I’d like you to imagine now, Erin, is that we’re going to be standing on a straight line. So let’s say the line is running here. So with your right foot, place your toe of your right foot against my right foot but facing me.
(It’s your right foot that’s facing me?)
Yeah, but that’s your left foot, for a start. That’s okay. It does get a little bit more complex than that. Alright.
So right foot to right foot, and now you’re going to take your left foot which is that one there, and you’re going to place it directly behind the heel of your right foot. And now we just hold hands, trying to keep ourselves up.
In this exercise, what you’re hoping it to do, is that in slow motion. Notice I didn’t say it real quick, it’s going to be slow motion, holding just our hands, no other point of contact, we plan to bring each other off-balance.
The object is for each of us to try and do that first. However, we’ll know we’ve come off-balance because our feet will have moved.
Okay? So just a quick three-second demonstration and see what that might look like. So are you ready to go?
And go. Slow motion. Slow. Slow.
(playing Toe to Toe)
(Is the three seconds over?)
I think you’re right. Three seconds are up. Alright, you got the idea. That was wonderful. That’s very good. So you go the idea.
Find your own straight line and remember, you could also change feet after a round or two. Start when you’re ready.
(people playing Toe to Toe)
How To Play Narrative
Ask your group to split into pairs with a partner who has a similar-sized palm, or any other random method of pairing people (see Getting Into Pairs for ideas.)
Invite a volunteer forward, and by way of demonstration, position yourselves so that you are facing each other as if standing on a thin line. That is, the toes of your right shoes point towards the other person on the line, and your left foot is directly behind the heels of your right shoe.
If you’re finding it difficult to keep your balance at this point, then you’ve got it right!
Move close enough to your partner, so that your right toes are touching, and using your right hands, engage in a hand-shake. You’re all set.
The object for each person is to use the movement of any part of their body – except their feet – to bring their partner off-balance. At all times, you must keep your feet on the imaginary line, and your hands clasped.
All movements must be made in slow-motion. There can be no sharp, thrusting movements, nor any other contact made with the other person to cause a sudden shift of weight.
Often, as one person feels that they are about to lose their balance, they effectively bring their partner with them because they are still connected via their sweaty hands. Happily, two hands-together and four feet on the ground are usually enough to prevent a fall.
Invite each pair to play several rounds, and then swap partners or refer to the Variations tab below.
Practical Leadership Tips
Notice, I did not say ‘push’ or ‘shove,’ rather the object is to ‘bring your partner off-balance.’
Beware that after a while, some people will revert to more sudden, quicker movements to force a result. Make frequent public announcements that all movements should remain in ‘slow-motion.’
It may be tempting to think that holding both hands of your partner is a good idea, but experience suggests that this positions the spine in an awkward manner which may cause harm if someone moves a particular way.
You could integrate Toe to Toe as part of a well-designed SEL program to help your group make caring and constructive choices about personal behaviour and social interactions across different situations.
Specifically, this activity offers ample opportunities to explore and practice the following social & interpersonal skills:
Identifying Personal, Cultural & Linguistic Assets
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
Resilience & Adaptability
Maintaining one’s balance is strongly correlated to resilience, ie you may be knocked off balance for a moment, but with effort, you can regain your balance once again. This lesson is clearly relevant for any program exploring and developing strategies that build adaptability and resiliency.
Reverse Feet: Same exercise in reverse, with left feet toe to toe, and left hands clasped.
Distant Partners: Vary the distance between the toes of each person. The further they are apart, the more challenging it gets.
One Foot Balance: Take a look at Off-Balance to explore another fun partner exercise that tests people’s balance.
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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 challenging, partner energiser:
How balanced did you feel in the beginning?
What was the most challenging part of the exercise?
Were you tempted to move faster than slow-motion at times? Why?
Did you get better with practice?
The inspiration for Toe To Toe, and many more fun, partner energisers, was sourced from the following publication: