As a parent, you're sometimes called upon to care for children other than your own. Whether you're leading a group of Girl Scouts, coaching a soccer team, teaching a class or just hosting a big play date, help kids to bond using engaging team-building activities. With your guidance, discussion questions can reveal something about each person's strengths and help the group build unity and a shared sense of purpose.
Divide the children or teens into two groups. Provide each group with a pen and several small pieces of paper or note cards. Ask them to brainstorm discussion questions related to a shared activity. You could ask your soccer team to write questions like "What makes a soccer team succeed?" Put the questions in a bowl and pass it to the other team. Each team then discusses the other team's questions, pulling them from the bowl one at a time.
"Mandala" is a Sanskrit word that loosely means "circle." Creating a group mandala with children or teens allows them to express their own thoughts while building unity. Instruct them to find a small, unbreakable object -- something of personal significance -- or an outdoor object, such as a smooth rock or a leaf. Form a standing circle and place the objects in a bowl. Overturn the bowl on a carpeted floor. Ask participants, "How do you feel about where your object has landed in relation to the others?" Once everybody has spoken, have them move their objects one by one to a position that makes them happy.
For this teen-friendly activity, ask participants, "What are the characteristics, skills or talents that you bring to this group? Maybe you have a positive outlook, a strong sense of humor or a knowledge of world events?" Have each person write her response on a small piece of paper, roll up the paper and insert it in a balloon. Blow the balloons up, tie them off and place them on a floor or table together. Each person then takes a balloon, pops it and reads the slip. Have the person who wrote that slip raise her hand. Discuss how what they have learned about each other can improve their functioning as a group.
With any group comes misunderstanding. Use this activity to illustrate effective communication skills. Hand each child a piece of paper. Give them directions for the activity without allowing them to ask questions or speak to each other. Tell them to fold the paper in half and tear off a top corner. Fold again and tear off a top corner. Fold again and tear off the left corner. Turn the paper to the right three times and tear off a bottom corner. Fold again and tear off the middle. Finally, ask them to unfold their papers and compare results. Discuss why the papers don't look the same. Ask questions such as, "How would you have modified the instructions?" and "How can a group leader ensure that others understand directions?"
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