Need some team building activities for the holidays? Here are five different ones that you can use as stand-alone activities or put them together for one amazing holiday gathering.
Each activity comes with instructions, and you can even download a 4-page PDF guide of this post at the end to take with you to your holiday party or team meeting. (The PDF includes additional ideas not listed in the post.)
Also called the Paper Tear activity, this exercise shows the importance of communication and clarifying instructions. This activity can be done with smaller teams as well as large groups.
Hand everyone a piece of paper. Once everyone has receive a piece, instruct them that this exercise is to be done with all eyes closed and in silence (except for the rustling of the paper.) Participants are not allowed to ask questions of you, their neighbor, or make comments about the process until it is completed.
Ask everyone to close their eyes and to follow these instructions exactly:
- Fold your paper in half.
- Fold it in half again.
- Tear off the top right corner.
- Fold your paper in half length-wise.
- Tear off the bottom left corner.
- Rotate your paper.
- Fold it in half again.
- Tear off a piece from the middle
Say, “If you followed these instructions exactly, all of your papers should look the same. Open your eyes and unfold your paper.” At this point, have them compare their papers with those around them.
What was it like to follow the instructions?
How hard or easy was it to not be able to clarify?
How does this resemble communication in your organization?
What ways could this process be improved/changed?
2. Helium Peppermint Stick
This is a variation on the helium stick team building activity. One year with a student leadership group, I wrapped red electric tape around a thin, long piece of PVC pipe to make it look like a peppermint stick. Depending on your team, you can create a story to go with this activity:
Santa’s elves have lost one of their peppermint sticks. It appears they’ve accidentally dropped some of the reindeer dust on it because it has a tendency to float up. It’s fairly fragile and very light weight. Because we don’t want to break it, we’re just going to use our index fingers to touch it. In order to reverse the effects of the reindeer dust, we have to set it on the floor as a team. Everyone must be touching the peppermint stick with both index fingers, and they must remain touching it the whole time.
This activity takes a lot of communication and cooperation to complete. It’s much harder than it seems at first.
- What worked well during this activity?
- What was your communication strategy in the beginning?
- How did that change over time?
- What observations did you make during this exercise?
3. Holiday Spectrums
Spectrums is a game that I learned personally from Mark Collard of Playmeo. The game is an icebreaker that asks participants to line up on a continuum based on two choices.
Designate two end points on the spectrum you’ve created. (You can use a couple of small cones, 2 chairs, roll out a long piece of webbing or duct tape, etc.) Tell your group members you’re going to read off what the 2 ends of the spectrum represent. For example, “dog lover” at this end (and indicate which end that would be) or “cat lover” at this end (point to the opposite end of the spectrum). You can choose to move to either end or pick somewhere in between. It doesn’t matter where you go, just pick a spot that you feel represents your answer.
Possible questions/categories for this team building activity:
a. Christmas is (The holidays are) awesome! OR Bah Humbug!
b. Griswold Christmas Lights… or Never put lights up
c. Black Friday shopping… or Stay at home and avoid the crowds!
d. I love holiday traditions… or I love to try new things every year!
e. I use wrapping paper… or I use gift bags.
Get more ideas by downloading the free PDF!
f. Create your own spectrum question(s).
After each person has selected their place, ask them their reason for selecting that particular spot on the spectrum (you don’t have to ask everyone – just get a few responses.)
What can we learn from each other during this activity?
4. Deck the Halls Scavenger Hunt
Make a list of holiday items and assign points for each item. The larger or more hard to find items should have more points attached to them.
Give each team a list of the items and a time limit to gather items (typically 1-2 hours). If teams are late, they could face disqualification. I would suggest that you have the teams stay together for this activity. You can designate the teams stay within a certain area or allow them to venture out. (Just be aware that the larger the teams, the harder it will be to stay together if they are allowed outside of a certain area.)
See sample items in the PDF (Free download)
This is the “bigger and better” approach to a scavenger hunt. Give each team a small item (small Christmas stocking, candy cane, ornament) and ask them that their job is to go out into the community and ask for something “bigger and better” than what they currently have. The idea is for each team to trade up to the most extravagant item that they can find in a certain amount of time.
Usually you give teams an hour or two to complete the task, meet back at a certain time (or face disqualification), and reveal what each team has been able to come up with. You can select a winner based on size of item or most expensive item. You could also give out other awards such as:
- Most creative item obtained.
- Biggest item.
- Weirdest object.
- Most likely to be found in a Michael Jackson video.
- Most likely to be found in our boss’s house.
- Create your own fun awards!
5. Holiday Mapping (Where in the world?)
Imagine the floor where you are is a map of the world. The center of the map is where we are physically. I will ask a series of questions and you move to the spot on the imaginary map that represents your answer to the question. For example, if I asked “Where were you born?” go ahead and move to that spot now. For each question, don’t worry about being able to afford
Additional question ideas:
a. Where in the world would you like to spend the holidays?
b. What other country’s holiday tradition(s) would you like to learn more about?
c. If you could take a 2-week vacation during the holidays (all expenses paid) where would you go? (You could also ask what they would do there once they’ve moved to their spot.)
d. Where in the world would you like to go for the New Year’s celebration?
e. What place would you absolutely NOT want to visit during the holidays? (This could create some laughs!)
f. <Insert your creative question here.>
After each question, call on a few individuals to name the place where they are and you might ask the reason they chose that particular place.
You’ll have great fun with these activities. Don’t forget to download the PDF (FREE) that also includes ideas for the scavenger hunt items above, as well as additional ideas not listed in this post.
What activities are you planning to use? What other holiday activities do you use for team building? Let me know in the comments below!
‘Tis the season to be grateful. There are lots of things to be thankful for; however, we can often get busy (especially during this time of the year) and become consumed with all that we have to get done before the end of the year.
Here are ten ways to help re-direct your team (and even yourself) to think about others during the holidays and get the focus off of everything you have to do. These activities will not only help your team to grow closer, but also steer the focus to others.
1. Gather shoes for children.
In our community, there is a local shoe closet that collects and distributes shoes for children who need them. We are not a large community, but you’d be surprised how many children have worn out and inappropriate shoes for school. Check to see if there is a shoe closet in your area and what sizes they need. Or, have your own shoe drive and work with your local school district to find out what would be helpful.
2. Collect donations for Christmas dinner boxes.
The college where I work gathered items to give out 100 Thanksgiving dinner sacks that our students could come by and pick up the week before Thanksgiving. The same idea could be used for Christmas. Get your teams together to donate items to make Christmas Dinner sacks or boxes for local families. Work with charities in your area to get the word out. Set a goal and see how many you can collect!
3. Begin a canned food drive.
Every community has a food bank and most of them need donations, especially around the holidays. Have your team start a canned food drive to help your local food bank stock up for the holidays (or re-stock after them.)
4. Donate coats and warm clothes.
Our local community has a couple of coat closets that gather coats to give to those in need during the winter months. (Yes, even in Texas it can get pretty chilly!) Determine how many coats you want to gather (make it a challenge for your team) and deliver the coats together. Take a tour of the coat closet and see what other things they might need or other ways you can volunteer.
5. Serve the homeless.
If you don’t want to collect anything to donate, have one of your teammates organize a day to go feed the homeless at a local shelter. Just about every community has one, and it definitely puts things in perspective. Seeing men, women, and even families with no place to go makes one grateful for all the blessings we truly have.
6. Volunteer at a local non-profit.
As a team, decide on a non-profit you would like to go help. Schedule a Saturday morning and go serve them together. Every non-profit loves volunteers and certainly needs help during this time of year. Want to up the challenge? Make it a goal to serve together once a month or once a quarter as a group. See how your team and teammates grow during the process!
7. Support an Angel.
Every year, the Salvation Army has a program called Angel Tree, where people can get a name from one of the Angel Trees set up in the community and buy a small box of new clothes or toys for needy children. Volunteer to be one of the hosts of a tree or get together with your team and determine a number of families you want to help over the holidays.
8. Participate in a Rice and Bean supper.
Do some searching to see if there is a rice and bean supper in your area during the holidays. The purpose of these is to:
- Raise money for local charities.
- Raise awareness for poverty.
