Just like adults, kids need to learn how to build teams in order to accomplish group-oriented goals like sports or school projects. If you want to employ team-building activities for kids, you have to ensure they are fun and simple enough for the appropriate age group. Team-building games should emphasise communication, strategy building and leadership -- and not necessarily have a winner or loser.
Name games help kids get to know each other quickly. For younger kids (preschool to 2nd grade), have them all stand in a circle. Once the first kid says his name, everyone repeats it. When the next kid says his name, everyone repeats the first kid's name and then the next one's name. Have this continue until all the names are said. For older kids, have them associate an action with their names. For an even bigger challenge if you have a particularly brainy group, make the next kid repeat the previous names individually. The other kids will naturally want to help out, which adds to the team-building experience.
Team-building games can teach kids that communication is a two-way street and that by NOT communicating their needs, no one can satisfy them or help them reach an end goal. A blindfold walk is a good team-building game that can be played with kids at all levels. Everyone lines up with hands on each other's shoulders, with everyone blindfolded except for the first kid. Walk the kids through a generally safe area, but have them negotiate objects like cones or dustbins. Make sure that the objects won't cause undue harm. Don't tell them what's on the trail, but instruct that they must negotiate the objects exactly as you do. That gives you free reign to do things like step over them, around them and jump over them. Hopefully the "sighted" child says what's coming and that is communicated down the line so no one runs into the object.
Building projects are good for emphasising creativity and finding natural leaders within a group of kids. Regardless of what the building project is, it is important to limit the time and resources in order for the team-building experience to work. "The Tallest Tower" involves splitting up kids into smaller groups of four or five and giving them various resources to try and build the tallest tower. Consider using objects like empty match boxes, markers, paper, tape or ice pop sticks. When the time limit is reached, give out prizes for various categories like "tallest tower," "coolest tower" or "funniest tower." Make sure every tower wins a prize.
Strategy and Puzzle
Strategy and puzzle games combine the elements of leadership, followership and communication. It doesn't take a particularly difficult puzzle or situation to teach kids these elements. Reverse musical chairs, for example, is a variation of the original game to where no one gets out. Set up enough chairs for everyone to sit on and play the music. Once the music stops and everyone has a seat, remove a chair. Play the music again, except this time when the music stops everyone still has to have a seat. Soon the kids can figure out they have to share space. Once they are all "seated," remove another chair and continue until all the chairs are gone.
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