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By Sue Cowleyeducational author, presenter and trainer

Practical activities are a great way for staff to bond and learn to support each other. Sue Cowley suggests some fun ideas for successful team building

Move the chair

1. Move the chair

This works well as a starter activity. It encourages teamwork, cooperation and lateral thinking. Work in teams of three or four. Give each group a chair. The objective is to move the chair from one side of a room to the other. You must not walk with it, but you can move it in any way you like. For example, some staff might pass it along a line, others might choose to slide it. The first team to get the chair across the room is the winner.

Another activity similar to ‘Move the chair’ is ‘A to B’. It encourages group discussion and lateral thinking. Work in small groups, each with one chair. The groups must cross the room without their feet touching the floor. Many people assume they must use the chair. In fact, the best way to win is to shuffle across on your knees, leaving the chair behind!

Word tennis

2. Word tennis

This activity is good for getting people talking. It encourages quick thinking and communication. Working in pairs, play a game of ‘Word tennis’, saying one word each in turn.

You can ‘free associate’, for example, say whatever words come into your head, or you could set a topic or theme, such as ‘blue’ or ‘animals’. Alternatively, start each new word with the last letter of the previous one, for example ‘elephant’, ‘tiger’, ‘raccoon’, ‘newt’ and so on.

No, Yes but..., Yes and...

3. No, Yes but… , Yes and…

This paired activity is about supporting each other, and encouraging the flow of ideas. The first person makes a suggestion, for example, ‘Why don’t we take the children to the farm?’. Their partner answers, ‘No’. The first person makes further suggestions and every time the partner answers ‘No’.

Now repeat the exercise. This time the partner answers ‘Yes but… ’, for example, ‘Yes, but we have to do a risk assessment to take them on a trip and that would make it complicated’. Continue with a series of suggestions, each time the answer is ‘Yes but… ’ and then an excuse is given.

Repeat the exercise again. This time the partner answers ‘Yes and… ’, giving another suggestion as to what they might do, for example, ‘Yes and then we could do a topic about farm animals’.

Talk about how it feels when someone blocks or dampens your suggestions, and the difference when they say ‘yes and… ’ instead of ‘yes but… ’.

On the raft

4. On the raft

This activity encourages group cooperation. Provide each small group with a large sheet of paper (A2 or bigger). The paper is your ‘raft’. The object of the activity is to get the entire group on to the ‘raft’ and to stay there for 60 seconds.

I'm falling

5. I’m falling

This activity is about cooperation and trust within a group. Carry it out towards the end of a session when everyone is working well as a team. Stand in a circle, with a volunteer in the centre. The volunteer should shout, ‘I’m falling’, and then fall, keeping their body completely straight with all their muscles tensed. The rest of the group must catch the volunteer before they hit the floor. The aim of this activity is to get the volunteer to put his or her trust completely in the rest of the group.

Box clever

6. Box clever

This is a good way to end your team-building session. It encourages people to think symbolically about what working in a team means. Each person is given a large cardboard box. They should write down one issue that gets in the way of doing their job effectively and stick it on to the cardboard box. Take the boxes into a large open space (outdoors if possible) and create a wall out of the boxes. Line up and all hold hands, then run at the wall of obstacles together and crash through them.

top tips… for successful team building

  • Ask senior staff to get involved as this will encourage others to join in. Ensure that all contributions and concerns are valued and taken on board.
  • Aim for a relaxed atmosphere and approach, encouraging staff to have a laugh as well as getting something more serious from the exercises.
  • Provide fun prizes to give out to ‘winners’.

Further information

See Sue Cowley’s exclusive feature Ten top tips for motivating your staff

For more information on Sue Cowley’s books visit



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