Distribute one balloon to each person in your group.
Refer to the Narrative tab for a sequence of eight unique activities involving balloons.
Start by presenting a series of activities that invite each person to play with their own balloon.
When ready, form small teams of 3 to 5 people to engage in a series of team-based events to promote higher levels of interaction.
Eventually, challenge your group to tackle one or more problem-solving activities using their entire collection of balloons.
Process as required.
How To Play Narrative
Show me a bag of balloons, and I’ll show you a bag full of fun.
Every one of the activities I am about to describe can be presented on its own. However, once you’ve gone to the trouble of blowing up a bunch of balloons, you’ll really want to squeeze the most value from this effort.
Here are a series of eight ideas that will easily fill an hour or two, presented in a ‘worked-many-times-before’ sequence. Feel free to chop and change these ideas to suit the needs and abilities of your group.
Everyone holds an inflated, but un-tied balloon in their hands, standing behind a line at one end of a hall or playing field. One at a time, each person lets go of their balloon to let it splutter and ‘horsey’ as far away from the line as possible. Have several attempts, the balloon reaching the furthest distance wins. Award bonus points to those who travel backwards behind the line.
2. Balloon Orchestra
Everyone inflates their balloon as large as is reasonable, ties them off, and assembles in a semi-circle formation facing you, the ‘conductor.’ You divide your assembly into four or five smaller groups, each representing a unique section of the orchestra which is asked to make a unique sound with their balloons. For example, one section rubs their balloons, another may pull on the neck of the balloon and let it go, while a third group may tap their balloons with their fingers. Instruct each section to do a quick sound test, and then raise your baton to command a royal philharmonic performance. Bring each section in individually, raise their volume, then soften them, etc, etc, finally building to a crescendo (don’t pop them yet!) and stop! Ahhh, silence.
Click this link to explore this wonderfully cooperative small team exercise. Start with one balloon for each team.
4. Star Wars
This chaotic exercise starts gently and gradually the intensity and interaction increase. Be sure to check out its many variations.
5. Up & Down
Each person finds a partner. Using just one of their balloons, they place it gently between any two parts of their bodies, such as their tummies, backs, hips, etc. Their object is to rotate the balloon all the way up and down one of their bodies without using their limbs to assist its journey. A wild challenge. Next, have the balloon start on their tummies, and move the balloon down one person’s body, under their legs, up their back, and over the shoulder to return to their tummy. Even wilder.
6. Balloon Trolleys
Stick with the current partner, or invite a quick switch to someone new. Facing back to back, invite each pair to place one or two balloons between their bodies, ie it rests comfortably between their backs. Ask each pair to move about the area without losing contact with their balloon(s.) Ideally, they should not use their limbs to keep the balloons in place. Challenge them to move rapidly, turn corners, go under obstacles, etc. Then, two pairs join, to form a balloon trolley of four people, a balloon (or two) between the back and tummy of each person. Again, move about the area. Next, a quad joins a quad, and finally, two octuplets join to form a trolley of sixteen people. Provide a minute or so of practice, then assemble each ‘team’ behind a line, and race them from one end of the space to the other. The first team to return with all (or most) of their balloons wins.
Finally, the dilemma at the end of all this activity is to know what to do with all of the balloons. Here are two of my all-time crowd favourites:
7. Fire In The Hole
An explosive partner exercise that is not for the squeamish, but is extremely fun. Click here to learn more.
8. Stress Balloon
Separate into pairs. Standing 1 metre (3’) apart, partners face one another holding their balloons in their own two hands so that a balloon sits just in front of each person’s chest. Wide-eyed and courageous, each person will apply mounting pressure to their balloon, maintaining eye contact with each other until either their balloon pops, or they turn defeated to look away! A real test of nerves you could say.
Practical Leadership Tips
My advice – always encourage your group to inflate their balloon as large as possible. Balloons are more inclined to float when they are filled with more air than less, and larger balloons mean more colour.
Be aware, some people can have an allergic reaction to latex, the material most balloons are made of. Some people can also be quite sensitive to the popping sound of balloons, so keep this in mind too. If possible, provide a trigger warning to alert those who are allergic or sensitive to balloons to make an appropriate choice in regards to their participation.
There has been a growing number of people who have curbed or eliminated their use of balloons, and from an environmental perspective, I totally get this. If you do choose to use balloons, please discard them responsibly so that they do not enter our rivers and oceans because they can be extremely harmful to birds, fishes, and other marine animals.
Health & Wellness Programming
As with all activities that invite social interaction and bursts of energy, Balloonarama can provide you with a wonderful opportunity to explore healthy and respectful group behaviours. For example, observe the manner in which some people choose to ‘attack’ the balloon of other group members. In addition to those described in the Reflection tab, consider inviting your group to reflect on the following questions:
What did you notice as the game became more and more chaotic?
Were you concerned by any of the interactions or behaviours?
Were your interactions driven by menace or fun?
How do the behaviours of some impact other members of the group?
Could this exercise teach us something about social-emotional learning skills?
Balloon Trolleys Revisited: In small teams of 8 to 10 people, form a straight line all facing the same direction. Place a balloon between each pair whereby one is squished between person #1 and #2, another one between #2 and #3, etc. Start all teams behind a line and challenge them to cross to another line 25 metres away while keeping all of their balloons off the ground.
Take a look at Balloon Tag to enjoy a wildly energetic tag game in which a balloon is tied to the ankle of every person.
Got a LOT of balloons available? Take a look at Frantic, one of my all-time favourite balloon group initiatives.
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Useful Framing Ideas
One of the biggest and most successful movie franchises ever has been the Star Wars films. Even if you’ve been living under a rock for the past 40 years, I’m sure you’ve seen at least one of these amazing films. We won’t be travelling into outer space for this next activity, but we will fill our atmosphere with plenty of floating stars, asteroids, and planets to explore…
In my experience, there is nothing more colourful than a bunch of balloons bouncing around in the air. There will be elements of this spectacle coming soon, but I want to start off gently…
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 highly interactive group game:
Did you feel especially skilled at this game? Why?
What was your objective? Did you achieve it?
Do you think everyone enjoyed themselves, or only some?
Describe a time when joy was expressed during the game.
The inspiration for Balloonarama, and many other fun large group games, was sourced from the following publication: