So you’re with a partner right now, regardless of the letter of your name, that’s cool. Go find two other people so you make a group of four now.
So we’re setting ourselves up, you’ve got little groups, you have one balloon in your group of four people.
In a moment this is going to be tough because you’re holding an item in your hand right now. I would like you, and let’s use this group here as my demonstration model, I’d like you to hold hands in effectively a square and somehow maybe tuck or hold that balloon somehow.
Because here’s the first start if you’re holding hands is in a moment I’m going to pop that balloon up into the air. We have a low roof so clearly you’re not going to go very far with this, but as you pop it up I would like you, just using your hands, as you remain connected, to keep it off the ground.
Keep listening because once you get into this I’m going to invite you to do (a) some movement and (b) use different parts of your anatomy to keep it off the ground.
To begin I’m going to ask you to pop it up in the air and only using your hands to keep it off the round.
So for example, if you would like to just show us what that would look like to begin?
Okay, only using your hands which clearly means you have to involve your partner as well.
Okay, jump into it folks. Hold hands, form a square, and start to move about.
Just using your hands.
(Groups keep the balloon in the air using their hands.)
Alright, start to move around the room now. Move around the room, which means you’re travelling with your balloon.
(Groups start to move around the room with their balloon.)
If the balloon drops to the ground, feel free to go pick it up.
Try only to use your hands.
Alright, interact now with another group and swap balloons.
Swap balloons. Won’t matter which the group is.
(Groups start to swap.)
At all times trying to keep your balloon in the air with just using your hands.
Alright, now using just your feet, just your feet to keep it off the ground. Just your feet. Just your feet.
(Groups switch to using their feet.)
Knees, just your knees please. Just your knees.
(Groups switch to using their knees.)
Here’s what’s about to happen, we’re going to pop that balloon up and it’ll go close towards the ceiling. Now you’re objective just as you’ve been doing is to keep the balloon off the ground, but now your group cannot touch the balloon. The only way you can keep it off the ground is by (puff, puff) blowing it, puffing it off the ground.
So as a quick demonstration because I’ve just checked with this group. They have a lot of experience in this realm. So are ready to just pop it up and then just by puffing on it doing your best to keep it off the ground. Are you ready? Okay pop it up…and go.
(Group demonstrates the activity.)
Alright, keeping your hands held at all times, good luck! Try it several times.
(Groups try to keep the balloon up by puffing.)
(Lots of laughter)
How To Play Narrative
Break your group into lots of smaller groups of 2 to 4 people.
Then distribute one balloon to each group and ask them to inflate it until it is approx 20-25 cm in diameter. Small water balloons, and those used by ballon artists, are not useful.
Ask each of the small groups to hold hands in a circle-of-sorts, and then bump the balloon into the air. Explain that each group is now aiming to keep their balloon off the ground for as long as possible.
At this point, all manner of erratic movements will occur to keep these colourful latex beauties off the ground.
Next, announce that you will call out a part of the human anatomy, which will constitute the only part of an individual’s body a balloon may touch in an effort to keep it aloft.
Start off with something relatively simple, such as hands, arms and shoulders. Then move onto more difficult anatomical parts such as feet, knees, heads, elbows and even chests and noses.
Naturally, there is no penalty if a balloon falls to the ground or touches some part of the body which is not in play. Simply ask the group to put the balloon back into play and continue.
After several minutes of wandering all over the playing space to control their errant balloons, ask each group to stop and to rest the balloon between their co-joined hands.
It’s now time to announce the ultimate challenge – to keep the balloon off the ground for as long as possible, without touching the balloon at any time.
In effect, once the balloon is propelled into the air, the groups can only use their breath to keep the balloon aloft.
After much huffing and puffing, most groups will find themselves lying on the ground, next to their all-conquering balloon, with huge smiles on their faces I might add.
Practical Leadership Tips
I’ve never known this exercise to fail to raise the energy of my group, or generate generous bursts of laughter.
Consider playing other balloon games – such as Balloon Tag or Fire In The Hole – as a fun way to dispense with these rubber/latex props at the end of your program.
You could integrate Boop as part of a well-designed SEL program to develop your group’s ability to establish and maintain healthy relationships as much as to enjoy an outrageously fun time with others.
Specifically, this activity offers opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Anticipating & Evaluating the Consequences of One’s Actions
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 physical exercise and enjoying a short burst of team-based interaction.
In a small way, you could argue that the focus required to successfully play Boop may speak to the benefits of being mindful, too. Also, the intimacy afforded by this small group exercise is a wonderful opportunity to explore positive behavioural norms. For example, you could explore various social interactions through the lens of compassion, empathy, and trust as exhibited (or not) in this activity.
Move & Boop: If you have access to a large space (or indeed, outdoors), invite groups to move about the space as they adhere to your anatomical directions.
Swap & Boop: Invite neighbouring groups to swap balloons mid-air, still keeping each balloon aloft.
Boop Boop: Introduce two balloons for each group to keep aloft at the same time.
Elimination Rounds: Introduce an elimination game, whereby as soon as a group loses their balloon, they’re out of the game.
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Useful Framing Ideas
There’s something quite graceful about balloons, the way they float softly to the ground or are tossed about even in the slightest breeze. Well, your task in this next exercise is to do your best to control a balloon’s flight, ably assisted by a small group of others…
How often have you found yourself bumping a balloon into the air as soon as you have inflated it? As light as they are, balloons can still be enormously unpredictable in their behaviour when you give them a big punch. Imagine doing all of this, but connected to a couple of other people…
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 playful balloon game:
Did you have fun? Why?
What helped your group keep the balloon off the ground?
What didn’t help your group succeed at this task?
Give me four examples of social cues that signalled something to you during the exercise?
What did you make these mean?
Did everyone recognise these cues? Why or why not?
In what ways did you express or demonstrate compassion or empathy towards another?
How might this exercise teach us something about working effectively with others?
The inspiration for Boop, and many more fun balloon games, was sourced in the following publication: