Form a circle, with everyone holding their partner’s hands, facing in.
Invite two people standing close to you to temporarily break their hold and then re-clasp as they place their arms inside a hula-hoop.
Instruct your group to pass the hula-hoop around the circle (in any direction) without using their hands or fingers to assist the passing.
Gradually introduce more hula-hoops, of varying sizes and in both directions, to increase the challenge.
Continue for several minutes, or try a variation.
Video Transcript for Circle the Circle presented by Nate Folan
So just to invite you in stretching. We are going to use that wave format just to send this hoop around us, and just playfully allowing it to flow, and enjoying the movements, and maybe the humour that arrives. But certainly finding ways to support one another as we go.
So the way we are going to do that is the hoop is going to be placed on our arm. Randy is getting set up.
We are going to connect hands again just like this, and we are just going to be passing the hoop. Think about stretching your body. I can give you a hand if you like.
Yeah, nice Randy.
(Group stretches through the hoop while holding hands)
There we are. So let’s hold up for just a minute.
How was that? Feeling loose? Feeling moments of didn’t work out how I thought?
Its bouncing off my head, the hats in the way, ooo I like how they did that, or whew I could probably use some help.
So we are going to give it another round. A little bit of practice, but we are going to go the opposite direction. Cool?
Here we go, just think about loosening your body up, being connected, supporting one another.
(Group moves the hoop with encouragement)
Nice Randy, good move, how to finish.
Well done. So go ahead and raise your right hand.
How To Play Narrative
Ask your group to stand in a circle, and for each person to hold the hands of their two neighbours.
As the hand-holding occurs, casually introduce a hula-hoop into the circle, by first releasing one of your partner’s hands, poking your hand through the centre of the hoop, and then re-clasping your partner’s hand. The hoop should now be resting on the top of your arm or wrist.
At this point, attract your group’s attention, and challenge them to pass the hoop around the circle, without letting go of their partner’s hands, or as much as possible, using their fingers or thumbs to manoeuvre the hoop.
Most will either step into it, or poke their heads and upper torsos through. A few will even look at you blankly and wonder how to do it. But people soon catch on.
Once the hoop has travelled its full orbit, allow it to continue on its journey for a second time, then without notice or fanfare, introduce a new hoop, but this time, send it in the opposite direction.
Continue to introduce more hoops at appropriate intervals, in different directions to up the challenge. If you have hula-hoops of different sizes, pass the larger hoops in one direction, and the smaller hoops the other way to make them easier to pass one another.
Continue this for as long as there is enthusiasm, and your group is working well together. Or, whenever one poor soul gets lumbered with all of the hoops.
If you have a particularly large group, introduce several hoops into the circle all at once – this will prevent boredom from setting in.
Practical Leadership Tips
For fun, distract your group as they start to hold hands with this fascinating observation – some people like to hold their hands in a particular way. Stereotypically speaking, men like to hold hands with their palms facing back, whereas women tend to hold with their palms facing forward! It means absolutely nothing, of course, but it is interesting!
Even if not presented as a team exercise, it may be instructive at the end to explore what assisted or got in the way of passing the hoops successfully around the circle.
Affording your group the opportunity to be adequately prepared, introduce the original fun version of this exercise before introducing it as a group initiative.
If you can get your hands on them, try to use segmented hoops, ie they come in 5, 6 or 7 pieces and snap together to form a solid hoop. This will give you the ability to vary the size of the hoops you are passing, not to mention, allow you to adjust the challenge to reflect the size and shape of the people involved.
If you send hoops in both directions, I’d suggest that to avoid confusion you identify a certain type or colour of hoops going a particular direction, eg blue goes clockwise, while red is travelling anti-clockwise.
Invariably, despite your framing, people will use their fingers or thumbs to assist the passing of hoops over one another. There’s no reason why people can’t do this, it’s just more awkward and therefore more fun if they resist the temptation.
Health & Wellness Programming
Presented as an introductory group initiative, Circle the Circle is an ideal exercise to explore, highlight and reinforce key social and interpersonal skills, eg cooperation, responsible decision-making, safety, and goal-setting are all prominent themes. In addition to those described in the Reflection tab, consider asking the following questions to explore many of these competencies:
How would you describe your group’s decision-making process? Was it effective?
What was your group’s goal? Did you achieve it? Why or why not?
Did you or the group get frustrated? How did you cope with this?
Describe three ways in which you or your group felt or expressed compassion or empathy.
Identify three times in which you or someone you observed regulated their behaviour.
In what ways does this exercise highlight positive relationships?
You can learn more about SEL and how it can support character education here.
Extending on the social and interpersonal skills described above, I have often presented this exercise as part of a conversation in which we have or are about to discuss full value behaviours. Circle the Circle presents a wonderful opportunity to observe dominant cultural norms as much as a platform to explore and practice new behaviours that contribute towards the establishment of positive relationships. To this end, simply frame this activity in advance as an opportunity to explore what is and isn’t working for the group, and debrief accordingly.
Group Initiative: Using just one hoop (or two – going in opposite directions – if it’s a very large group,) set your group the challenge to pass the hoop around the circle as quickly as possible. Record the time and give your group three official attempts with ample time between each round to problem solve.
Rope Circles: Rather than, or in addition to, using hula-hoops, introduce one or more ‘hoops’ made of rope (ie tie two ends of a short rope together). Rope rings are much more difficult to pass because they are not rigid and often get twisted.
No Touching: No one is permitted to touch the hoop as it is passed over their body. This option really slows down the pace, but the focus and pressure is really ramped up.
Fox & Hound: Introduce several hula-hoops into the circle, evenly spaced. The hoops all travel in the same direction with the goal of each hoop travelling fast enough to ‘catch’ the one in front of it. Interestingly, two hoops rarely meet.
You Might Also Like...
Through The Wringer
Fun group initiative that rewards action & creativity.
An easy, fast-paced game for large groups.
Highly interactive series of fun partner greetings.
Useful Framing Ideas
Whenever I present a hula-hoop into an activity, many people immediately think back to their childhood when they used to swing a hoop of their hips for hours. Holding this in front of you now, did that just happen to you? [allow time for memories] Sorry to disappoint, but we’re not going to use this apparatus as it was designed, but very shortly, I am going to ask everyone to pass their body through it in a unique way…
Even the simplest tasks can be very difficult to achieve when a group of individuals is involved. Everyone is different, and while one solution may suit you and your skills/background, another method may be more suitable for me. So, which solution do you adopt? Does your group have to adopt just one solution? These and many more questions will challenge you in this next initiative…
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 energiser and problem-solving exercise:
What did you notice during the exercise? Did you get better at passing the hoop?
What helped or hindered you as the hoop moved over your body?
Did you offer any assistance to others? How and why?
How might the passage of these hoops around our group tell us something important about working as a team?
Simple, Introductory ‘Team-Building’ Program
What You Need:
8+ people, 60 mins, UBUNTU Cards, hula-hoop, stopwatch
UBUNTU Cards– fun & interactive activity which focuses on common bonds in your group
Me You You Me– unique, hilarious name-game for new and existing teams
Mute Line-Up– simple challenge which focuses on effective communication