We live in a society that stresses an “it’s all about me” mentality. Kids are exposed to that, too, so it’s no wonder they often struggle to work together. This is evident whenever a group of kids are gathered in a classroom, party or other youth event. I often used games and icebreakers to help the teenagers and tweens in my youth programs develop their social skills and communicate better. Here are four of my favorite team building games for groups.
Create a human knot. Use this fun activity in conjunction with a short lesson about how we need to work together as a community to accomplish a common goal.
Here are the rules:
Have a group of at least eight kids form a circle while facing each other. They all stick their hands in the middle and randomly grab another child’s hand with each of their own. The object of this team building activity is for the group to figure out how to untangle the knot they created without anyone releasing hands. The kids must climb under and step over each others arms to straighten out their knot. What results is a lesson in communication, teamwork, and a lot of laughter.
Go on a Digital Dash scavenger hunt. This game has been one of my favorite team building activities to use for preteens and teens since I started working as a youth leader over 15 years ago. Of course, back then we used classic Polaroid cameras, and it was called Polaroid Panic instead of Digital Dash. In addition to honing team building skills and using creativity, this one gets the kids out in the community interacting with others.
This is what you need to do:
Before the activity, prepare a list of places and items for the kids to find and photograph. For instance, one item on the list might be to take a picture of one team member pumping gas for a stranger. Assign point values to each item, depending on the level of difficulty. Recruit adults who are willing to drive the teams to their destinations, divide teams up evenly, and send them out with the list. Give them an hour to complete as many as possible. Award extra points to the first team that returns to the starting point. Judge the photos to determine if they meet the criteria, and add up the points. The team with the most points wins. Don’t forget to post the photos for the kids to enjoy afterward.
Play five second blueprint. This structure-building exercise is another one that works well to help teenagers practice communicating and working together.
Here’s how to play:
Beforehand, build a structure out of simple materials like building blocks or wooden craft sticks. Split the kids into teams of four to six players, and give each group identical building supplies (the same ones used to build your structure). When time starts, send one member from each team to the hidden structure and give them five seconds to memorize how it’s configured. They must then run back to their team and try to build it within 30 seconds. When time is up, each team sends another member to study the structure, and they repeat the process until one of the teams builds an exact replica of the original structure.
Complete a trust obstacle course. The kids in my youth groups had a blast with this game and preferred to do it outside. It will also work indoors. This activity offers tweens and teens a hands-on way to practice trust, communication and teamwork.
This is how to play:
Set up an obstacle course in advance. It doesn’t need to be anything elaborate and shouldn’t be unsafe. Use chairs and other items readily available to create a simple course for blindfolded kids to maneuver. Have each kid find a partner, and blindfold one of the teammates. The other teen must then give verbal directions to help his blindfolded partner complete the obstacle course. Use a stopwatch to time each team and record them. The team with the fastest time wins.