I started this series quite a while ago and then, well, I went to camp and summer was mental and amazing and there just wasn’t any time to finish it. But now it’s back… and this is a big one. Summer camp is all about making friends and learning how to work together for all the best possible outcomes (whether you are a camper or counselor), so here are some of my favourite team building challenge games that we do at camp, some during the summer with the kids and others during our ‘Fall’ season when we work with college-aged students during their freshmen orientations or leadership trainings.
1. Carpet Squares
You will need: Squares of carpet or material
Where: Across a basketball court is a good place, but anywhere you can mark out start and finish points.
How it works: The Basketball court is a Lava Pit! You have special shoes that allow you to stand on the lava. The aim is for the entire group to get across the basketball court, using only the magic carpet squares. Give them enough carpet squares so it is possible but still hard (generally I do half the number of people and take away 1 or 2)
Rules: They must get across as a team. This means no one just taking 2 squares and shuffling their way across on their own. A body part must be touching the carpet squares at all times – if a carpet square is ever dropped on the lava and no one is touching it, they lose that square. If anyone steps in the lava, they must all go back to the start. They must take the carpet squares with them at the end – how do they know you won’t ask them to go back again?
This is a really good one to blindfold/silence the chatty people and make the quiet ones talk.
You will need: A large box with 3 shades cut out of the top (triangle, square, circle), three shapes (triangular prism, cylinder, cuboid), 1x long rope, 2x clothes-line ropes
How it works: Put the Time bomb box in the middle, lay the long rope in a wide circle around it. Put the two clothes lines across the circle on either side of the box. Put the three shapes randomly around the circle. The group must get the 3 shapes into the box. (NB the best way to do this is to use the two clothes line ropes, loop them around the shapes, then lift them up and lower each shape in turn into the box).
Rules: They cannot step over the outer circle rope. Not even their hands can go over it.
Some groups will use the smaller ropes to pull the box and the shapes out of the circle so they can just simply then put the shapes into the box. There are no rules against this and it’s a very clever option. But then do a reset and tell them to do it again but this time, none of the objects are allowed to leave the circle.
Again you should use silencing some of the group to your advantage. Make sure everyone stays engaged in the task at hand.
3. Tennis Balls (this can lead on from the tennis ball name game)
You will need: Tennis balls
How it works: You have completed the name game part of this challenge (i.e. the ball has made its way around the circle without being dropped). Now using just one ball, tell them it can be done faster. Ask them how. Don’t give them the answers – but the main steps are:
1st – Make the circle smaller/stand closer together
2nd – Stand next to the person you are passing the ball to.
3rd – only use one hand
4th – use only one finger
Between each try, tell them it can be done faster and ask them how.
The quickest way to do this is for them stand in a line in their order and each put one finger out, then roll the ball down the line. So it should really only take a few seconds.
Rules: The ball must go in its original order from person to person. It must touch everyone. It does not have to end up back at the first person. They cannot just have one person hold the ball and run around the circle. The ball must leave each person and go to the next person. They do not have to say each other’s names anymore (only tell them this if they ask).
4. Human Knot (you need an even number of people for this, if you have an odd number, either join in or make one person the overseer/helper).
How it works: Get everyone to stand in a circle. Have the put their left hands in and grab someone else’s left hand (not the person next to them). Then get them to do the same with their right hand (again, not the person next to them and not the same person who is holding their left hand). Then their challenge is to untangle themselves so they end up holding hands in a circle. 99% of the time it is totally possible. Sometimes they will end up in two linked circles, which also counts as complete.
Rules: They are allowed to end up facing in or out of the circle. They are also allowed to rotate their hands – we don’t want any sore or broken wrists! They must not let go of each other’s hands. If they do, make them start again. It is often a good idea to make them all quiet except for one person – pick someone who doesn’t talk a lot.
5. Knots in a rope
You will need: A long rope
How it works: Have the rope set up with multiple knots along the length of it. Have each person in the group place his or her left hand on the rope. They must undo all of the knots without letting go of the rope.
Rules: They can’t let go of the rope. You can make it silent or just have one or two people talking. You can blindfold people to make it harder.
