There are times as a facilitator when you need a go-to activity that will let your group let out some noise and energy and Human Javelin is a perfect energizer for the times. It is perfect for all sizes of groups and all ages of participants. There is something to be said about the power of yelling. Check out the videos below for instruction on how to do this easy and loud activity.
I hope this activity helps you on your quest to create a fun and engaging atmosphere for growth with your group. Have you ever attempted this activity? Do you have a Human Javelin world record?
I first learned this great activity from Ryan McCormick at Project Adventure in Boston. It is now one of my “go-to” activities with groups of all sizes. My friend from Australia, Mark Collard, demonstrates this classically fun icebreaker that helps groups break down physical barriers and creates a huge sense of FUNN (Functional Understanding Not Necessary).
For more activities just like this one, check out Mark’s great work on playmeo, the largest online database of group games & activities in the world. You can also buy his two awesome books, No Props and Count Me In, two books that should be in every facilitator’s game bag.
Below you will find my explanation on how to lead this activity with your group:
Thumb Wrestling in Stereo
Number of Participants: 2-200
Time: 5-10 minutes
Activity Level: Moderate
Objective: To become the Thumb Wrestling Champion of the world.
I love this old school activity with a new twist. Use a creative way to form partners and ask them to place their left hand behind their back. Instruct them to extend their right arms, curl their fingers into each other’s fingers, and stick their thumbs into the air. Their goal is to now pin their partner’s thumb down. That’s right, old school Thumb Wrestling. Play three rounds and declare a winner very loudly.
After round one, invite the participants to challenge each other with a two-person, two-handed thumb wrestle. Do this by clasping right hands together, just as in round one, and clasp left hands together underneath or above the right hands. Play both hands simultaneously.
For round three, group the participants into groups of three and ask them to place their left hands behind their back. All three members of the group will then extend their right hands, curl their fingers inside the palms of the other participants, creating a three-handed thumb-wrestling match.
In round four, invite the participants to play three-person, two-handed thumb wrestling by combining their right hands like before, and mimicking the action with their left hands.
If you would like help implementing this activity or any other activities into your curriculum, don’t hesitate to contact us at Paradigm Shift.
I love a good icebreaker, and the best icebreakers are group-generated ones! Use Who, What, Where, When, and Why? To create conversations amongst participants and encourage group presentation skills.
Number of Participants: 4-25
Time: 10-25 minutes
Activity Level: Low
Objective: To get to know another participant better.
Description: Group the participants in twos, threes, or sevens (depends on the size of your group, obviously). Ask the groups to find their own space, get comfortable, and ask their partner(s) five questions:
Leave the instructions open-ended and vague, encouraging the participants to answers those questions anyway they see fit.
After a moderate amount of time has passed, ask the participants to come back to the group, circle or square up, and introduce their partner to the group by telling everyone their partner’s answers to the questions. Allow the participant who is being introduced to clarify any statements made by the participant.
- Ask the participants to create a secret handshake to share with the group.
- Have participants switch their position in the circle or their seat after each introduction. This keeps participants engaged.
Have you facilitated this activity? What suggestions do you have to encourage conversation amongst participants?
Bear, Ninja, Cowboy is a perfect partner icebreaker that will get your group energized and laughing. It can be used as a name game, a competitive icebreaker, or as a ridiculously fun activity. It is a fun alternative to Rock, Paper, Scissor.
Bear, Ninja, Cowboy
Number of Participants: 2-unlimited
Time: 5-15 minutes
Activity Level: Moderate
Objective: To have the most winning actions at the end of three rounds.
Description: Pair up the participants in as fun a manner as possible and teach the group three new actions:
- Cowboy – This action is made by placing your hands on your holster and then shooting your hand pistol while making your best gun noises.
- Bear – While standing on your hind legs, raise your arms in true bear fashion. Growl as loud as possible to intimidate your partner.
- Ninja – A ninja will obviously be sly and intense as they kick, punch, or throw their ninja star.
Obviously, a Cowboy would shoot and defeat a Bear, a Bear would maul a Ninja, and a Ninja would defeat a Cowboy with their Ninja star.
Ask the partners to stand back to back and then walk off three paces. After three paces the participants will immediately turn around and act out one of the three actions. Depending on what they choose, one participant will become the winner. If both participants choose the same action, then they both immediately choose a new action. Play three rounds to see who will be the win the best out of three.
- This can be played as a competitive activity, where the winners of each game move on to play winners of other games until there is only one champion.
- You can play this in a Rock, Paper, Scissor Olympics style where the winner of each round gains the following of the participants they just defeated. Play until there are only two players left, with half of the room rooting for one player, and the other half cheering for the other.
- After each game, ask the partners to pair and share with each other an interesting fact, name, etc.
Questions for Discussion:
- Did you have any strategies during the activity? What were they?
- Did you play to compete or for fun?
- What are the differences between playing for fun or competition?
Have you played this fun activity? Do you have any variations I should add to this list? Please comment below!
Not all tag games are equal, and Eyeball Tag is my all-time favorite. This game does not need athletic prowess and quick hands to be successful, but rather great timing mixed with courage and bravery.
Number of Participants: 5-25
Time: 5-10 minutes
Activity Level: Moderate
Objective: To make eye contact with another seated participant and then switch seats without the person in the middle sitting in your chair.
Each participant gets a chair and the group arranges the chairs in a circle. The facilitator or a volunteer does not have a chair and stands in the middle of the circle.
The object of this activity is to switch chairs with another participant after making eye contact with them. If two participants make eye contact, they stand up and move to each other’s chairs as quickly as possible. If the facilitator in the middle sees the participants moving, they will try to sit in an open chair. If successful, the participant in the middle assumes their role and tries to find an open chair. Play this as quickly as possible with as many people switching chairs as they dare.
- Make sure your chairs are solid and secure. This game gets lively, and you do not want your chairs to break.
- Be sure to let your participants know that safety is the number one priority.
- It is often best to make this game a “walking” activity if your group is a little on the dangerous side.
Have you tried eyeball tag before? What is your favorite tag game?
Let me know if you have any questions on how to implement this into your program.
Founder, Paradigm Shift
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I first learned Tweener with Jerrod Murr at a Project Adventure training with Nate Folan. I instantly moved this activity towards the top of favorite activities list. Tweener is a fun, active, and versatile activity that can be used as a name game, icebreaker, energizer, a debrief, or for just plain FUNN (Fundamental Understanding Not Necessary!).
Number of Participants: 5-25
Time: 5-15 minutes
Activity Level: Moderate
Props: A soft throwable that is about the size of a soccer ball. (Make sure it is soft…it can often hit participants in the head)
Objective: To hit the throwable through the legs of another participant.
Set Up: Arrange the group into a circle and instruct the participants to touch feet with those on both sides of them. Make sure they spread their legs a little, but at a comfortable width.
Description: The objective of this activity is to open-palm slap a soft ball (really soft, like a yarn ball or thumb-ball) between the legs of another participant. Start with the ball on the ground at the beginning of each game. If the ball goes between someone’s legs, it is a goal, and all participants will loudly cheer this accomplishment by imitating their favorite soccer announcer. If the ball goes into the gap created between the legs of two participants, it is a tweener, and the entire group will meekly and softly say “tweener!” Continue play in this manner until all are tired or too much blood has rushed to the heads of the tweener superstars.
- If a participant hits the ball between another person’s legs, the goal scorer gets to share their name, an interesting fact, or any other intriguing detail.
- A debriefing variation is to ask the participants to share something when either a goal is scored or there is a tweener. Use this after an activity or initiative. When a goal is scored, encourage the participants to share their viewpoint of the day or of an activity. When there is a tweener, both participants whose legs split the tweener use one word to describe the activity.
- An active variation can be played by placing two Tweener groups on opposite sides of a gym or field. When a goal is scored, the person who was scored upon runs to the other group and joins their circle. If there is a tweener, the person who hit the tweener runs to the other group. This variation will have people crisscrossing the field or gym.
I encourage you to play this one…use it as an icebreaker and then follow it up with as a processing activity later. In my experience groups will share more when they are active and familiar with the debriefing process.
Let me know if you have any questions on how to implement this into your programs!
Founder, Paradigm Shift
The last couple days have been incredibly fun for me as I traveled to several different high schools to facilitate workshops on a multitude of topics: social media awareness, goal setting, decision-making, group personalities, and even scholarships! Each group session started off generally the same…a tired group of high school students meandered into the room burnt out due to end-of-the-semester testing and Christmas-itis (you know…when you are itching to start Christmas activities). I decided to turn to one of my favorite energizer activities that lightens the mood and get the participants in the right frame of mind (a fun one) for the upcoming workshop…I played Wooshball with them!
If you are not familiar with Wooshball, it is a classic sequential activity that allows participants to warm up to the idea that they are playing a game with an imaginary ball. It is fun, enthusiastic, almost always full of laughter, regardless or their level of Christmas-itis.
