This guide to over 50 team building activities for teens provides ideas that will develop team work and youth leadership.
You will find out:
- The best approach for delivering team building activities for teens
- How to keep teens engaged during team building acitivites
- Safety Considerations
- Types of Team Building Activities
- 53 team building activities for teens
The real benefit of team building activities is providing youth with those essential life skills of problem solving, working together, understanding others, and youth leadership. These character building activities need to be run in just the right way to elicit the very best from each teenager.
This step by step guide on how to run more than 50 team building activities for teens makes your job easy. The printable worksheets show how to avoid disasters and keep things on track, with instructions, rules, equipment, aims and outcomes. Including obstacle course ideas, swamp crossing, water bucket and rope pulley swap, and the favourite toxic waste canister.
If you are planning your team building activities for outdoors or summer camps, I’ve compiled 40 of my best outdoor team building activities in one post for you.
Or you can find many more ideas in the full team building activities list containing worksheets for all of the team building activities to make it easy for you.
If anyone tells a teenager to go and do some task, often the response is “No” or “Why?” However, if you present the task as a challenge you are pretty much guaranteed a positive response.
The second key factor is to ensure that every teenager can clearly see what they will get out of the team building activities. If you sell it purely on improving their teamwork or youth leadership skills, then you aren’t going to win their attention. Present it as fun, provide some reward for succeeding, or even give them the opportunity to feel that they have achieved something.
The aim of a team building activity is that there is some goal that is worth the effort to attain, but it should be achievable. If your group of teenagers perceive the team building activities to be impossible, they won’t even bother and will be completely demoralised.
You have to make the challenge attractive. Rather than ask if they can get a bucket of water from one end of a field to the other, ask if they can do it faster than another team whilst negotiating an obstacle course. They will definitely be up for that.
Teenagers are at a stage in their lives when they are trying to work out who they are and where they fit into society. The effectiveness of outdoor team building activities for difficult youth is proven, as long as those organising it are encouraging and supportive. Help them to rise to the challenge, giving them support and encouragement to develop as they discover their true potential.
As with any team building activities, make sure that you take care that all of the teenagers are safe during the challenges you set. The spirit of competitiveness may cause some teens to over stretch themselves and do something too adventurous just to win. Clearly state to the youth group what the rules are and make sure that they stick to them. You will always get those who innovate, cheat or break the rules just to beat the opposition.
There are a few different types of team building activities that you can use to develop teamwork for teenagers.
There are also the good old team building games that everyone loves to do time and time again.
This list is not the usual boring team building games for teens that you will find all over the internet. You won’t find “lining up in birthday order” here!
Whether you want It’s a Knockout type games or Crystal Maze activities, these outdoor physical team building activities are for teens to really get to develop what they’re made of.
Teenagers seem to love the physical element of this is they are good friends. How high can you build a human pyramid or tower?
How far can you throw a raw egg to your fellow teen so that they can successfully catch it?
Create an assault course or obstacle course and get the teams to race over it.
Bucket Swimming relay
Get the team to do a swimming relay collecting things from the other end of the pool. Include a bucket, which is actually a real challenge to swim with as it fills up and slows you down.
Basically, you set up a volleyball court using blankets or large tarps for the net. The teams on either side cannot tell where the ball is coming from, so have to work together to win.
You can play this team building game standing up or sitting down on the floor, depending on how high you can make the net.
You need proper climbing gear for this one. Rig a safety line and pulley high above the place where you will be stacking your crates. The stacker has to stack the crates into a tower as tall as they can, whilst balancing on the top. They need to wear a climbing harness, and helmet, with someone belaying them from the ground.
The team have to pass the crates up to the stacker. Takes guts and teamwork.
Bucket on a rope water obstacle course
Another teen favourite. Get a very long piece of rope or string and weave it across a series of obstacles. Up trees, through bushes, across mud, over walls. Then, feed one end of the string through the handle of a bucket that is full of water. The team then has to get the bucket of water to the other end of the piece of string without spilling any water. Good teamwork is needed to pass the bucket up and over high obstacles.
Capture the Flag
This team building game for teens is one of the easiest to run. Plus it will wear out the energetic ones whilst those who don’t feel up to running around can adopt different roles within the game.
Capture the flag involves placing two flags at a distance from each other within a defined play area. Each team starts from their game base where their flag is and try to capture the flag from their opponents and return it to their base. The first team to get the enemy flag to their base wins, regardless of whether they still have their own flag. Very quick and easy to setup. Even more fun at night.
Each team has to form a relay chain to get all of the water from one big barrel across an obstacle course and into another barrel at the other end. The race is timed of course.
The team builds a chariot and then races across a course. The course can be as long as you like. I have raced cross country over several miles before.
The chariot can have wheels, or be dragged like a wooden frame.
Sedan Chair Racing
Sedan chair racing is the same principle as the chariot race, but the team have to carry the sedan chair off the ground with their rider sitting on it. A lot more tiring.
The team has to work together to navigate a course finding markers along the way. They have to keep together. The fastest team wins.