6. Tarp Maze
You will need: A large tarp with lines marked out on it to create squares 8×8
How it works: For your own eyes only, map out a route across the tarp maze (it is 8×8 squares). It can go forwards, backwards and diagonally. The groups must get their whole team across the maze, one at a time. When they step onto a square, say ‘Yes’ if it is the correct route’ or ‘No’ if not. If they get a yes, that person can step onto another square. They can step on any of the squares that are connected to the one they are standing on. They keep going until they get a ‘No’. Then the next person goes. The group must try to remember the route as they go.
Rules: The group must stay behind the person who is on the maze i.e. they cannot stand on the other side of the maze – they can only walk up the sides to as far as they have figured out. If they ask, they can use things around them to mark out a route (only let them do this if they are really struggling though).
Again, this is a good one to blindfold and silence people on.
7. Fold the Tarp
You will need: A large tarp
How it works: Get the whole group to stand on the tarp. They must then, without anyone stepping off the tarp, fold it in half. Then have them fold it in half again. Keep going until they either all fall off the tarp, or it physically cannot get any smaller.
8. Hoola Hoops
You will need: At least 3 hoola hoops
How it works: Have them stand in a circle and join hands. Place a hoola hoop between two people (around their arms). Their challenge is to get the hoola hoop around the circle and back to its starting position without breaking the circle (i.e. each person must go through the hoop). When they have done it once, ask if they think they can do it quicker? Now have them do it again, but time them. Do this a few times and see if they can cut their time on each go. Add in more hoops as you see fit.
Rules: Again, you set the rules. Don’t let them give up.
9. Spider Web
You will need: Rope, set up in a web between two trees – make the spaces all different sizes, but they must be possible to climb through.
How it works: The entire group must get from one side of the spider web to the other, by going through the spaces in the web
Rules: If anyone touches the web, the whole group goes back to the start. Each space in the web can only be used once. They can go under or over, but that counts as one space. They cannot use the trees.
10. Crack the Code
You will need: Long jump rope (and a friend to help you swing the rope)
How it works: Have the whole group stand on one side of the rope, tell them that there is a ‘code’ placed on the rope that they have to figure in order to get their whole group from one side of the rope to the other (you come up with this code). Start swinging the rope around and they can start when they are ready – every time they send people through (either by running under or jumping over the rope), keep the rope swinging if they are correct, drop the rope if they are incorrect.
e.g. your code could be something as simple as ‘girl, boy, girl, boy’ etc – if they send two girls/boys in a row, you would drop the rope. You should start with something simple so they get the idea and then you can make it more complicated by using colours or items of clothing e.g. ‘headwear, no headwear’ etc.
Rules: Just give them enough information to get them started, they will post likely be very confused at first and I have known this to take hours, but stick with it. Stop them every now and again to help them work out what they know so far, or to silence the talkers and bring in the quieter ones (who usually have some great ideas)
11. All Aboard
You will need: A large, raised, square board.
Where to do it: Anywhere flat.
How it works: The whole group must get themselves onto the board at the same time and stay there for long enough to sing a song (tell them it’s your birthday and they need to sing happy birthday to you) without anyone falling or stepping off the board.
Rules: Very simple. If anyone touches the floor, they all come off and start again. This is always 100% possible. Be really strict about it. If they keep falling off, have them sit down and discuss what’s not working and what they could do instead before they try again. Change up who is allowed and not allowed to talk.
12. Lap Sit
How it works: Have everyone stand in a circle. Get them to come in as close as they can, so they are shoulder to shoulder. Then make them all turn to the right so they are all facing the back of the person in front of them. Have them step into the circle so they are toe-to-heel with the person in front. On the count of three, they must sit down on the legs of the person behind them. Once they are sitting and steady, have them try to take 3 steps forward.
Rules: You set the rules on this one. You can simply give them the instructions and let them try, or you can make one person the speaker. It is unlikely they will get this on the first try – keep going until they get it. Be strict about it. Talk to them each time about what worked or why it went wrong and have them adjust themselves.
13. Rope Shapes
You will need: A long rope
How it works: Blindfold everyone in the group. Have them all put their right hand on the rope. They must try to make the rope into the shape you call out just by talking to each other and moving around. Have them hold the rope out in front of them, then when they think they have it in the correct shape, tell them to put the rope on the ground.
Rules: They must all stay blindfolded the whole time, until you tell them to look at the shape they’ve made.
And there you have it… give these games a try next time you’re facilitating a group, whether that me kids, adults, at school uni or even camp next summer!
Do you have any other team building games you love… let me know what they are in the comments!