps once, You don’t step right after the person next to you has stepped, Only step one person at a time, Everyone must take exactly three steps. If any rule is broken, you reform the circle and take steps backward. But no talking in between. Usually people figure out a pattern and it is up to others to agree and catch on.
Opportunity to discuss leadership, communication, following others’ lead
10. Light as a feather, stiff as a board
The general principle is that one team member lies in the middle of a group circle, and everyone puts two fingers from each hand underneath the person and they lift them up to their ankles, to their knees, to their waist, shoulders, and above their heads if they can. Proper spotting would be preferred.
Opportunity to discuss trust and groups sometimes making work easier when everyone is committed to a common cause
Great if you are taking your team on a trail and want to make things interesting. Pair up team members however you want, but I don’t recommend having them choose. Then have one person be blindfolded and the other as a leader. Discuss ways to make the other person feel safe. Then have them follow you and then switch.
Opportunity to discuss trust, how you like to be lead, empathy for your partner
12. Human Spider
Give the group certain specifications on which body parts can be touching the floor – like 15 hands, 17 feet, 5 elbows, etc. You can give them a time-limit to complete the task. You can also do this as a parade format and have the group travel from point A to point B with the specifications you make. Maximum fun for this is very short. You could also have the group come up with their own challenges.
Opportunity to discuss the feeling of accomplishment, who was willing to sacrifice their comfort for the group, did that person change, thinking creatively
13. Deep listening
Simple. Partners. One person talks for two minutes straight, and the other person cannot talk, and still show they are listening. Then they switch and reflect back to the other person how they knew they were listening.
Opportunity to discuss how you know when you are being listened to and how other people know you are listening and concerned
14. I Am From Poem
This is so powerful and cool. This is a writing exercise especially great for a group that might be from lots of different places. Have the group divide a paper into four sections and make lists of 1) familiar sounds and sights from childhood 2) where you consider your family heritage to be from 3) familiar foods and smells from childhood 4) familiar phrases from childhood and family. After a reasonable time have people read their poems in the format “I am from” before each of the four topics. This is great for people who are great at writing, and even the simplest poem can be the most eloquent poem.
Opportunity to discuss empathy. Nothing, you can just enjoy knowing what people can express.
15. Human Alphabet
A really fun one. Tell the group they have to make as many letters of the alphabet in 10 minutes. Here are the rules: they cannot speak, they do not have to be in alphabetical order, they should do only capitol letters, the letters have to make sense from an aerial view and neat, and every person should be involved in every letter. This is especially effective when you have groups for a rotation of 10 minutes each so they can kind of compete with each other. Familiarity with English alphabet is a plus.
Opportunity to discuss leadership and following, communication, planning, strategy, competition, making sure everyone’s ideas are heard