Competition is seen by some people in education, youth work and team building as a dirty word, but it definitely has its uses. With many groups and individuals it is a great motivating factor and can help you break down some people’s reluctance to join in. As long as you don’t dwell on the winners and losers and instead try to pull out the learning it can be very effective.

Many of the games I posted previously can also be used in this way if you just split the group into two or more teams, but these I feel work especially well with a competitive element.

Remember to get the most out of all of these activities …

Before the activity

  • Explain the rules as simply as possible.
  • Don’t give tips on how to complete the task.
  • Don’t explain what you want them to get out of it.

During the activity

  • Unless a judge is needed, you should take full part in the activity.
  • If everyone is struggling, pause the game and ask people what is going wrong; ask them what they could do to change it.
  • Stop the games while people are still excited, don’t wait for them to start dragging.

After the activity

  • Don’t make a big deal out of winners and losers – a quick cheer or round of applause is enough.
  • Draw out the learning through asking them to reflect on the activity, don’t tell them what you think the learning should be.
    • Ask those who succeeded: What worked well in your team? What did you do that allowed you to succeed?
    • Ask those who struggled: What would you differently next time?
    • Ask those who struggled but managed in the end: What do you change? Why? Did that work?
    • Finally, ask them what they learned through the activity – they may well come up with far more than you intended!

Shark infested water

Useful for

Co-ordination; helping each other out; playing to strengths; talking to one another; lateral thinking.

Method

  1. Split the groups into teams of at least 4.
  2. Give each team fewer pieces of paper than there are people (make it harder by giving fewer pieces of paper).
  3. Explain that this room is actually shark infested water. The paper is little moveable islands.
  4. They have to get their whole team from one side of the room to the other before the other team.
  5. If anyone steps in the water they have to start again.

Resources

  • Pieces of paper just big enough for two people to stand on
  • You can use chairs instead of paper, but be careful

Move the cups

Useful for

Co-ordination; taking things slowly; talking to one another; lateral thinking.

Method

  1. Place the hula hoops on the ground.
  2. Place three cups in the centre of each hula hoop.
  3. Place one elastic band/string contraption with each hula hoop.
  4. Split the groups into teams of three.
  5. Send each team to one of the hula hoops.
  6. Explain the rules:
    • Their hands can’t go into the hula hoop.
    • They can’t touch the cups.
    • They can only hold one piece of string each.
  7. Explain that they have to lift the three cups out of the hoop and stack them in a pyramid (two next to each other and one balancing on top).

Resources

  • Hula hoops
  • Plastic cups
  • Elastic bands with three pieces of 50cm long string tied to them.

See, run, do

Useful for

Communication; seeing things from others’ perspective; importance of everyone playing their role well.

Method

  1. Split the groups into teams of three.
  2. Get the teams to decide on one of them to be a ‘Seer’, one to be a ‘Runner’ and the other a ‘Doer’.
  3. Send all the ‘Doers’ to one end of the room and tell them each to grab a pen and piece of paper. They cannot move from there.
  4. Send all the ‘Seers’ to the other end of the room. They cannot move from there.
  5. The ‘Runners’ can go anywhere, but they can’t touch the pen or paper and they can’t see the picture.
  6. You are going to show a picture to the ‘Seer’.
  7. They have to get a copy of that picture across the room.
  8. After they’ve had a few minutes get them to stop and compare the picture to your original. Choose the one that’s most like a photocopy of your image. Concentrate on details like size, orientation, neatness, what’s coloured in, etc.
  9. Ask them what went well and what they could have done differently or better.
  10. Get them to stay in the same groups, but change roles.
  11. Repeat and then change roles one last time.
  12. Ask them which role was the hardest and which was most important.

Variation (without the ‘Runners’)

  • Try in pairs, with people sitting back to back – the one has to explain the picture to the other, who can’t see it.
  • In the first round show the picture very briefly.
  • In the second, give the ‘Seer’ the picture to study whilst she explains it.
  • In the third round allow the ‘Seer’ to see and comment on what the ‘Doer’ is drawing, but don’t allow the ‘Doer’ to see the original picture.

Resources

  • Blank paper
  • Pens
  • 3 simple pictures