The team can make go karts, or just go somewhere and race proper go karts. They work as a team to see who is fastest.
Using a GPS, you can find hidden caches all over the world using the geocaching.com website. A hitech treasure hunt.
One way to get the team to work together is to send them on a sailing day. The skipper will teach them how to work as a crew, and they will not only learn how to work together, but also learn a new skill.
Drops are where you drop off the team of teenagers somewhere. They then have to work out how to get to a given location in a time limit.
You can make it easier by getting them to travel to a tall building that they can see from the start point. Or you could make it harder by blindfolding them when taking them to the start, so that they don’t know where they are.
Soap Box Cart Gravity Racing
A soap box cart originates from the good old days when kids used to get a wooden soap box crate, stick some pram wheels on and race them down hills. Get you teams to design and build their soap box carts and race them down a hill.
Get the Canister from Toxic Area
This is a popular team building challenge. Set up a can inside a taped off area. Give the team some equipment to retrieve the can without touching the ground inside the area. One variation I have done is to attach an ammo box up a tall tree containing supper for the team. They have to use climbing gear to climb up the tree, retrieve the box and return without dropping it inside the area. Inside the box can be anything you want that they can cook over an open fire. We had two chickens in ours. We plucked and prepared them while others in the team made the fire. Lovely.
If you aren’t that adventurous, you can just put sweets in the can.
Now Get Out Of That Challenges
Now Get Out of That was a UK TV programme where teams had to navigate to a given location. There they would be given a puzzle or challenge to solve. Successful completion would give the teams the clue to the next location.
The team challenges included river crossings and getting a cassette recorder to work when the power wires were too short (use the earth lead to extend the others). The sort of tasks teens will love are things like working out how to boil some water using only a sheet of paper and a candle. They have to fold up the paper to make a container. The water soaks into the paper a bit, but this is countered by the flame. It doesn’t burn the paper if they are careful.
The Great Egg Race – Invention to solve a problem
Give the teams a problem where they have to build something to solve it. It could be a device to carry an egg the furthest over a course, or a rocket/parachute that can bring an egg back safely to earth.
Scavenger Hunts and Treasure Hunts
Give your teams a list of items or tasks they have to complete in the time given. To make your teens think, make the description of the items cryptic. A picture of Thomas Jefferson ($5 bill), or a portrait of the Queen (a stamp or money).
If completing tasks such as visiting places, they can take a picture to prove they were there.
Monopoly Runs are a race around a virtual Monopoly board. This is easy if you are in London. The team has to visit all of the places named on the Monopoly board as quickly as possible.
If you aren’t in London, you can create your own board with place names of where you are.
Balance on a brick
How many people can balance on a brick at once? You can use any surface to hand, such as a milk crate. Or how many teens can you get in a phone box or in a car.
Blindfold tent pitching
This is straightforward, but is prone to lots of cheating and peeking.
This trust building game involves a member of the team being blindfolded and guided by voice around an obstacle course. If more than one team goes at once, this adds lots of confusion as the people who are blindfolded are not sure if the instructions are for them or not.
Get the team to build something. Anything. Just the act of cooperative work improves their team work. This is a great way to support troubled teens, as they will often work well when given physical tasks where they can see the results of their labour. Community projects may be ideal.
Lego structure copy
Make a Lego structure out of different coloured bricks and place it in the next room. Each team is given a set of bricks to build an exact copy of the Lego structure. The rules are that only one person from each team is allowed to go and have a look at the structure. When they come back to their team, they cannot touch the bricks, but they can tell the others how to build their copy. Anybody from the team can go and have a look, but only one at a time. Once another person comes back from having a look, the previous person can then touch their bricks to help build.
What you don’t tell the teams is that you have swapped one brick from each of their supplies with another team. This means that they cannot complete their copy unless they get the correct brick from another team. Of course, the other teams will not be willing to give away their bricks until they know which ones they have spare. Negotiation comes into play.
One amazing thing I once saw was when I did this team building activity with ten teams. Some of the teams grouped together and all worked on completing one model. They could then copy the model within the room as they had a copy in front of them. All I had said is that there was a prize for every team that completes their copy of the model. It is not a race, but most teams usually want to be first and don’t help the greater group.
Create a swamp, and then the teams have to cross it without going in it. They can be provided with a variety of useful and unhelpful equipment. Planks and bricks are commonly used. You can also get the teams to make a bridge.
Follow the plans
Give each team a set of plans that tell them how to do or build something. A prize is given for every team that completes the task in the time limit.
What you don’t tell them is that you have not given them a full set of instructions. Take one page from each set of instructions and put it into the instruction for another team. So team A may have pages 1, 2, 4 and 5; Team B may have pages 1, 2, 3 and 5. The teams will need to work this out to finish the task. Sometimes they will improvise and work out what the missing instructions might be.
If you live in NYC or San Francisco, there are some great theatre improvisation sessions that you can go to. The team building sessions get everyone working together, having fun, and even performing some comedy. A great laugh.
If you are not so fortunate, give the teams a silly phrase on a piece of paper. The teams then have to create a short play that includes that sentence. The other teams in the audience have to guess what the sentence was.
