No Props—No Problem

For those moments when you have plenty of time and space, but absolutely no equipment, here are four activities to help create something wonderful.

The Invisible Obstacle Course

This warm-up activity is half-creativity and half-physical fitness. Each small group creates an imaginary obstacle course, with group members crawling, jumping, running, and helping each other through the obstacles they encounter. A volunteer in each group begins the activity.

After each element, leadership changes, and another member describes an obstacle, and then helps the other members navigate over, under, through, or around it. In the process, a variety of obstacles can be encountered (e.g., climbing a giant marshmallow mountain), creativity and leadership are explored, and most importantly the group is warmed up, energized, and ready for the day.

The Trust Drive

While there are many trust-building techniques, this activity is one of the best.

Let partners take turns being in the driver's seat during the Trust Drive.  Photos Courtesy Jim Cain

Let partners take turns being in the driver’s seat during the Trust Drive.

Photos Courtesy Jim Cain

Begin with partners of similar heights in an open space with no obstacles, with one partner standing behind the other, both facing forward. The front “driver” holds onto an imaginary steering wheel and closes his or her eyes. With eyes open, the “backseat driver” places his or her hands on the driver’s shoulders and says, “I’ve got your back.”

The front driver controls the speed, while the rear driver provides information and direction (like a human GPS system), avoiding collisions with other drivers and fixed objects.

After a few minutes, the front driver opens his or her eyes and provides the following feedback to the backseat driver:

  • What was good about the technique?
  • What could be done even better?

Next, the two participants exchange roles, after which another feedback session is provided.

This is an excellent activity to begin a more in-depth trust sequence. Be sure to have plenty of supervision and a safe, level, open space. Use this activity to “diagnose” the readiness of a group to explore activities that require an even higher level of trust and commitment. If there are a few “fender-benders” or collisions, a group may require additional work before it is prepared to move on. If participants exhibit caution and care and do not cause any accidents, a group is probably ready to proceed to another activity.


High energy, great theatrics, and quick play make this a permanent part of my personal top-ten activities!

Wah is a game of the ancient samurai (well, probably not, but it is fun to frame it that way!). So, when you say, ‘Wah!’ you can’t say it with a New York accent, but say it like a samurai, ‘WAH!’ There are three basic movements to this game.

Begin with multiple circles of about eight people in “Wah position”—feet slightly spread (like the capital letter A), hands together, pointing forward. In each circle, one person volunteers to begin the game by gaining eye contact with another person, pointing to him or her with both hands, and yelling “Wah!”

The second person now raises both hands straight up over his or her head, and says “Wah!” The third and final move involves two people standing on each side of person two, and making non-contact lumberjack chopping motions towards that person, and also shouting “Wah!” If each person completes the task and says ‘Wah!’ with gusto and on time, the game continues. But if anyone is early or late in the performance or just messes up, that person is ”out” of the game. The good news, however, is that person is not permanently out.

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