Some simple and fun team building exercises and games to get any group working together.
This comes from my experiences as and working with youth in a church setting. Nothing is more challenging then getting junior high and high school students to cooperate and treat each other with respect. With that in mind these are, mostly, some fun games that require teamwork and provide a challenge which can only be overcome through working together.
These steps are written for you, the leader, in the hopes to help you see your team, group, staff, or who ever it is working for you or learning from you working better together.
Step 1: Knots
Knots is a fairly simple game where everyone has to be comfortable with less personal space then normal. The object is to untie your knot.
To begin the game have your team break up into groups of 6-10 people each. It's nice to have the
same number in every group so that you can make it a competition, everyone likes to win a prize.
Once you have the team broken into groups have them stand, facing the same direction, with their right hand in the circle. They have to be close for this to work, very close; they need to be touching at the right shoulder.
Once the groups are packed in tight they need to grab someone else's right hand with their right hand. It must not be someone who is standing next to them and preferably not standing across from them either, that's up to you though.
Next have them stretch out their circle just enough so that they can get their left hand inside the circle and grab another person's hand. The same rules as before should apply with the addition that it must be someone new.
Now you get to watch them struggle. The object is for the group who is all tangled to attempt to untangle themselves. They should end up standing in a circle holding hands with the two people next to them. They may end up facing out of or into the circle depending on who's hand they grabbed, but that is just fine. This builds teamwork because if the group does not work together it is literally impossible. People will have to step over, under, and through other people's arms and bodies to get out of the knot. Sometimes they will end up having to pull the entire chain of people underneath one two people's arms.
If you want to mix up the game and make it even more challenging blind fold some of the people in the group. After you have seen a few knots get unraveled, standing outside the knot you can tell who will be doing the most moving in order to get the knot undone, and that is exactly who you want to blindfold.
Step 2: The Bench
This game can be very impressive when done correctly. It also serves as a lovely display of engineering for those so mathematically inclined.
You can start of either with your whole group or by breaking into smaller teams.
Have the group performing 'the bench' stand in a tight circle front-to-back.
Then, and it is much harder and funnier then it sounds, each person, in unison, should sit on the lap of the person behind them. As everyone sits down all at once they should automatically end up sitting on the person behind them as long as everyone trusts everyone else and believes it will work.
This one can, as I said, be really impressive. I've seen a college football team do it in the middle of their field during practice. I've also seen a 4 foot tall girl who weighs maybe 90 pounds soaking wet with a 6 foot tall boy who easily weighs 250 pounds on her lap, and it worked. The key to this one is not to over think the action of sitting. As long as the circle is tight and everyone sits down slowly it will work.
To make this one more of a challenge have the group maintain the sitting position for about 30 seconds then have them lift up a leg, either one's fine. They should still be able to maintain the position, but with more difficulty of course, as long as they stay still. For a laugh tell them to lift their other leg before you let them up and see what happens. At this point everyone will be having a good time from falling over once or twice, and humor makes great bonds.
Step 3: The Peanut Butter Pass
This game is messy so do not have your team do it in their fancy clothes.
Break the team up into two groups and have them sit down either in chairs or on the floor.
Have them all put their hands behind their backs.
Take a healthy spoon full of peanut butter and squish it firmly onto the nose of the person on one end of each line. If someone is allergic to peanuts you could easily use anything soft but sticky like soft clay or possibly even cream cheese.
Their job is to pass the peanut butter down the line in a relay to the nose of the next person using only their nose. No hands allowed.
Keep the paper towels and some fresh peanut butter handy because it will get dropped. To help keep it off of clothing you can have them stand on their knees so that the peanut butter will not drop onto the clothing below.
Once they have passed it down to the end of the line and they think they are done make them pass it back.
Again keep plenty of paper towels on hand and maybe some moist hand wipes to clean off faces. Some people just do not like having something on their face though so this game should be used with some discretion.
Step 4: The Table Fall
Everyone has seen the table fall. It is a stand-by of team building everywhere.
Have one person stand on a table which is approximately waist high and the rest stand around the end with their hands locked together in a net.
The person standing on a table then falls, with their back facing the rest of the group, into the net of arms.
For added bonding you can have them say something that no one knows about them before they do it, something they find embarrassing, or if their have been problems within the group they can say something they have done or said they feel they should not have.
Caution should be used with this exercise. Their is obvious and inherent danger involved with falling off of a table whether it be on purpose or on accident. The people who are doing the catching must be confident in themselves and prepared to share the weight among them. This is not recommended for small groups of people.
Step 5: Ropes Course
If you have access to one, a ropes course can be an invaluable tool for team building. This is especially true if you have group leaders within your group. The best method for team building on a ropes course is to blind fold the people actually doing the course and to have people instructing them on what to do.
Ropes courses can be very dangerous and should always be monitored and controlled by trained professionals. If the people in charge of the ropes course have a problem with this do not debate it. Simply allow your group to have a nice day together on the ropes course.
That said another way to build team confidence is to instruct a person through the ropes course while they are blind folded. Then after they finish have them instruct the first part for the next person and you instruct the rest. After the second person has finished have them instruct the first part and the first person the second and so on and so on until group members are entirely instructing their peers.
The ropes course I have used in the path has a zip line at the end. The look on someones face when you tell them to take a lunging step off of the last platform is terrifying for them and for you to say the least. It shows great confidence in the person leading them when they do it however.
It is important on the ropes course that if anyone has a problem while they are on the course the rest of the group cheer them on instead of watching them struggle like a show. By cheering them on they are given confidence and strength in themselves and their peers.
Step 6: Final Thoughts
Many of these games you can participate in and should! If the leader is not involved in the team building exercises and fun then they are separating themselves from the team. Lack of involvement leads to lack of trust.
Any activity in which the team or small groups from the team have to work together can be a team building activity with the right attitude. Some great ones are float trips, and forming sports teams. Any activity where everyone has fun together can be a bonding and thus team building activity.
Prized and other incentives to do well as a team make the team work well together out of necessity. This is by no means an ideal way to build team work, but when playing a game like knots racing to win a prize just make it a little more fun.
I hope you've found at least one thing you can take away from this instructable and have fun building a health team attitude with your group.