Fun Team Building Activities for Kids!
UPDATE: We’ve reached our first goal of 15 activities! Thank you to Maureen from Franklin Lakes, NJ, for her submission of the “Get a Little Loud with ‘All Aboard!’” You rock, Maureen!
Hello and welcome to our site! We’ve compiled all of the best and most effective team-building exercises for children and young adults, and organized them into categories for you to choose from. If you are a teacher or youth leader and you want your group to get to know each other, develop socialization skills, and learn to operate as a team, you’re in the right place!
In the paragraphs below, we’ve detailed some notes about the pages you’ll find here, and some guidance on how to make the most of your team building activities for kids. Thank you for stopping by!
Who Should Read This Site? We’ve included activities that are a great fit for the classroom, but this is site is not only for teachers—if you’re a youth leader of any kind, and you are looking to build group cohesion and get your kids to become friends, you’ll find a lot of great material on this site. That means scout leaders, youth group leaders, camp counselors, day care centers, little league coaches, after-school program directors, social workers, and so on. If you work with kids ages 4 to 14 (and older, in some cases), there are plenty of games here that can benefit your group.
Because many of us come from a teaching background, we may slip up sometimes and write “teacher” instead of “group leader.” We apologize. We realize that a lot of people are coming to this page who are not teachers, and we don’t want to make them feel as though this site isn’t for them. It is, and we appreciate what you do!
How Is The Site Organized? In order for you to find the activity that will benefit your group the most, all of our exercises have been categorized on the right-hand side of the page. Keep in mind that a lot of the activities fall under more than one category, so you might find the same exercise in more than one category.
What Else Can I Find Here? Most of the time, youth leaders who are looking for team activities also need a lot of other information and guidance, so we’ve included a blog where we discuss important issues such as bullying, how to deal with “drag-your-feet” participants, group members who are shy, encouraging emotional intelligence, classroom culture, and other topics that might help you in your day-to-day work with kids.
Who Built This Site, Anyway? We are a group of elementary and early education teachers (and one social worker!) who work with kids and wanted to share our experience on how to work well with groups. You can hop over to our “About” page to read about us.
I’d Like to Contribute! We’d love to have you contribute! It is our goal to make the site THE place to go for team building activities for kids, and if you’d like to be part of the effort, please feel free to send us activities that have worked for you. You can email us at matt (at) teambuildingactivitiesforkidscentral (dot) com. And, if you have your own website or blog want to share our site, please feel free to do so!
What’s with the “Warm Fuzzies”?
We may be a little bit biased, but we think teachers and youth leaders are some of the best people in the world! They give 100% to their jobs, and the work they do can make a positive impact that can last a lifetime. But, sadly, for all the cheerleading that youth leaders do for others, it’s not always returned! They’re not always appreciated as much as they should be.
So we’ve included a “Warm Fuzzies” section at the bottom of each exercise. They may be inspirational quotes, pick-me-ups, or philosophical words on why youth leaders are super awesome.
Why Are Team Exercises Important?
It is through teamwork that young ones learn to interact with the world. Group-building exercises are a like a training camp for kids to develop interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, and the character traits that help a person succeed in the community. Kids who learn how to interact with a group:
- learn to trust and rely on others—while at the same time understanding that they must contribute to achieve the group’s goals;
- establish a sense of self, as well as a sense of group identity;
- develop confidence in their abilities to interact with others;
- begin to understand the concepts of trust, cooperation, support, patience, perseverance, and sharing.
Group activities for kids also:
- encourage listening skills by having participants attain information from one another;
- assist in the “friend-making” process and help kids approach peers who they haven’t yet gotten to know; and
- promote feelings of self-worth and satisfaction.
From an instructor standpoint, team exercises are an EXCELLENT opportunity for guidance and instruction. Ethical behavior can be explained and praised; self-soothing skills can be incorporated when children become overwhelmed or frustrated; and positive interactions can be modeled and repeated. Events that occur during the exercise can be discussed afterward and dissected for relevance and importance.
And, one of the wonderful things about team exercises is that they are beneficial for every single age group you can work with. At no point does team-building lose its educational relevance. Regardless of the demographics of your group, the exercise will be a positive addition to your program. The more team building activities for kids you can fit into your curriculum, the more cohesion and effort you will see!
The Ideal Team-Spirit Building Activity
The most effective exercises that promote group cohesion instill a sense of “interdependence.” That is, when group members see that they are connected to one another, and that they themselves (as individuals) will not succeed unless everyone in the group succeeds, that’s when a participants truly start to feel connected to others. A group activity will be especially effective when each participant’s efforts are required for the success of the group, and when each participant has a unique and specific contribution to make toward the desired outcome. When group members realize that they are needed, and that their unique talents and abilities are integral to success, that is when a true commitment to others can be seen.
Of course, sometimes you just want an activity that helps kids get along—and we have those here, too!
How to Make Team Activities Effective
Here are some tips we’ve come up with that will help you use the exercises located on this site. If you have some other pointers, please let us know!
Pick the Right Game By Knowing Your Participants. This one seems a little obvious, but it’s pretty important. Age, ability, and maturity of the participants should always be considered. Are you working with a group who have sensory issues? A game like “The Human Knot” is a bad idea. Are you moderating a high-energy group of ten-year-olds who need to burn off some energy? Go with a high-energy game like “All Aboard” or “Get a Group.” If you haven’t yet met the group you’ll be working with, make a guess based on age.
Pick the Right Game By Knowing Your Goals. What is your purpose for initiating the activity? Are you using the activity as an ice-breaker? Are you trying to help kids develop communication skills, interpersonal skills, or individual leadership skills? Are you worried that your group doesn’t have any listening skills, and you want to give them some practice? Try and determine your “curricular purpose,” and decide your activity accordingly.
And, yes—sometimes you just need to fill up a half-an-hour before lunch. That’s good too!
Prep It or Wreck It
If you’ve spent more than twenty minutes working with children, you know that if you don’t start the day with a plan you are in serious, serious trouble. As you’d imagine, an activity is only as good as the prep work you put into it. Here are some pointers for planning an efficient and successful activity:
- Know the number of participants you’re likely to have—and then add a few onto it!
- Have all of your materials ready—hand-outs, Xeroxes, cups, whatever. Make sure you have enough for everybody, and one or two to spare when somebody loses/breaks the handout they’re supposed to use.
- Figure out the best way to explain the game. This is important, especially when you’re giving instructions to younger kids. Are there any difficult concepts you’ll need to parse out? Make sure the rules (and any safety measures you’ll want to take) are clear and understandable.
- Think about your audience. Is there a participant who may have a hard time with the activity? It might best to choose a different exercise, or figure out a variation to the game that will mollify any problems.
- Anticipate the disasters that are bound to occur. Because, of course, there will be disasters! Ask yourself all your “what if” questions, and brainstorm contingency plans. If the activity falls flat or doesn’t go long enough (or takes too long), do you have an alternate exercise you can jump into?
Discuss the Activity After You’re Finished
Team activities should always conclude with a lesson, and that lesson should be tied to the goal you started with. Prepare a list of discussion questions, but also let participants reflect on their own performance and come to their own insights. Team activities are an incredible opportunity for teaching, so be sure to make the most of it!
Give the Activity a Review When the Day is Done
Keep some notes of what worked and what didn’t. Did the group enjoy the activity? Why or why not? Could the activity use a tweak or two? Is it worth doing again? Did it go so well that you should make it a weekly or daily exercise?
One of the most important things to think about is, “Did the activity meet the goals that were set?” Sometimes they don’t, and other times you can be pleasantly surprised when unexpected benefits occur.
Viva La Variety—Planning for Future Games
Research has shown that people have an increase of positive regard for the people around them when they share a novel experience. If you find an activity that you really like, play it as often as you like, but try to mix it up with other activities. Groups are more likely to get to know and like each other when they are challenged in new and different ways.
Create the Right Culture for Teams to Form
This will probably be the topic of a longer post, but always remember that your classroom or group atmosphere must be a place where helping and shared success are encouraged. You can do as many team exercises as you want, but if your classroom is a “winner take all” place, or you expressly value individual achievement over group cohesion and working together, the activities aren’t going to work too well!
One or Two Last Things
We hope you’ll find everything you’ll need to make your next activity a five-star winner. If you have any suggestions that would make for great activities, please let us know. This site will always be a work-in-progress, and we want to include all the activities that we can find.
Finally—THANK YOU for the work you do. We appreciate you!
…and, if you could, please give us a “Like” before you go!
Image Credit: bengarrison and dajorus on Flickr