Chapter 4

The Best Team Building Games In Ranking Order

We've put together the ultimate list of team building games. It's even in ranking order. Also includes instructions and handy links!

Heather Harper

Written by Heather Harper

Last updated: Mar 30, 2020

In this chapter you'll learn about the very best team building games you can try with your team.

Team building games are somewhat different to team building exercises or activities, they are specifically about having fun with your team.

Furthermore, research has highlighted the importance of humour during meetings in improving team performance both in the present, and over a two year period.

Based on the scientific evidence, we can't recommend enough ensuring that your team building activities are fun and humorous.

So get ready to have a boatload of fun as your team will absolutely love these team building games!


If your team is working remotely at the moment then you should check out our 7000 word guide on remote team building games and activities for virtual teams. In there you'll find 40 ideas with instructions that you can try with your newly remote team.


1) Star Power

Objective: Encourages cooperation and reinforces communication skills

Participants: 5 to 15 people

Duration: 12 to 15 minutes

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: 40-to 50-foot of rope

star power

We suggest using this ice breaker when individuals are not cooperating well as part of a team.

Research has found that teamwork is one of the driving factors to successful teams because it promotes better organisational culture, goal attainment, positive attitudes and satisfaction.

Based on this, if your team is not working as well together as they could, there could be catastrophic consequences.

So, this game is our top favourite because it improves team outcomes by encouraging teams to work effectively and cooperatively again.

Instructions

  1. Have all participants pick up the rope from the floor.
  2. Instruct participants that they can move their hands along the rope, but that they cannot let go of the rope at any point. Even to change places with each other.
  3. Set the timer for 10 minutes and within this time, participants must form a balanced five-pointed start with the rope.
  4. As a debrief, ask questions about how disagreements were solved, did anyone emerge as the leader and how this relates back to the job.

2) Bridges and Towers

Objective: To get team members to understand how to react to changing goals or resources

Participants: 10 to 30 people

Duration: 12 to 15 minutes

Difficulty: Hard

Materials: An identical set of building materials for each team and a set of identical items to act as weights

bridges and towers

We recommend using this when a group is experiencing a lot of change at work. Evidence has suggested that optimism and positive emotions are positively related to increased acceptance of organisational change.

We love this team building game because it enhances optimism and positive emotions surrounding change, which means your team is more likely to accept organisational change.

Instructions

  1. Divide the group into teams of three to six and give each team the same materials.
  2. Assign each team a different goal (e.g., one team bust build the tallest free-standing structure, another should build a bridge and another should build a structure that will hold as much weight above the table as possible).
  3. Give them 3 minutes to plan.
  4. Then, tell the teams they have 7 minutes to complete their structures.
  5. However, whenever you please, you are allowed the have the teams move away from their places, leave everything behind and take over another team’s project.
  6. Whichever project they end up on, they must work to meet the structure goal.
  7. Once the 7 minutes is up, the teams stop and you should encourage everyone to discuss how they felt about having to switch structures

3) Change Time Line

Objective: To get team members to see that, even when changes seem to create problems, they can find ways to overcome and be successful

Participants: 4 to 40 people

Duration: 10 to 15 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: Pen and paper for each participant

change time line

We recommend using this team building game when your team is experiencing a lot of change at work.

This game is one of our favourites because it improves the confidence of team members, and research has found that increased confidence (self-efficacy) predicts individual performance and satisfaction within teams.

We all know that highly satisfied employee’s work better together and produce better organisational outcomes.

Instructions

  1. Give a pen and a piece of paper to each participant and get them to remember five major changes they have experiences in their lifetimes.
  2. Get team members to draw timelines of their lives, and mark when each of the major changes occurred with an ‘X’
  3. Have participants pair up and ask them to share the major changes and answers these questions:
  4. What made the change so difficult?
  5. What was the key to your success in dealing with the change?
  6. How did you feel before, during and after the change?
  7. How were other changes going on around at the same time affecting your ability to deal with this one?

4) Index towers

Objective: To help teams find creative ways to overcome adversity and be successful

Participants: 15 to 30 people

Duration: 15 to 20 minutes

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: a tape measure, 50 index cards for each team, a roll of tape for each team

index towers

We love this game not only because it is fun, but also because it adds a shot of competitiveness. Which we can all admit, is good for us from time to time.

This game is also fantastic because it encourages creativity; and with research finding that creativity in teams increases knowledge sharing - an attribute that all successful teams possess, we cannot recommend this game enough!

Instructions

  1. Divide the group into teams of three to five participants.
  2. Give each team 25 index cards and a roll of tape.
  3. Set a timer for 5 minutes, during this time, teams must build the tallest freestanding structure possible, using only the materials provided.
  4. Explain that the structure must stand long enough for it to be measured.
  5. Once measured, the team must destroy their structures.
  6. After this, tell them they have another 5 minutes, and another 25 index cards, to create the tallest structure without the tape.
  7. Award prizes to the team who created the best structure without the tape - as always, we recommend the prize being something edible or alcoholic!

5) Machines

Objective: To get participants to learn that change can create opportunities for improvement

Participants: 12 to 30 people

Duration: 10 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: None

machines

We love this game because it is a simple, yet effective, way to help participants understand change and the opportunities it has to offer.

Instructions

  1. Divide the group into teams of 6 to 10 participants.
  2. Give each team 5 minutes to plan how they can make themselves into a human machine, which must include everyone in their team.
  3. Watch each team demonstrate their human machine.
  4. Then, select a participant from each machine and announce that these 'machine pieces’ are no longer needed.
  5. Give each team 3 additional minutes to adjust of reinvent their machine using their selected participant in a new way.
  6. Award a prize to the team that was the most inventive with their new human machine model.

6) Makeovers

Objective: To rearrange pictures into new images to see how new things come from change

Participants: 5 to 10 people

Duration: 12 to 20 minutes

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: At least one picture from a magazine for each participant, scissors and glue stick for each participants and a piece of flipchart paper

makeovers

We suggest using this game with teams who know each other really well, but are experiencing some negative outcomes.

Perhaps they are struggling with change in their team, or aren’t thinking in a positive and optimistic way.

Instructions

  1. Give each participant a picture from the magazine.
  2. The participants should cut the picture into small pieces - they should be small enough that the original picture is no longer evident.
  3. Each participant should use their pieces to create a new picture (they should glue the picture pieces into a collage on the piece of paper given to them).
  4. After 10 minutes, each participant should share their collage and tell them what it was before they changed it.
  5. As a small incentive and to spice up the game, we recommend selecting a winner based on who’s collage was the most creative or imaginative.

7) My ABC's

Objective: To get participants thinking quickly and working as a team

Participants: 6 to 14 people

Duration: 5 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: None

My ABC's

We love this team building game because it is short and effective.

We’re not sure if you know, but humans can only concentrate for around 15 minutes, so sometimes short and sweet games will reap the greatest benefits!

Instructions

  1. Have the participants sit in a circle.
  2. Start with one participant saying ‘A’, the person to their right says.‘B’, the next says ‘C’ and so on and so forth until the whole alphabet has been said.
  3. Repeat the alphabet, while timing how long it takes.
  4. Do it again to see if they can improve their time (we love competition!).
  5. Then, challenge the team to do it backwards.
  6. Do that twice too, to see if the team can improve their time

8) Numbers

Objective: To get participants to learn to cope with rapid-paced changes Participants: 15 to 100 people

Duration: 5 to 15 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: None

numbers

We love this team building activity because it is fast-paced and fun.

It gets people thinking on their toes and encourages them to work as a team, which we know leads to many positive outcomes.

Instructions

  1. Arrange participants into a “U” formation and give everyone a number.
  2. The first participant begins by calling anyone else's number in the group.
  3. Immediately, that person must call someone else’s number.
  4. Play continues until someone hesitates or calls an incorrect number (either their own number, or a number that is not in the group).
  5. That participant goes to the end of the line. They, and everyone who was behind them, now has a new number.
  6. Resume play.

9) Puzzled Thumbs

Objective: To change the rules of the puzzle assembly halfway through to realise the value of information sharing

Participants: 8 to 20 people

Duration: 10 to 20 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: One children's puzzle for each group (around 15 to 25 pieces)

puzzled thumbs

We love this activity because it is quick and engaging.

We all love puzzles as they fill us with fond childhood memories, so this game is guaranteed to be enjoyed by everyone.

We also love this game because it’ll help you to notice the natural leaders and problem solvers in your team.

Instructions

  1. Divide the group into smaller teams of two to four participants.
  2. Give each team a puzzle and have them separate all pieces and place them face up on the table.
  3. The teams should start assembling their puzzles, and you should time this.
  4. Now, inform everyone that hat thumbs may no longer be used. Each time a thumb touches a puzzle piece, 1 minute is added to the teams final time.
  5. Time the team assembling the puzzle with no thumbs, and repeat a few more times with the aim of improving their assembly times.
  6. After a few rounds, compare times and discuss what worked for which team.

10) Squares

Objective: Encouraging participants to think outside the box

Participants: 10 to 20 people

Duration: 10 to 20 minutes

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: Large (12” by 12” or so) squares

squares

We love it because it encourages teams to think in a less ‘black and white’ way.

In organisations, we often fall into a pattern of thinking in the same pattern and not using our imagination.

This game reminds team members that it is crucial to think outside the box and break assumptions in order to solve problems.

Instructions

  1. Place all squares on the floor, randomly spaced.
  2. Ask participants to stand on a square (note: participants must have both feet in the square).
  3. Everytime you say SWITCH, participants must immediately move to a new square - they cannot continue until everyone has both feet on a square.
  4. Call out SWITCH again, and everyone must move to a new square. Repeat this step one or two more times.
  5. Start pulling away a square after each round - eventually, there will be fewer squares than there are participants.
  6. Remind participants of the rule that they cannot continue unless everyone has both feet on a square.
  7. Wait for participants to address the situation. It is likely (we hope), that someone will allow them to share their square.
  8. Keep continuing to remove the squares. Eventually, there won't be enough room to share the squares. Keep reminding them of the rules and then wait for them to address the situation and ask them to figure out how to carry on with the game.
  9. If they get stuck, point out that you will continue to remove the paper squares and ask how the activity will end if they keep acting on the same assumptions. Remind your team that the first assumption they abandoned was that only one participant could stand on each square - ask them what other assumptions they can alter to keep the game going?.
  10. Eventually, one participant should (hopefully) realise that “square” doesn't have to be one of the paper squares on the floor.

Conclusion

And there you have it. Those are our favourite team building games.

We hope you've liked our list!

Try these out and let me know how you go.

Is there one that we've missed that should definitely be in our best of list?

Let me know in the comments below!

Heather Harper

About the author

Heather Harper has a Masters in Occupational Psychological from the University of Manchester. She currently works as an editorial writer specialising in organizational psychology - helping teams work better together.

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