What Makes a Great Activity?
Are you planning a family reunion? A corporate retreat? Maybe a youth group game night? If you said yes to any of these, you'll need to plan activities that will get everyone involved and won't leave stragglers on the sidelines. But you shouldn't just throw a group activity on the schedule to kill some time, it should be a productive way to enhance the purpose of your gathering. The best way to do that is to match the right type of activity to your type of event.
For example, if your family reunion is full of adults who are excited to see each other, and a bunch of teenagers who haven't seen some of their cousins since they were toddlers, then plan an icebreaker type game that will help them get to know each other a little better. Or, if you're planning an employee training weekend and your staff will be sitting in meetings most of the day, plan an active game played in teams that will get them up and moving while also building skills like teamwork and communication.
But nobody knows what will work for your group better than you, but to give you an idea or two, we've compiled a list of some of our favorite large group activities and divided them by category, so you can find one that matches your needs.
- The M&M Game
This is a great way for those long-lost cousins at your family reunion to reconnect, and the best part is, all you need is a bag of M&Ms to play! Or a few bags, depending on how big your family is...
To set it up, have everyone pick 5 M&Ms out of the bag, at random. Then, assign each color M&M a different fact or bit of information that the players will have to share. i.e. Red = favorite hobby, Green = dream vacation, Blue = last book you read, Yellow = favorite meal, Orange = favorite brand of shoes, Brown = wild, player's choice.
After assigning the colors, take turns having each player share something about themselves using the colors of the M&Ms they picked at the beginning.
The only rule, don't police time! Let people go off on tangents talking about the things they discover that they have in common, otherwise everyone just walks away knowing that their third cousin Jamie really loves to eat spaghetti and they'll have to start all over at the reunion next summer.
- Two Truths and a Lie
Also great for large family reunions, or for church youth gatherings, or any other group that may not know each other well, two truths and a lie is a fun way to get to know each other while also getting your creative juices flowing. Plus, there's always one writing student in the room who really wants a chance to show off their skills. This is their time to shine.
Give the players a few minutes to think about some interesting facts about themselves, and to make up an interesting fact about themselves. Then start with one player telling the group two truths and one lie about themselves, but presenting them all as truths. For example, I would say...
"I've eaten an entire package of Oreos in one sitting, I've talked a judge out of a red light ticket in court, and I've been to Dracula's grave."
Each participant then has to guess which of those statements is a lie. Once everyone has guessed, the person who started tells everyone which was the fib. You can keep score if you'd like, but usually it's just a fun way to get to know people. Continue until everyone has taken their turn.
P.S. My lie was the one about the judge. I didn't say a word, started tearing up when he called me up to discuss my ticket and he dismissed it out of pity.
- Two Lies and a Truth
This is a sort of variation on the previous game, it requires a lot more creativity, but you also need a few supplies. For this version, instead of coming up with the statements in their head, everyone except for the "host" writes down a brief description/teaser of the most outrageous thing they've ever done or that's ever happened to them. It has to be true, and they can't show it to anyone else. And don't forget to have them write their name on the slip.
Then, everyone puts their outrageous fact into a bowl. The host then draws out one fact and reads it to themselves. The host will then choose three people to stand up in front of the group. ONE of these people must be the person whose fact the host just read, but the host cannot reveal who that is. The host then reads aloud the fact to the entire group, leaving out the name. After the fact has been read, the three people standing must tell the entire story of the event described on the card as if it really happened to them, and the participants must guess whose card was actually read.
Great for a laugh and for getting to know people, but you might want to have a timer on hand because people can get long-winded. Or maybe just my friends do.
- Three-Legged Race
The classic outdoor barbecue game just might be the perfect fit for if you're looking for a team building activity. It gets people outside and in a more relaxed setting, while promoting the development of crucial teamwork and communication skills.
If you've never been to a barbecue, here's how it works; have people pair up. If you're feeling generous, you can let everyone choose their partners. If they've been driving you up the wall all weekend, choose their partners for them. Then have each pair tie two of their legs together (the left leg of one partner and the right leg of the other so they're facing the same direction) using scarves or ties or rope or any other lengths of fabric you might have on hand. Then have the teams line up on a starting line and race to the finish.
Tip: Interlock your arms or put them around each other's shoulders/waist for added speed.
- Nine Square
Nine square is the perfect large group activity because it can be played so many different ways. If you've never seen a nine square game before, you can purchase one from CastleSquares. The most popular version of nine square is like the classic game four square, mixed with that game you play after a birthday party where you try not to let the balloon touch the ground. There are, you guessed it, nine squares above the player's heads. The center spot is the "king", and the players hit a ball volleyball style up, over, and into the other squares. If the ball drops in your square, or you hit it too far and it doesn't go into anyone's square, you're out. The remaining players then rotate to fill your space. If you have just enough people to fill the "court", you'll just start over in square number one. If you have more players than you do squares, you'll go to the back of the line and the player at the front of the line will fill in the first position. The goal is to stay in the king spot as long as possible.
If you want to turn it into a team building exercise, have the players stay in their spots and you have odd squares play against even squares. You can have them rotate, or you can set a timer and see which team can score more points before it goes off. Either way, don't let the ball hit the ground!
- Freeze Tag
Freeze tag is great because there is no limit to the number of people who can play, it requires zero equipment, and can be easily turned into a team building activity if you want to add that element as well.
A brief overview, if for some reason your elementary school playground didn't allow running or physical contact...and if that's true I am so sorry. The name freeze tag is pretty self-explanatory. One player is "it", and they run around tagging people who then have to freeze until someone who is not "it" runs over to unfreeze them. Pretty simple.
And our third, and final category...
- Scavenger Hunt
This activity gives you the best of all three worlds, really. It promotes team building, requires a little bit of creative thinking both on the set up end and on the solving end, it can be as active as you need it to be, and gives you time to get to know others in the sense that you get an insight into how they think.
The only downside to this type of activity would have to be the set up. You can make it as simple or as elaborate as you want, but it will require some work on the front end either way. In its simplest form, a scavenger hunt has participants find clues that will lead them to some type of goal. A quick example; have large bag of candy hidden somewhere, then hide clues that the teams will have to find in the proper sequence in order to eventually find the candy. The teams will start with a clue given to them, and then they must work together to decipher the meaning of each clue. It's a fun, outdoor activity that can be exciting for kids and adults alike, because you can tailor the clues to their skill level.
The classic party game. If the participants don't know each other too well, this one may work best with a small group, just because people tend to be hesitant to be put on the spot in front of a large number of strangers. But, if they all know each other, there's really no limit to the number of players you can have. It just depends on how long you want to be playing for. This can be a fun icebreaker game, because you're not really strangers once you've tried to act like a gorilla in front of everyone.
A quick synopsis: First, divide everyone into two teams. Then, have everyone write down an action or a word or phrase, really anything that comes to your mind (keep age in mind when letting loose of the reins on this one). This way is fun because it challenges the group members to come up with an idea completely out of the blue. But if you want to be a little more organized you can also pick a category (i.e. animals) and have everyone write down an animal. Next, collect all of the answers, fold them up, and put them in a bowl, or a hat, or a vase, or a shoe, any type of container that's easily accessible. Then have one person stand at the front and draw out a word at random. They cannot read it aloud. They must then act out what was written on the card, without using words or sounds, and their team has to guess what the word was. Remember, you're keeping score, so only the team members of the acting player should be calling out guesses. Otherwise, it's like being the one kid who shoots the soccer ball into their own goal.
If you've ever been to a middle school girl-boy party, you've played this one before. It's a great silent game, if you're in a setting where grumpy adults are trying to get their beauty sleep but the teens are just hitting their second wind. It's also fun activity to use as a classroom game, and even better for large classes because the larger the group, the more difficult and fun it becomes. This one requires a decent amount of concentration and memorization. And though you're not technically on "teams", it will require some teamwork. Honestly, it's a little difficult to explain at first, but once you get the hang of it, it'll get going quick. Just maybe avoid it with preschoolers and other young children, though watching them try it out would be rather entertaining.
And now I'll follow up with an attempt at an explanation. First, have the attendees sit in a large circle. It can be on the floor, in charis, doesn't matter. Just be in a circular formation so everyone can clearly see everyone else. After everyone is in the circle, each participant will need to pick their own "sign". It needs to be a silent action that is subtle enough that if someone isn't watching they won't catch it, but not so subtle that you might do it on accident and mess up the pattern. Some common signs include: tugging on your earlobe, scratching your nose, throwing up a peace sign, etc. But here's the twist: each sign has to be unique. No two participants can have the same sign. Have the participants go around and show the entire group their sign, one by one. Make sure everyone has seen the sign before moving on to the next one. Once that is done, you can start the actual game. Have someone stand in the middle and close their eyes. Then, choose someone to "start", without saying their name out loud, and then have the person in the middle open their eyes. The group then proceed to "pass" the sign around until someone gets caught doing a sign by the person in the middle. You "pass" a sign by doing your own sign first, followed by the sign of another person. The other person then has to "catch" the sign by doing their sign, the one you just passed to them, and the sign of the person they want to pass it to. You have to do this all without the person in the middle seeing, so make sure the person you're passing to is looking at you, and be as discreet as possible. Hopefully that made some sense, I promise as soon as you start playing the group will catch on quickly.
So whether you're looking for an activity for a large group of business people who need to get out of their chairs while working on team building, a get to know you game for a bunch of teenagers who lack social skills, or just a fun game to get people to think creatively, hopefully this list will give you an idea or two that will help you a gathering that will include everyone in any group size, while being a productive use of everyone's time.