Demonstrate the ‘balloon propulsion’ technique, eg hold the balloon gently in one hand and pull the tied tail back with the other hand then release, propelling the balloon forward.
Invite your group to practice this propulsion technique for a few moments.
When ready, invite everyone to move about the space and attempt to have their balloon collide or connect with another balloon.
When two or more balloons collide, invite the people belonging to these balloons to share a greeting or response to a question you have posed your group.
Allow play to continue for several minutes.
Video Transcript for Balloon Propulsion Greetings
presented by Nate Folan
What we’re going to be doing is using these balloons in just a minute to represent that feeling, that energy that we have and how that bounces off of one another.
First part of course is blowing up the balloon, tying it off on the end. So if you could do that that would help us get there.
And as you look around you might notice that the balloons are of different sizes, different colours, and so on, different shapes somewhat…
(Just like we are.)
Just like we are, great, and this energy we have that moves around us… And simply an invitation right now is to practise dribbling your balloon we’ll call it, and saying hello to others.
And the way that you’re going to say hello to others is by tapping your balloon this way, but then if I want to say hi to Kay, I’m actually going to knock my balloon towards Kay.
And I’m going to track my balloon and you’ll track yours. So just try to keep track of which colour is yours, but let’s just move around and tap the balloon towards another person. And it’s simply a way to say hello.
(people playing Balloon Propulsion Greetings)
Three. Two. One. Go ahead and pause right there. Hold whatever balloon is in front of you. Nice catch.
How was that feeling? If these were energy and people’s energy was bouncing off of you, how did it feel in general? Feel okay? Pretty cool. It seemed to be that people were smiling and laughing and just moving around and having those interactions.
So we want to practise this a little bit in a slightly different way, and this time we’re going to put about two minutes on the clock and your goal is continue dribbling a balloon. So in this case any balloon is available when it becomes available, and you’re trying to tag as many people as you can so to speak with your balloon.
So just try and get as many tags as you can by dribbling and then eventually swatting the balloon or hitting the balloon towards another person. And I want you to keep track over the course of a minute or two and we’ll see where we land on that. Does that make sense?
(people playing Balloon Propulsion Greetings)
This time I’m going to ask you to find a partner that has a different colour balloon than you. With this what’s going to happen is you’re going to have a little bit of a face-off with your partner.
What’s going to happen is you’re going to plant your feet. And there’s a new skill you’re developing. We talked about dribbling was what I was referring to kind of hitting the balloon up like this.
This time you’re going to actually practise Balloon Propulsion. And Balloon Propulsion is actually pulling the tail back like this and letting it fly.
So what’ll happen here is that we’ll do a couple of different variations of this, but Kay and I if we’re partners we’re going to face each other. We’re going to plant our feet. I’m going to allow Kay to go first. With my feet planted Kay is going to pull back on the balloon and my job is to avoid being tagged.
So returning to Kay. I’m going to try to tag Kay. Nice. So try not to move your feet as you go. Pick up your balloons. Go ahead. Ready? It’s almost like slow motion Matrix move. whoooaahhhh…
So I invite you with your partner. You can determine the distance. If you want to start close and then move further back, please do that. And at the same time, be aware where other folks are at as well. Got it? Give it a go.
(people playing Balloon Propulsion Greetings)
So moving from this Matrix-y type move and the practice of balloon propulsion tag, or balloon propulsion in this case, we’re going to actually advance that to everyone playing balloon propulsion tag.
And the way that works is everyone will now have their balloon that starts, just like you did before with the dribbling, but in this case using balloon propulsion to try to tag as many people in the room as you can.
At the same time you’re trying to be avoiding as many tags as you can. So if a balloon is coming towards you try to avoid that as you go. Right? Again, you don’t have to track with your balloon specifically. You can pick up any balloon that’s available and continue to try to get as many tags as you can.
We’ll put another minute or two on the clock. Any questions with that?
(Do you have to keep your feet down when you’re doing a shot?)