Human Marble Run
Give each teenager in the team a length of gutter or drainpipe. The team has to convey a tennis ball or golf ball from one place to another by rolling the ball from one piece of gutter to the next. Make it interesting by making the team get the ball to traverse an obstacle course or to go up and down stairs. Not as easy as it sounds.
Learn a new sport
Just have a look at the full outdoor activities list to discover a new sport they all might like to try. Sharing the learning experience is a great way to get teens to bond.
Make a giant bar of chocolate
The Search Party
This team building activity is a great way for teens to learn and understand what is involved with organising a search party. You could even get the real emergency services involved for the practice and education.
Two people are to act as the missing persons and wait at a known location in the woods. Everyone else is given a rough location of where they might be and they then have to form a search party to find them. To make it harder, you can have the rule that the missing people do not answer to any rescuers’ calls. Or do it at night. You will need to have a clear signal that the missing people must respond to in case the rescuers cannot find them.
A favourite amongst teens for team building. Give them lots of poles, ropes and large barrels to lash together to form a raft. Then have a race or get them to cross a river.
Egg Tower Construction
Yes it’s the “build a tower using drinking straws and tape to support an egg.” No need to say any more.
Use any projectile to hit a target. Water, paint or flour bombs are the best. The team has to build their contraption for launching their ammo. See which team can fire it the furthest, or get closest to a target. You can also have a battle firing at each other. Eye protection is advised. Get building those trebuchets, catapults, water bombs slings and ballistas.
The levitating Stick
This team building activity involves the team getting into two rows facing each other. Everyone holds out their index finger and you place a lightweight cane or stick so that it rests on everyone’s fingers. The team then have to lower the stick to the ground whilst keeping their fingers in contact with the stick.
What happens is that someone will usually apply more pressure on the stick and it will go up a bit. Someone else realises that their finger is not longer touching the stick so they raise their finger. The stick then ends up magically levitating up into the air as everyone lifts their fingers.
It takes coordination to get the stick to the ground.
Bridge Building and other river crossings
Create a virtual river using two long pieces of rope. Give the teams equipment to make a bridge. If you are feeling adventurous, do it over a real stream or river.
Find an assault course that has a ten foot wall in it. The team has to get everyone over the wall. It takes planning, as the strongest person who can lift the other up onto the wall may not be the best person that everyone else has to then pull up the wall.
This is one of the most popular trust building activities for youth groups. Set up a fence made of rope with large squares. This can either be ready made or you can use several pieces of rope to make a spider’s web sort of arrangement. The team then have to get every teen through the electric fence without touching the ropes. Lots of trust required.
Water Barrel Swap
Tie a pulley to a tree branch and pass a rope through it. Tie a barrel to each end of the rope. Fill one barrel with water. Then fence off an area around the barrels. The challenge is to swap positions of the barrels without anyone touching the floor inside the fenced off area, or touch the barrels.
Everyone crowds together and randomly holds someone else’s hands. They then have to unravel themselves without letting go.
Circle Lap Sit
Get everyone into a circle. Everyone then turns to face the person to their left. They all then sit on the lap of the person behind. If done at the same time, everyone ends up sitting on a lap self supporting. If not, people fall on the floor.
Take one large parachute and play team building games with it. There are some great parachute games books on Amazon.
Location Hunt from Photo
Give the teams a set of photos of places in the area. They then have to go to those places and prove they were there. The photos can be obvious or obscure, depending on the skills of your teens.
Dragon Boat Racing
Get the team working together to paddle a dragon boat in a race. Rowing is another idea.
Canoe catamaran trust
Using two canoes, balance beams between them and the team leader sits on the beam. Teams then canoe a course around the lake
Canal Lock Navigation
Guide a canal boat through a lock
Get the teams to use technology to solve a puzzle or challenge.
Group plank skiing
You need two planks with loops of rope attached to them. The team stands with a foot on each plank holding the rope. They then have to walk the plank skis to the end of the room or field. This requires coordination and teamwork to lift the plank.
White water Rafting
Send your teens white water rafting. They need to listen to the instructor and work together to paddle in the right direction.
Paintball can be a great way to get teams to work together. They will need to formulate plans, adapt them during the game, and work together to win. If you don’t give any guidance, it will often end up as a general free for all.
Using water fights as a team building activity for teens gives you plenty of scope to adapt to your environment. You can use rivers, lakes, boats, or just two large barrels of water at each end of a field for them to refill from. Allow a free for all, or work out a points system for achieving some goal such as capturing a flag.
Wide games are team games played over a large area, usually at night. The most common wide game is capture the flag. One team of teens defends a base, whilst the other has to enter and retrieve an object such as a flag and return it to their base. I have a powerful rotating beacon connected to a car battery and fire alarm switch. The switch is held open by a block of wood. The players have to get into the camp and remove the block of wood which turns on the beacon. That way it is obvious when the game is over.
Need More Team Building Activities?
If these team building activities don’t meet your needs, you can find many more ideas in the full team building activities list containing worksheets for all of the team building activities to make it easy for you.