Interactive group games and activities are a powerful and attractive way to engage all groups of people, but especially young people. If it’s not cool, then it can sometimes be very difficult to motivate teenagers especially to participate. This is where fun can weave its magic.
I’ll share a bunch of really fun, non-threatening and cool team building activities for teenagers later in this article, but first, let me share some leadership tips to make your programs more effective.
Tips for Working with Teenagers
Broadly speaking, teens are like most other (human) groups in that they crave social connections and want to feel loved, valued and meaningfully connected to what’s going on. That said, there are some unique characteristics of teenagers you should consider in your program design and leadership:
Young people are hard-wired to move, so be sure that whatever team activities you plan, it will move their bodies. Sitting still and being quiet for long periods of time is the worst thing you can do for them. You need only look at a typical school classroom to understand why kids are so bored.
Go With The Flow
Yep, you need a plan, but be prepared to change it and be flexible. If something you or your group of teens say or do appears to fire them up, go with it. Think on your feet to integrate their sudden interest into your program. For example, if skateboarding is their thing, discuss how trust and team skills show up in this activity.
None of us likes to be told what to do, and this is especially true for young people who are desperately wanting to be treated as an adult. A powerful approach to do this is to give teenagers more agency and voice in what’s happening. Now, this is not a license for your group to take over your program, rather an imperative for you to create a safe learning space for these young people to interact and learn together, ie the safer it is, the more willing and able they will be to participate.
Make It About Them
If your group feels like the program is truly designed with them in mind, then they will be more motivated to be involved. If it feels like they are the square peg being squashed into a round hole, you’ll be pushing them uphill all day. Teenagers are still learning that the world does not revolve around them, so be interested in them, ask them how they are going, and take a genuine interest in their welfare. In my experience, the more interested you are in them, the more interesting you will appear to your group.
Yeah, I know, teens can sometimes appear as if they don’t care and don’t want to be pushed, but in most cases, this is just a facade they erect because they may feel a little threatened. Work hard to create a positive and safe environment for your teens. And when I say ‘challenge’ I’m not just talking about sports either. Sporting activities are great and suit some young people but not all. Instead, think about presenting a series of physical team building activities such as some of the group initiatives I describe below.
Finally, try not to take yourself or your program too seriously. Teens can sniff insincerity or inauthentic behaviour a mile away. Exert your leadership, but in a genuine, authentic and fair manner.
Apart from having a lot of fun, there are tremendous benefits which flow from engaging teens in a series of team-building activities.
Notably, the development of social and emotional competencies are extremely valuable because so little emphasis is (typically) dedicated to these critical interpersonal skills at school. You may also wish to invite certain individuals to assist you in the leadership of some of these games and activities to enhance their confidence and leadership skills too.
Awesome Team Building Activities & Games for Teens
With this advice in mind, here is a list of eight of my favourite team-building activities that teens love to play. Indeed, this list can also double as wonderful team-building activities for students, no matter their age.
Click the links to get all of the step-by-step instructions and view video tutorials for many of them.
This is possibly one of our most viral activities that everyone loves to play. In this particular video, you’ll see a group of young people play this fun, yet very challenging activity. No props are required, just a bit of open space. Ideal to discuss many aspects of teamwork such as communication, collaboration and goal-setting.
Another in a series of contagiously fun and active group exercises. Your teenagers can participate as individuals or in teams, depending on the purpose of your program. The bigger the open space the better.
A simple no-prop style problem-solving exercise that will challenge your teens to think outside the box. All you need is a sunny day and lots of open, outdoor space. This group activity will inspire your teens to be as creative as they can.
If you’re looking for 5 minutes of frenetic activity and high-level action, this is your go-to activity. Like many of the most successful activities featured in our database, Knee Tag is a highly-interactive, fast-paced and no-props style activity. Expect to be puffed out very quickly. Don’t miss many of the variations to change things up.
A classic team event that takes no more than 3 minutes and will challenge your group to work together to solve a common problem – to build the tallest tower, but using only their shoes. Have your measuring tape ready, oh, and your camera to capture the creation of the winning team.
This fun trust-building, partner exercise will challenge everyone in your group. It is ideally designed to suit all abilities of your group, but for those who are up for a challenge, this is it. You will need to carefully sequence this exercise into your program to adequately prepare your group for the task, both physically and emotionally.
Without a doubt, this activity features in our most viral video tutorial. One view and you’ll see why. Once your group gets over the “hand-holding” set-up, they’ll quickly forget their inhibitions and be laughing in no time. Be sure to invite your group to reflect on key lessons about leadership, trust and communication at the end to squeeze even more value from this hilarious, active game.
You can find 100s more cool team building activities for teenagers featured throughout our online activity database. If you like what you see, consider becoming a member and unlock every one of them to try with your next group.