Great question. So in this case with balloon propulsion tag, your feet can move. You can move about the space and we’re actually now moving as we were earlier. Got it?
(Does the balloon actually have to be propelled?)
It does need to be propelled. And you can check that fairness and quality. Was that propelled?
(Yes. This doesn’t count.)
No. Nope. That’s when you go to the chiropractor and they adjust your back.
Ready? Set. Go.
(people playing Balloon Propulsion Greetings…)
How To Play Narrative
Balloon Propulsion Greetings is an excellent interactive icebreaker and/or energiser that works well before or after most activities that incorporate balloons.
Provide balloons, if your group does not have them, and instruct them to blow them up and tie off the tails as needed.
Gather your group nearby. By means of demonstration, introduce or review the balloon propulsion technique – hold a balloon gently in one hand and pull the tied tail back with the other hand, then release sending the balloon propelling forward.
Spend a couple of minutes practising this highly refined skill, and demonstrate a variety of distances and directions, too.
Allow the group to play for a bit, then challenge them to have their balloons collide or connect with one other person’s balloon from a variety of distances and directions.
After a short while, explain to the group that they are about to engage in a unique connection activity. To connect, each person will move about the space with their balloon.
As they acknowledge another person, perhaps making eye contact, they may attempt to have their balloons collide or connect by using the balloon propulsion technique.
When two balloons collide or connect, the people who propelled them would also connect to share a response to a question or prompt such as “What’s got your attention?” “What are you curious about?” “What is one thing you are looking forward to?”
After sharing a response to a question, each person then gathers their balloon and continues mingling, seeking others to connect with.
Certainly, there are moments when balloons will miss – not collide or connect. In that moment, it becomes apparent that, for the people attempting to connect, it’s just not meant to be. Of course, they could move on or try again.
As a general guide, individuals should move on if they haven’t made a connection in three attempts. Perhaps it simply means that they are meant to connect with another person.
Play for a while, then move on to whatever is next.
Practical Leadership Tips
As always, you are well-advised to join in the action.. This helps you build connections within your group and model desired interactions.
Beware windy conditions if playing outside, for obvious reasons. A little breeze is okay, but gusty conditions are best to avoid.
You could integrate Balloon Propulsion Greetings as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to establish and maintain healthy and positive relationships.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Communicate & Listen Effectively
Build Positive Relationships
Demonstrate Cultural Competency
Demonstrating Curiosity & Open-Mindedness
Promoting Personal & Collective Well-Being
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Health & Wellness Programming
There is no specific health & wellness perspective to this activity other than promoting the benefits of social interaction and having fun.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully launch a balloon towards your partner’s balloon speaks to the benefits of goal-setting and being mindful.
If you can think of more explicit ways in which Balloon Propulsion Greetings could be purposefully integrated into a health and wellness program, please leave a comment at the base of this page.
Questions: In advance, invite people to write a question on their balloon. This invitation may sound like, “Think of a question that would allow you to learn more about others in the room. Write that question on your balloon.”
Balloon Swat: Swat the balloons with an open hand. Invite connections and conversations when a balloon makes contact with another balloon or a person’s body. This activity looks similar to Star Wars, but with the added benefit of conversations.
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Balloon Propulsion Debrief
Fun debrief activity to explore connections in your group.
Simple, interactive ice-breaker with many variations.
Fun & active trust-building exercise for partners.
Useful Framing Ideas
Connecting with another person can be hit or miss. Let’s explore that, literally. Hopefully you connect more than you miss…
Connecting with other people is important, yet difficult at times. Putting the effort in is what matters. Doing so playfully or with a positive attitude can make all the difference…
Reflection Tips & Strategies
Coupled with one or more reflection strategies, here are some sample questions you could use to process your group’s experience after playing this fun, interactive and energising game:
What did you notice during the exercise?
Can you give me three examples of something new you learned about others?
How easy was it to connect with someone new in this activity?
Do connections happen easily in real life? Why or why not?
The inspiration for Balloon Propulsion Greetings, and many more fun and engaging energisers, was sourced from the following publication: