I truly appreciate activities with clear and simple directions, and minimal props. Especially the ones I can use to fill up some unexpected open time in a program. Here are a few fun finds I recently discovered - or I could say, uncovered.
Magic Ball (sorry I lost the internet reference to this one - thanks to the contributor!!) Use any sort of ball (or other object for that matter - could be a magic rock) and dub it the Magic Ball. Circle up your group. You (the facilitator) start off the magic. For me (picture to the right) the ball became an apple I'm picking from a tree. I then passed the magic ball to the person on my right. When (and if) this player feels the magic she tells and acts out for the group what the ball turns into for her. The magic ball continues to be passed around to the right with "each student acting out what the ball 'is' in a way that communicates it to other participants - by shape, weight, size, function, etc." Players can "pass" by saying "I'm not feeling the magic yet" and then moving the ball on to the next player.
COMMENTARY: This activity provides the opportunity for participants to share their voice in front of a group, offers the opportunity for group members to listen to each other, and provides an opportunity to be creative. There are times when I'll go around the circle more than once to really force the creative thinking process. This also helps me to emphasize the possibilities of creative problem solving that will be coming up during our time together.
The next two "easy does it" activities come from a handout prepared by Laurie Gilmer for the Texas Physical Education Conference in 1998.
Human Mixmaster All players stand in a circle. The object of the activity is to have all players walk directly across the diameter of the circle and reform back into a circle. The circle should be exactly the same as before, but with players standing on the other side of the circle. After players have done this once or twice, have them keep their hands at their sides and not bump into others as they cross the circle. If a player accidentally bumps into someone else, he or she must make a "BEEP" sound. After a couple practices with this challenge, the final challenge for the circle of players would be to move across with eyes closed and reform their circle - use the "BEEP" if a bump occurs.
COMMENTARY: I love the simplicity of the directions for this one - just reform the same circle on the other side. When I play "Across" (that's what I call this one), I use spots. In this version there is no need for spots. I did cringe a bit (maybe you did too) when I first read the "eyes closed" challenge - I'm so use to having "bumpers up" when eyes are closed. But when I did try this one with hands to the sides there was no damage at all. Movement was very slow. Participants were allowed to talk to one another. And, if there were bumps, players just "BEEPed" (usually laughed too) and then moved on. Now, I have to say, I will teach and use bumpers up to some groups if I believe it's needed.
Inuit Ball Pass Players stand (or Laurie says kneel - but this could be tough on the knees) in a circle formation. With a safe round object (maybe the one used in Magic Ball) players pass off the object person-to-person with flat, open hands (palm up). The objective is to pass off the object as fast as possible all the way around the circle (I add, "the object only touching fingers and palms") without grasping it. Start out with each player using two hands then challenge everyone to use only one hand.
COMMENTARY: As some of you know with the activity "Warp Speed" players may choose to form a line in order to accomplish the task as fast as possible. For this one the objective is to pass off the object all the way "around the circle" - so I make my groups stay in a circle formation. Thinking at this moment, Inuit Ball Pass might be a good precursor to the Warp Speed activity.
BONUS from Laurie
Standing Together (I remember doing this as a kid way back when - still a nice group challenge.) Players seated in a circle holding hands or locking arms at the elbows try to collectively stand up without using hands to push off the floor.
Let me know how it goes. Leave me a comment below.
All the best,
I believe Group Juggle (via Karl Rohnke, via New Game Foundation) is one of my most versatile activities - I can bend and shape a juggle to meet the needs of any group. I've learned at least a dozen variations of the juggle over the years. Here's another one that I've been using lately that came to me before working with a group of baseball players. I knew they had good skills in the area of tossing and catching so I wanted to use these skills within a complex system in order for them to work on the behaviors of focus and quick decision-making.
Set-Up: You'll need two different tossable objects (e.g., a tennis ball and a bean bag) appropriate for your group and one game spot for every player in the group. For the explanation here let's use 12 players. (I've played this one with up to 24 players using three different types of tossables - so far the youngest I've tried this with is 5th graders.) Circle up the players about an arms length apart, have each player put their spot under their feet, and then count around from 1 to 12 - everyone gets one number. Then ask number 1 and number 6 to stay where they are and have everyone else move to a different game spot in the circle, but they should not stand next to anyone they were originally next to - number 3 should not be standing next to numbers 2 or 4. Okay, when everyone is on a new spot give one of the tossables to number 1 and set down the other tossable behind player number 6.
Step 1 - The group will first want to practice tossing the tossable through the tossing pattern. Number 1 tosses to number 2, 2 to 3, 3 to 4 and so on until the object returns to player number 1. Okay, practice again. Now, time the round starting from player number 1 all the way through the numbers and back to number 1. Okay, one more timed round. Can they improve??
Step 2 - Now, let player number 6 pick up the tossable (the one that was set behind this person before getting started). At the same time number 1 starts the pattern, number 6 will start - tossing to 7, 7 to 8 up to 12. Player 12 tosses to player 1, 1 to 2 and so on until the object returns to player number 6. (This is why it's a good idea to have two different tossables - when players 1 and 6 get their original object they hold it.) Okay, after the practice round let's get a time in. Go another round (or two) to see if they can record a fast time. What if the tossable drops? My rule is that every player needs to touch each object in numerical sequence before it returns to it's origin.
Step 3 - Here's where it get's a bit more complex. Immediately after an object is tossed the tosser must move to, and ultimately occupy, the spot of the person they tossed it to. Now, there is no sharing spots so the catcher of the tossable should have tossed the object and started moving to his/her new spot before the previous tosser arrives at his/her new spot. Basically, tossers follow their toss and occupy a new spot. When numbers 1 and 6 obtain their original object they each hold on to it and carry it with them back to their original spots - the only ones left open.
So far I have not forced the timing aspect of the activity in Step 3, like in the first two steps, until the group tells me know they are ready. It usually takes a few practice rounds for the group to feel comfortable with a timed round. As noted, it's very important to consider the tossable objects for your group. Harder objects have the potential to hurt someone. (When working with the baseball team I did use baseballs - I wanted the players to focus on their actions and the potential consequences of their actions. Remember their goals - focus and quick decision making. NOTE: No injuries occurred.)
If you have more players you could have up to one tossable for every four players.
Let me know how it goes for you. Leave me your thoughts in the comments below.
All the best,
On Sale Now!
Dr. Chris Cavert is an internationally known author, speaker, and trainer in the area of adventure-based activity programming and its relation to community and pro-social behavior development.
This blog is a space for hands-on programable fun - energetic activities and ideas that can be used as a means to bring people together; activities and ideas we as educators can add to our social development curriculums.