Team Building Activities

Google (2016) found, as a result of a massive investigation to find out how to build the perfect team, that psychological safety is the most important element for team work, increased productivity, creativity, and cooperation. See also cooperative learning and teaching.

How Many Squares? Puzzle. or Forty Squares Puzzle

Activity to use for team building, problem solving, spatial reasoning, Small 40 square puzzlemathematics, cooperative learning.

Five Squares

Learning, August/September 9, 1974. Break the Ice with 5 Squares by David Weitzman

Materials five envelopes with a mixture of puzzle pieces that when sorted will make five squares all the same size for each group of five people. Use the directions and square pattern sheets to print out instructions and five squares for each group of students, the linked file is formated to print each on a separate sheet of paper. Cut them out and put all the three A puzzle pieces in an envelope, all three B puzzle pieces in another envelope, and so on for all five pieces A-E. One envelope will be given to each person in a group of five. Instructional note: I have only used this activity with students age 10 through adult, therefore I changed rule 7 from its original form.

This is a giving game. You will be given an envelope with three puzzle pieces, do not open it until you are told to start. This is a group game activity and you will be competing with other groups against the clock.

I removed the hint: "This is a giving game." and the competition aspect. I thought removing the hint would make it more challenging and memorable. If students don't come up with the idea of giving or passing pieces, then it could be suggested if students seem stumped. I removed the competition reference as students will naturally want to be first and without it groups who don't finish first will hopefully continue to solve the puzzles with less frustration.

five puzzle piecesCompleted puzzles with labels for sorting into envelopes.

Group Task

The group is to complete five solid white squares in such a way that each player has a square the same size as all the other members in your group. In other words, every group member has to end up with the same size square.

  1. The game must be played in complete silence.
  2. You may not point or signal other players with your hands or in any other way.
  3. You may not take a puzzle piece from another player.
  4. You may not place a puzzle piece next to another player's puzzle piece(s) to that they are using to try and construct a square.
  5. You may not fold a puzzle piece or overlap pieces to complete a square.
  6. When you have finished, cover your square with your envelope.
  7. This is a group activity, when all of you have an envelope, you may open them and begin.

Processing suggestions

Board Walking

More detailed information board walking picture

Materials: two sixteen foot 2X4's, with 6 foot pieces of rope attached in loops every two feet on each board.

  1. Lay the boards parallel to each other with each loop on top.
  2. Have six students, one at each loop, put one foot on each 2X4, and hold the loop of rope from the right board in the right hand and the loop from the left in the left.
  3. Challenge students to walk forward in unison.
  4. See how fast they can go from one place to another.
  5. Can they go backwards? Sidewards? Left? Right?

More detailed information

Blanket Flip


  1. One blanket for each group of 5-10 students.

Object of the game: Flip the blanket over without any person stepping off of the blanket.

Have students in each group stand on the group's blanket and spread out across it. Challenge them to flip the blanket withour stepping off of it.

Variation If they step off of the blanket they have to start over. See how fast they can do it.

Discuss how they fell about solving the problem. How they felt about practicing to develop a routine or getting better at it. Was it enjoyable, frustrating, ... other. Why?

Catch on and on


  1. One ball for each group


  1. No talking or you are out.
  2. If you drop a catchable ball, then you are out.
  3. If you throw an uncatchable ball, then you are "out".

Object of the game: To see how long people can catch on and on or set a target (100 catches or other appropriate number).

Discuss how they fell about solving the problem. How they felt about practicing to develop a routine or getting better at it. Was it enjoyable, frustrating, ... other. Why?


Pretzels is a game described in Reality Therapy by William Glasser. It is also discussed in Teaching Children to Care: Management in the Responsive Classroom. by Ruth Sidney Charney. All students are given ten pretzel sticks. Go around the group and each person is allowed to make two statements: 1) a positive and give a pretzel and 2) a negative and take a pretzel. Other rules may need to be made to assure a learning environment. A different variation called center circle is also discussed in the Charney book. This involves students moving around the circle and shaking hands with a person or pounding their fist in the palm of their hand. When they finish students may ask why they thanked them or pounded them.

Hula-Hoop Race

Materials one Hula-Hoop for each team.

Have the teams line up in rows and hold hands. Put a Hula-Hoop on the ground at one end of each team. At the start command each team is to pass through the hoop without letting go of each other's hand.


Materials none

Have a group of four or more students stand in a tight circle. Have them reach across the circle and clasp a person's hand. Challenge them to untangle themselves without letting go of each others hands. Vary the number of students to change the complexity of the solutions.

Dr. Robert Sweetland's notes
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