I’m sure many student affairs professionals will agree when I say possessing a repertoire of engaging team building games is an incredibly invaluable skill. There are many occasions when such a repertoire can come in handy. Such occasions may include working with a new or reserved group of students, needing to inject some energy into a lecture, or finishing training session early and needing to add a few more minutes. After many years of facilitating a diverse array of team building games, I’ve pinpointed my five most successful:
Machinery in Motion
Split your student group into teams of roughly 6-15 members, making it clear that all team members must participate. Provide each group with the name of a machine to assemble using their bodies and 3-5 minutes to practice. Each group must then demonstrate how their machine works (including sound effects). Options for machinery includes a stapler, TV, iPhone, washer/dryer, vacuum, lawn mower, DVD player, or microwave.
Why it works: It’s great for large groups, no props are required, and it’s great fun to watch.
Split your student group into teams of 6-12 members. Provide each group one or more packs of playing cards. Instruct each group to build the tallest tower possible. Facilitators may provide hints, tips, and answers to any questions (for example, can the cards be torn?). On the other hand, they can indicate they will remain silent to encourage creativity.
Why it works: It encourages a healthy competitive spirit, requires only a simple pack of cards, and is a great activity when assessing communication or teamwork skills.
Depending on the size, scope, and interests of your student group, consider activities that are relatively short. Be sure to cater to all interests and fitness levels. Also, consider the availability of props and set-up time. Possible activities include building sand castles, sporting competitions (ranging from dodge ball to tunnel ball to ropes courses), puzzles, problem solving, mystery scenarios, or quiz challenges. Escape rooms are trending right now, providing teams with a challenge they need to solve to escape a locked room.
Why it works: It encourages physical activity and movement, which is great if they’ve been cooped up in inside for lectures or training all day. It requires a little more effort because of the need for props, but it is a great longer term activity encouraging ongoing engagement and/or competition.
Similar to Team Olympics, Scavenger Hunts are great to get students active and outside when the weather is good! Advance planning is key, but low maintenance hunts can consist of clues and/or questions at each location. Perhaps provide clues to a staff member in waiting or to a person already at the location (for example, a librarian or customer service worker). If you are wanting students to learn something, it’s great to require them to seek answers to specific questions. How much is a bus ticket? How many days can a book be on loan? Furthermore, if you have enough staff available, you can host an activity or skill challenge at each location. Require each group to complete the activity or challenge to move on to the next location.
Why it works: Another great activity to encourage physical activity and healthy competition. It’s great to provide headbands or some forms of bright and colorful identification to encourage competition.
Epic Blanket Forts
One of my personal favorites–epic blanket fort building–is exactly as it sounds. Provide your student teams with a few props (sheets, boxes, chairs, etc.) and the instruction of constructing their best architectural creation yet!
Why it works: Simple–it’s incredibly fun to watch and play! Additionally, props aren’t too difficult to obtain, and it pays to ensure that the more creative ‘forts’ aren’t risking any occupational health and safety concerns. A great photo opportunity!