I have two examples of Wooshball for different types of learners. I have a great video from the guys at campishere.com, and a written version that you can print out and share with your staff or team.
Circle up. The facilitator pulls an invisible Wooshball from their pocket or game bag. They explain that the Wooshball is very light and it just sort of floats there in their hand. When passing the Wooshball it actually makes the noise “Woosh.” So when passing, either to the right or left, it makes the Woosh sound. The person receiving the Wooshball has many options. I prefer to explain these options in sequential rounds, playing each for a minute or so, to allow the group to get the hang of Wooshball.
- Round 1: The Wooshball can travel right or left around the circle, as long as the participants enthusiastically say Woosh as it goes right or left.
- Round 2: The group can now say “Whoa” and put their hands up to refuse the Woosh. The person trying to pass the Wooshball turns to their other side to pass it. If there is a “Double Whoa,” which happens when a person gets “Whoa’d” on both sides, the group passes the Wooshball around the circle as quickly as possible.
- Round 3: Sometimes, a participant wants to skip the Whooshball across the circle to another participant. When this happens, a group member will point straight across the circle and “Zing” the Wooshball to another participant. (It is important to make good eye contact and point the Zing directly at the other participant so the Wooshball doesn’t float into outer space. I also like adding Zing followed by another participant’s name to reinforce names.) Also note that you cannot “Whoa” a Zing, of course.
- Round 4: If a participant catches the Wooshball they can now add a “boingee.” When a participant boingees, they put their hands together above their head and bend at the knees and say, “boingee!” During a boing-ee, all of the other participants will mimic the boingee-er. After a boingee, the boingee-er will woosh or zing the boingee to another group member.
- Round 5: If a participant wants to move to another spot in the circle while Wooshballing, they can “Mega-Boingee.” When Mega-Boingee-ing, a participant will yell, Mega-Boingee – pogo stick style. Then the entire group will hop on their imaginary pogo stick to another point in the circle (use any variation of the Mega-Boingee you desire – examples are: slow motion style, giraffe style, or even the popular Gangham Style).
- This activity is best when the facilitator (this means you!) gets as silly and as fun as anyone in the group. They will follow your example, I promise.
- Be patient with participants as they learn the game. It is not life or death if they get it wrong. You can play this game where participants are removed from the group if they mess up, but I think this activity is best suited when everyone is involved and engaged.
- If it is not working, and the participants are either not understanding the game or have somehow disengaged, feel free to stop the game short. You can always resume when the time is right.
- If you want to have some craziness, add another Wooshball to the group.
- This game is generally just for FUNN…you know when Functional Understanding (is) Not Necessary! Have FUNN, play around and enjoy that you get to play games like this with participants who love them.
I hope you enjoy Wooshball as much as I do, and let me know if you have any questions about this activity or how to implement it into your program’s curriculum.
Founder, Paradigm Shift
At the end of last month, I was fortunate enough to attend the Oklahoma Division of Student Assistance Programs‘ Annual Conference in Tulsa, and presented a breakout session titled “Teamplay Tubes.” ODSA is the state organization for all of Oklahoma’s TRiO programs, and the conference is an awesome way to learn new information about legislation and regulations within the grant-funded community, but also a great place to share and disseminate information amongst peers. The breakout sessions give us an opportunity to share our newest techniques and information in a fun and informative way.
This year, I decided to use a new initiative, Teamplay Tubes, which we bought from the fine folks at Training Wheels. According to Training Wheels, Teamplay Tubes are a collection of PVC tubing and connectors that can be used for nearly 2 dozen activities that promote teamwork, creativity, communication, problem solving, decision-making, and skill building. This is a very versatile training tool that will challenge any group.
This was how I sequenced the workshop, with everything leading up to Teamplay Tubes and ended with the Feelings Marketplace Debrief.
Bumpity, Bump, Bump
Change Train (Change/Reverse/Switch)
Feelings Marketplace Debrief
Teamplay Tubes has several initiatives you can use with a group, and I decided that “Network” would be the best for our participants. With Network, your goal is to create a closed off network of tubes that has no openings left exposed. Therefore, all pipes and connectors were connected to the “Network.”
It is hard to find a more outgoing and persistent group than the TRiO counselors, so we had an absolute blast! They are an easy group to lead and facilitate, and they dominated Teamplay Tubes.
Rookie Bridge Camp. It is one of my favorite things that Northeastern State University has to offer…a volunteer driven two-day camp for incoming students that helps acclimate freshmen to campus life through games, skongs, small groups, and of course, a great float down the beautiful Illinois River.
I experienced RBC as an incoming freshmen in 2001, and was fortunate enough to volunteer in 2002-2004. It was one of the first places where I participated in experiential learning, and it was influential in my college success.
I am fortunate enough to still be involved with the program, and even got to facilitate activities and initiatives with the RBC Emeritus at the base of the Rockies last summer.
This year, I helped the volunteers learn new initiatives, icebreakers and games, and we had an absolute blast! The sequencing lineup included:
a. Point Around
c. Kung Fu
d. Arm Locked Stretch
3. Fast Fingers
4. Everyone’s It (three rounds)
5. Hospital Tag
6. Midget Bump Tag
7. Just Like Me Tag
9. Thumb Wrestling
10. Bumpity, Bump, Bump
11. Change Train
12. Cowboy, Bear, Ninja
13. Human Geography
15. Rubber Band Challenge
16. Group Row, Row, Row Your Boat
This was a great training. Of course, the volunteers are the perfect group to facilitate! They are fun, lively and full of energy. I look forward to working with them again. Rush RBC!
Thanks to Sarah Johnson Photography for the pictures.
A group line up is a must-have in a facilitator’s “bag of activities.” When used properly it is an effective and powerful way to build cohesiveness within a group, an excellent time-filler, and a unique way to work on a groups’ verbal and non-verbal communication. A facilitator can use many different ways to line up a group (see below), and can have the participants line up in a multitude of varieties, such as with full communication, no verbal communication, no hands (hands in pocket), no verbal and no hands, blind-folded, etc,. You can also make the participants split into two groups and make it competitive, first team to line up correctly wins. Also, have the group line up in order, and the first person in line gets to decide how to line up next and in what order!
This can be done propless or with props, it just depends on your time, room size and resources. A few good, cheap props to have on hand are decks of cards, pieces of paper with numbers on them, or Project Adventure Keypunch (actually not too cheap, but has many other applications!).
Ways to line up a group propless:
1. In alphabetical order by last name
2. In alphabetical order by first name
3. In alphabetical order by middle name
4. By birthdate in chronological order
5. In birthday order, Jan. 1st – Dec. 31st (I have found this is the best way if the age discrepancies are wide within the group)
6. By height
7. By smile width
8. By geography (Who lives furthest from the location of the room)
9. Longest term of employment within their company
10. How happy you were during your childhood on a scale of 1-10
11. How much you fear death (Kind of morbid, but for sure a conversation starter!)
12. Line up on how much you liked this activity on a scale of 1-10 (a great debrief technique)
13. Shoe size
14. Length of hair
15. Height you can jump (tons of fun to watch)
16. Length of nose (also fun to watch)
17. Line up by numerically by street address number
18. Line up numerically by phone number
19. Line up numerically by area code
20. Line up numerically by zip code
25. Line up alphabetically by city born
26. Line up by length of commute time
27. Line up alphabetically by Grandmother’s first name
28. Line up by shirt color in the order of a rainbow’s colors (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet)
29. Line up by hair color, lightest to darkest
30. Line up by size of graduating class
31. Line up by thumb size
32. Line up straightest hair to curliest hair
33. Line up numerically by the number of letters in their full name
34. Line up by year they graduate/will graduate high school
35. Line up numerically by the number of letters in their first name
Ways to line up a group with props:
1. Line up numerically
2. Line up odd numbers in one line and the even numbers in another line (can become competitive)
3. Line up numerically alphabetically (sounds confusing, but have the groups line up depending on how their number is spelled…for example: eight, eighteen, eleven, nine, one, ten, two)
4. Give the group a large number, and the group must line up in an order that would mathematically create an equation that would combine their numbers to your large number (for example, you have a group of 10, and your number is 25…10*9/1+3*2-8+4/7+5-6=25)
5. Line up from highest number to lowest number
6. Give the group a sequence and have them line up (such as alternating higher and lower numbers)
7. Line up numerically with a deck of cards (jack is worth 10, queen 11, King 12, Ace 1 or 13)
8. Line up by suit order with a deck of cards
9. Line up alphabetically with a deck of cards (same concept as above, but with a deck of cards, this time, however, they have to be in alphabetical order by deck too)
10. Line up with no suit being next a card of the same suit or same number
Be creative! Have fun! Mix up the line-ups, and try some of these without verbal communication, and some with your eyes closed…Let me know if there are any line-ups I left off the list that you have come up with!
P.S. – Props to Ben Ellis for helping me on this list…