Team-building exercises work well for every age group and in multiple environments. Known for establishing trust, building feelings of camaraderie, improving communication, and developing collective strategies, the successful completion of most team-building tasks requires sharing ideas, listening to others, the willingness to try new approaches, and cooperation. Participants in team building exercises discover ways to apply similar skills and techniques at work or play, in school and youth camp, and in everyday situations.
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When you use teambuilding exercises, follow these guidelines in order to be successful:
- Prepare for your team building exercises before presenting them to the group.
- Consider the size of your group when you plan your team building exercises.
- Explain the rules and make sure everyone obeys them.
- Choose age-appropriate exercises.
- Make sure all participants are safe during the exercises.
- Avoid making participants uncomfortable.
- Provide comfortable spaces for team building exercises.
- If appropriate, provide snacks and beverages.
How to Create Groups for Team Building Exercises
- Number the group and have odd and even numbers together.
- Have everyone whose last name begins with A through M together and those whose last name begins with N through Z in the other group.
- Number pieces of paper with 1, 2, 3, etc. for however many groups you want, and have each person draw a slip of paper to determine their group.
- Those whose birthdays are on even number days are together and those on odd number days are together.
- Pick out an even number of different colored candies – M&Ms work well – with enough for each person to be in an equally numbered colored team. Have them draw from a bag or bowl and find their group.
Team Building Exercises for Work
Structured team building exercises create opportunities for employees get to know each other better. Additionally, some are designed to teach collaborative skills, teamwork, and cross-departmental understanding and cooperation. Try one of the following at your next meeting, conference, or employee get-together.
Employee Improvement Book Reading Groups
Employees read a book provided by the manager or company about personal or career growth. Then employees take turns leading discussions about applying what they are learning to their personal career or company goals.
Lunch as a Team Building Exercise
Employees tend to relax when they have lunch together. Either provide a lunch for the work team or take them out to a nearby restaurant. Seat them at tables as teams and give them some topics related to improving the work environment or solving simple work problems to discuss during lunch.
Use Ice Breaker Team Building Exercises
Use icebreakers at meetings to help employees relax and get to know one another better. Create a list of simple icebreakers by researching the internet or seeing our article on icebreakers on this site. A good icebreaker improves a team’s ability to work together effectively.
Group Mentoring for Team Building
There are two effective methods of mentoring to use as team building exercises.
- A manager or work team leader teaches employees a new skill to improve their work or build relationships between employees.
- An employee who excels at a particular ability teaches other employees their skill or knowledge.
Work Sport Teams for Team Building
Company sponsored sport teams work well as team building exercises. The company provides equipment, t-shirts, uniforms, etc. and pays any fees required.
Lunch and Learn Team Building Exercises
Set up a lunch schedule for employees and invite an outside speaker or an employee with special knowledge to speak to the group. If you have a large group of employees, divide them into teams according to their interest or level of work ability. You can provide lunch in the office or out of the office, or have employees bring their own lunches.
On-Site Events and Classes for Teambuilding
Offer on-site events or classes after work or on weekends to promote team building. Some fun classes work well with employee spouses and/or families. Consider offering one of the following:
- Cooking classes of all kinds
- Fitness or yoga classes
- Weight loss groups
- Table game playing
- Sport watching parties
Employee Hobby Groups Team Building Exercises
Sometimes employees share an interest in outside-of-work activities. The company provides a space for meeting, and promotes communication of hobby-team members with e-mail and some financial help.
Employee Volunteering as a Team Building Exercises
Encouraging employees to volunteer as a group to participate in a charity fundraising event effectively builds team cooperation. Some ways employee can volunteer are:
- Helping to build homes for those who are homeless
- Collecting food for a local food bank
- Fund raising events, such as a local marathon
- Collecting coats or blankets for the needy during the winter months
Family Gatherings as Group Team Building Exercises
Many of the team building exercises mentioned above work well for employees’ families. Other ideas include:
- Holiday parties and activities, such as hosting trick or treating in the office late in the afternoon at Halloween
- Showing family movies in a large conference room during the summer
- Having an annual company picnic at a nearby amusement park
Team Building Exercises for Small Groups
Use a team building exercise for small groups if you have fewer than 12 people. Small groups create an intimate environment, which is very effective for team building. Our selection works in most environments and for nearly every age group.
Break your group into pairs and have each pair decide who will be the illustrator and who the director. Give a simple drawing to each director, instructing him or her not to disclose the drawing to his or her partner, the illustrator. Give a blank piece of paper and a pencil to the illustrators. The directors describe the drawing, step-by-step, to the illustrators who attempt to replicate the drawing. To make the process a bit tougher, do not allow the illustrators to ask questions. When everyone is finished, have them compare their drawings. This team building exercise improves participant’s ability to give and receive directions.
Over the Fence
Tie a rope between two chairs if you are inside or two trees if you are outside. The height should be such that a challenge is provided when one attempts to go over the rope, but low enough to make going over it possible. Challenge the team to go over the fence without touching it. This team building exercise fosters planning and collaboration skills.
Pass the Can
Participants in this team building exercise learn to work around constraints and obstacles. You will need a large can and an object to place inside, such as a rock, fake jewelry, small plastic toy, or toy car. Begin by telling a story about how the object has great value or importance. The goal is to pass the can around the circle without dropping it. However, before doing so, place a limitation on each player such as:
- You cannot use your hands.
- You must pass the can with your legs or feet.
- You must close your eyes as if you are blind.
- You must pass the can using your elbows.
If anyone in the group drops the can, passing it starts over again.
Fold a tarp (or blanket) so that everyone can stand on it, with some extra space. Have the group stand on the tarp and attempt to turn it over without stepping off it. Use this activity only with people who do not mind being in close proximity to each other. This exercise promotes collaboration, communication, and problem solving.
Team Building Exercises for Kids
Today’s children often need assistance building trust and learning teamwork skills. Our selection of team building exercises for kids entertains children while teaching them to interact with their peers. Our exercises/games also teach critical thinking and communication skills.
Fingertip Hula Hoop Drop
Direct the children to stand in a circle with their arms in the air and their index fingers extended. Place a Hula Hoop so that it rests on the children’s fingertips. You may need more than one hoop if you have a large group of kids. The goal is to lower the Hula Hoop to the ground without holding the hoop with their index fingers or hands.
Jump Rope Team Building Exercise
You will need one or more ropes, depending on the size of your group. Two adults or two older teens hold the ends of the rope(s) and swing it with a group of children standing in the middle. The goal is for all the children to jump at once. If you wish, keep track of how many jumps in a row each team (if you have multiple ropes) manages to complete and declare the team with the most successful jumps the winner.
Children learn cooperation, as well as how to give and follow directions in this fun game. Set up a safe obstacle course with no sharp edges or other dangerous hindrances. Divide your group of children into pairs and have one person in each pair blindfolded. Partners verbally navigate the blindfolded children through the obstacle course. The blindfolded players should be far enough away from the obstacle course that they cannot hear the other teams’ verbal directions, so that they do not know what to expect when it is their turn.
Human Knot Team Building Exercise
Human Knot works well for either inside or outside play. It works best with smaller groups, so divide a large group into teams of six to eight players. Children will learn teamwork skills and problems solving as they attempt to form their human knot. Begin with the children facing inward and standing in a closed circle. Have them extend their arms into the center of the circle and randomly grab the hands and wrists of another child. The challenge consists of untangling without loosening their hands.
Over the River Team Builder
Create a “river” by using chalk, masking tape, or spray paint to make two parallel lines. Give each team a cardboard or poster board raft after you divide the group into teams small enough to fit on the raft. The goal is to cross the river following the rules. You can vary the size of the river, rafts, and any imposed rules depending on the age, size, and skill level of the players. Some rules you may wish to impose are:
- Players may not leave the raft.
- The raft will sink if you jump on it.
- Players may not leave their assigned place on the raft.
You may wish to give each player his or her own small raft. If you do so, add the rule that you must have your hands and feet on the raft at all times.
Stranded Team Building Exercise
Create an “island” in the middle of a large area using tape, chalk, or spray paint. Divide your group in to teams if necessary. Two or more children from each team go to the “island” and the other team members try to find something to get the “stranded” children off the island. They may use shoelaces, items of clothing (socks tied together), or any other items they can find. You may need to hide some appropriate gear for them to use if you are inside. Outside games of Stranded usually provide more options – tree limbs, hanging vines, etc.
Teach teamwork with this fun game for older children. Have everyone stand in a circle facing inward, rotated a quarter turn in the same direction. The goal is to sit simultaneously in the lap of the person next to them. If they are successful, they will remain supported. The timing must be almost perfect when they sit, which is way this game is most effective for older children.
After participants complete a team building exercise, have them talk about how they accomplished a task or completed a challenge. The real benefits of team building exercises are learning problem solving skills, how to work together effectively, and how to follow directions. Additionally, team-building exercises stretch the imagination and foster a sense of community. Make your work and play more enjoyable with one of our easy teambuilding exercises. Learn and have fun!
Susan majored in English with a double minor in Humanities and Business at Arizona State University and earned a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Liberty University. She taught grades four through twelve in both public and private schools. Subjects included English, U.S. and world history and geography, math, earth and physical science, Bible, information technologies, and creative writing.
Susan has been freelance writing for over ten years, during which time she has written and edited books, newspaper articles, biographies, book reviews, guidelines, neighborhood descriptions for realtors, Power Point presentations, resumes, and numerous other projects.