It’s eye opening when you see how little people live on both in our country and across the globe. The statistics are alarming. Most of the world lives on less than $2-3/day. Yet, we often complain about how little we have. Take your team to one of these dinners and do some debriefing afterwards and talk about thankfulness, giving, and how your organization can help make a difference in your community.
9. Sign up for a poverty workshop.
Our community has hosted several poverty workshops. There are a few organizations who run these and their presentations and information is very eye-opening. The good ones not only talk about poverty but also ways that people in the community can begin to help turn things around.
Work with a local school district or church to schedule a time to bring someone in to lead one of these trainings. (We’ve worked with Donna Beegle before and participated in her poverty institute.)
10. _(Insert your idea here.)_
The last idea is to brainstorm with your team and come up with your own idea. How can you help your community? What ideas do your team members have? What needs does your community have? How can you work together as a team to help those around you?
Some other ideas to get the ball rolling:
- Help cultivate a community garden.
- Clean up with your city’s parks and recreation department.
- Build a house with Habitat for Humanity.
- Volunteer for disaster relief with Red Cross.
- Tutor kids with an after school program.
- Mentor students at a local community college.
What idea did your team decide to move forward with? How did it go? Let me know in the comments below!
Well, today is the first official day of the launch of my eBook, 4 Steps to Choosing the Best Team Building Activities. It’s been an interesting journey. I’ve learned a lot not only about the eBook process, but also about stepping out in the midst of fear.
You wouldn’t think that writing and publishing a relatively brief eBook would be that big of a deal. It’s taken a while for me to complete the book, not necessarily because of the content, but because of the doubts and fears that seem to pause me in my journey along the way.
I want to encourage anyone who is thinking of writing (whatever form that takes) to begin and push through. Simply going through the process has been worth it for me. Regardless of the outcome. The goal of the book is not to make a ton of money, but to get it out, to push past the fear and uncertainty, and to produce and release something that will help others, and that I can be proud of.
Who is the book for?
The book is written for leaders and managers who want to know how to choose and implement the best team building activities for their group. Leading your team through an activity is not enough. There is a process to truly finding and facilitating effective team building.
This book is for those leaders who want to get the most out of these kinds of exercises, and not only lead their team through them, but also transform their team in the process. By following the steps in this book, a facilitator can learn the process by which teams are not only improved but changed for the better.
What is the book about?
First, this book will teach you first about the different types of team building activities. In order to lead these kinds of activities effectively, it helps to first understand the differences between group initiatives vs. low ropes courses elements and several other distinctive activities.
It then lays out a simple 4-step process for choosing the best team building activities. It’s not complicated, although it does require the facilitator to be intentional about each step in this strategy.
It is the exact process I use when working with teams and facilitators.
Whether a half-day program, or multi-day event, this book will help the reader in several areas:
- How to select the right exercises to boost team productivity, trust, communication, and more!
- Feel confident you’ve chosen activities your team will enjoy and benefit from
- Achieve your team’s goals and objectives.
Why did I write this book?
There are a number of team building resources on the web, but there are only a few really excellent ones. My goal with this site and the books and resources that I develop is to create high-quality resources and training for those who want to learn how to facilitate and lead only the most effective team building activities. This is the first of those resources.
I hope you enjoy the book and learn a lot!
To order a copy of the book click here.
What did you think of the book? Leave your comments below.
There are a lot of team building activities that exist, and there are also a variety of team building companies that boast everything from a Drum Circle to Cooking to get your team engaged, communicating, and more productive. Sure, they may sound like fun, but what makes a team building experience worth the time, money, and effort that is put into it? (more…)
Last week, while on vacation, I went on a whitewater rafting adventure with some of my family. We were on a Class IV (advanced) section of the Clear Creek river outside of Idaho Springs, Colorado. The company we went with was Liquid Descent, and our guide was Alan (he was awesome!)
It was a great thrill and a rush of adrenaline. We got through the whole half-day without anyone falling out and having a blast. Here are the team building lessons I learned from our experience.
Whether you have a new team, new team members, or an established team, trust is one of the most critical and fundamental issues you need to establish within the group. It is one of the critical skills that top teams possess. Relationship building exercises can help to establish trust by helping your team get to know one another and build on the relationships that are already there.
