Whether your team has never met each other before your first meeting, or has worked together for years, these are some great activities to help them get to know each other better. The goal of these activities is to make them feel comfortable around each other, to learn more about each individual team member, and to have some fun!
From New Hampshire DI
From Tennessee DI
Some fun activities to try with your team to foster teamwork, cooperation, trust and communication.
Team Development Exercise (Thank you, NYDI)
These easy (and fun) exercises can help you get your team moving in the right direction!
- “Balloon Train” – Have each team member blow up a balloon. You then stand in a straight line and put the balloon between your chest and the back of the person in front of you — no hands now. Give them a path to follow. The team must figure out how to move the whole line, without dropping any balloons. They can use their voice, but no hands. This exercise teaches the students how each person can impact the team, and how important the communication in a group can be.
- “Survivor” – A great game that got all my girls working together last year: Put together a basket full of goodies — tin foil, ball, candy, water, screwdriver, etc. anything you find around the house. Tell the team to close their eyes and imagine they are stranded (shipwrecked, caught in a snowstorm, whatever your team will identify with) then each member chooses one item from the basket that they believe will help them survive. Team all gets together and has ten minutes to discuss each item and hear out why each member thinks the item they chose is important. (This really gets them listening to everyone’s individual ideas) Then team has to choose together the five most important items to help them survive till help comes. (This really helps them come up with team solutions instead of individual) After they decide they perform a skit which shows how they will use these items to survive and work as a team.
- “Knots” — Stand in a circle, shoulder to shoulder. Ask everyone to reach out and grab two other hands. (You cannot have both hands of one person, and you cannot have the hands of persons on each side of you.) If possible, try not to criss-cross. Now untangle so that all are standing in a round circle again.
- “Skin the Snake” – Have people line up, one behind the other. Reach between your legs and with your left hand grab the right hand of the person behind you. The person in front of you needs to reach back and grab your right hand with their left hand. Once the chain is formed, you’re set to go. The last person in line lies down on his back. The person in front of him backs up, straddling his body, and lies down behind him. Continue until the whole group waddles back.
- “Alligator Attack”– Each team is given a piece of cardboard just big enough for all group members to stand on. All teams are at one end of the field or gym. All members must have a hand in carrying the cardboard (their “boat”). The leader will have a choice to two commands: “Go” means the team may advance forward, holding their boat, at any speed: “Attack” means that the team must place their boat on the ground and all members must get aboard and stay there. If one member should fall off the boat, the whole team is a goner. The last team on their boat is eliminated or must take a chunk out of their boat before the next “Go” command. See how many teams make it to the end of the field or gym.
- “Life Boat” – Tape a square on the floor smaller than an area where the whole team could stand. Tell the team there will be a flood in the next 5 minutes and the only safe place is in the square (lifeboat). This feat can be accomplished by each team member putting one foot in the lifeboat and holding hands with the person across the boat, everyone balancing through the use of teamwork. Don’t give the answer, let the team struggle to figure it out.
- “Stepping Stones” – Hand the team four blocks 2″x6″, cut 6″ in length. Tell them they have to get the whole team across the gym without touching the floor. Any team members who touch the floor must go back to the starting point. There are no right or wrong solutions, but teamwork must be utilized.
- “Blanket Ball” – Two blankets and at least one ball are the equipment. Students gather around three sides of each blanket. A ball is tossed between blankets. Teams must work together to catch and throw the ball. As students become better at blanket toss, they may trade two balls simultaneously, and they may begin longer distance tosses, moving a pace further apart at each catch and a pace closer together at each miss.
- “Pencil in a Bottle” – Students face back-to-back in pairs. A string is tied around their waists so that approximately 3 or 4 feet separate them. A pencil on a string is tied to the middle of the first string so it hangs vertically. A soda pop bottle is placed below the pencil. The goal is to get the pencil in the bottle. Variation: use a coffee can, blindfold the pair, and have the teammates provide the clues.
- ” Blind Maze” – One student from each group shuts his/her eyes. Beanbags, paper, or other markers are placed about the area in a random arrangement. The blind student must step on each marker. The rest of the team can call one direction at a time and then must allow the blind student to carry out the whole direction before calling out another direction. This game can be timed and students can try to beat their own record.
- “Balance Beam” – Place a long board on two cinder blocks. Have as many students as possible stand on the board. They are told they are in a lifeboat and there are alligators in the water. If any of them fall in, the alligators will know they are there and they will all die. Have students line themselves up by height, birthday, the second letter of their first name, etc.
- “Dragon’s Tail” – Students form the dragon by standing in a line, hands on the hips of the person in front. A handkerchief (dragon’s tail) is placed in the back pocket of the person in the back of the line. Now the dragon lets out a few yells and at a signal the dragon tries to catch its own tail. Of course, the tail tried to avoid being caught. When caught, the tail becomes the head and the game begins again.
- “Four Directions”– The leader stands and faces the group. The group spreads out and makes sure they have room to move. The goal is to stay in the same place relative to the leader.
Start simple: The leader can take one step either forwards, backwards, left or right. The group then tries to follow, but of course reversing the direction. As they get better, allow the leader to take diagonal steps.
Afterwards, chat about how difficult/easy it was being the leader. Did you have to modify what you wanted to do to make sure someone didn’t knock over the lamp? Was it scary to be in front of all these people? How about being a follower? Were you able to anticipate what the leader was going to do? What happened when you were wrong?
- “Lighthouse”– One person is the “Boat”. Another is the “Lighthouse”. Blindfold the “Boat” and spin them around 3 times. Create obstacles for the Lighthouse to direct the Boat away from (other team members can be great obstacles!). The Lighthouse can only use words to direct the Boat from the starting area to the ending area and around whatever obstacles have been presented.
- “Dictionary Game”– Someone makes up a nonsense word. For instance: Breblefraxion. They say it aloud.
The team stands in a line facing the leader. They are a human dictionary machine. First they spell the word, one letter at a time. The first person in line says ‘B’, the second says, ‘R’ and so on until they word is spelled. It is spelled when one of the team members says ‘Breblefraxion.’ Then, one WORD at a time, they define the word. Once again, it is completely defined when someone says the word.
Invariably, each person has his or her own idea of how the word should be spelled, and tries to ‘stage whisper’ a letter or word choice to another team member. Or there’s just the ‘that’s not how you would spell it!’ response.
That’s when it’s time to point out that good team members SUPPORT EACH OTHER WHEN THEY MAKE MISTAKES. It’s not the job of a team member to point out the mistake of another team member. It’s the job of a team member to make it look like no one on their team EVER makes a mistake! If for some reason a Q shows up in Breblefraxion, then its’ up to the team members to make it look like Q is the best idea in the world when it comes to spelling Breblefraxion!
Successful teams always know what they are working towards, and have a plan about how to get there. Team members talk about progress and acknowledge each other’s achievements. Achieving consensus is the first step toward any team goal. This positive team approach will support resolution of any difficulties that arise during the year.