These 5 simple exercises can be used by themselves or you can imbed these exercises in part of a larger event or team building day to work on building trust or increasing trust with your team.
1. The Question Ball
Take a medium-sized beach ball and write 10-12 questions on it. Form a circle with your team and the leader will pass the ball to someone. When the person catches it, they must answer the question closest to their right thumb (no pivoting the ball if you don’t like the question!) Pass the ball around the circle until everyone has answered at least one question. Feel free to repeat!
- What is your favorite place to eat?
- What is your favorite movie?
- Where do you like to go for vacation?
- What is your favorite book/author?
- What’s the most unique thing in your office
Here’s a list of 25 Questions from a recent article in Inc. Magazine that I saw recently you can use for this game.
2. M&M Game
Divide your team into groups of 4-5. Pass a bag of M&M’s around each group and tell each person to “take as much as you need.” That’s all you will tell them. If they ask, just repeat the instruction.
Once everyone has gotten some M&M’s, tell them they will go around the circle and tell the other members of the group one unique thing about themselves for every M&M they took.
Have group members continue until all M&M’s are gone. Switch up the groups and do it again.
3. Passing Trains
This activity requires a little bit of preparation. You need to prepare envelopes that have the following questions in them, and the number of envelopes should equal half of your group size. (i.e., if you have a group of 20 people, you need 10 envelopes that include all of the questions.)
- What’s the strangest talent you have?
- What is your strangest fear or phobia?
- What are 3 things still left on your bucket list? OR
- What are 2 things that you have crossed off your bucket list?
- Choose a movie title for the story of your life.
- If there was a movie about your life, what actor would you want to play you?
Here’s a post that has a list of 45 Questions from LifeHack that you can use to pull more or different questions in to this exercise.
Set up 2 rows of chairs. The rows of chairs should be side by side facing in opposite directions so that when people sit in the they will be sitting in rows – half of the team all facing one direction (one behind the other – not side by side) in a row and the other half facing the opposite way in a row (picture trains passing by each other with the caboose of one at the engine of the other.)
Give one row a set of envelopes. This group will stay put and ask the questions. The other group will move forward one chair (the person in the very first chair will move to the back at the end of each round.)
Each round lasts 2 minutes and the group with the questions can ask as many questions as possible in the allotted time. Once the round is over, the row of moving people move forward one and time starts over.
The activity is over when the people who are moving end up at the same spot that they started. Now, have the group share interesting facts that they learned about each other during the activity. If you have time, you can switch and have the people who moved asked the questions and get the other side to move.
Pair your group members up and have them sit face-to-face. Have them pick a Person “A” and a Person “B”. When you tell them to begin, Person A will start and have 60 seconds to answer a question. During the 60 seconds, Person B should just sit and listen.
At the end of the 60 seconds, Person B will summarize what they heard Person A share. Then, Person B will spend 60 seconds answering the same question and Person A will just listen. At the end, Person A will spend 30 seconds reflecting back what they heard Person b share.
Have the pairs switch and go another round. Do as many rounds as you have time for.
What is one of your most significant accomplishments?
Who is someone who has made a big impact on your life?
if you could go back and change one thing in your life, what would it be?
Here’s another list of 50 Questions that you could choose from for this activity.
5. The Greatness I See in You…
This is an incredibly powerful activity; however, I wouldn’t just jump into this one without at least doing 2 or 3 other activities beforehand. It can be a highly emotional activity and can also be a barrier-breaker in teams.
Have your group form a “U” with their chairs and leave space for someone to stand at the end. Team members will take turns standing in the open part of the U and allow team members to compliment them using one word to complete the sentence, “The greatness I see in you is boldness.”
Participants go as they think of an encouraging word. Team members can go more than once in complimenting their team mates. Give each team member ample time to be encouraged in the circle. Usually 1-2 minutes is enough. Just be sure that you allow equitable time for all team members.
(A great thing to do for people is to have someone write down all the responses on a piece of paper and save it for a rainy day.)
What other activities have you done to get to know your team mates? What’s worked for you? Let me know in the comments below and share if this has been helpful to you! Thanks!
Image credit Bigstock Photo, Wavebreak Media Ltd.