Challenges

Children and youth love solving problems. These are just some ideas and challenges to present to an individual or a group to encourage team building, brain storming or just a lot of fun. Some require a bit of pre-fabrication or a good supply of scrap, such as cardboard tubes, paper, wood, etc... but half the fun is solving the puzzles with what you've been given.

Don't forget to check out the PRI projects for more ideas for longer term challenges / projects.

General

Catapult

Build a machine or piece of equipment that can throw either...

This challenge could either be done in one session if plenty of raw materials are available, or done over several sessions with planning in the first the group being allowed to build their ideas at home and then test them out at the next session.

Code Breaking

"Code Breaking"

Can be used by itself or as part of a bigger challenge. Leave the methods and/or the keys to break the codes easily available or as something you have to find (e.g. as part of a treasure trail). 

Try simple substitution or a more complex one like 'Pig Pen' cipher. If you have a computer simple substitution is very easy. Just type the message you want and then change the font it is written in to "symbol" or any other equivalent font. See how easy it is? (See how easy it is?) Examples of other ciphers can be found here

Community Task

Adapted from a suggestion sent in by Craig Murray

(This task is aimed at breaking down barriers between younger people and pensioners and young people going into their 'stretch zone'.)

Without telling the group, arrange in advance for the group to be able to visit a retirement home.

Give the group or each team 2 hours to prepare an activity to do for a visit at the retirement home. 

Either at the end of 2 hours or at the next meeting visit the home (when it was planned for) and ask the group to talk to the residents and carry out the activity they had planned. 

Electric Fence

Find this and others at Jonathan's Resources.

Ideal team building obstacle task. Use two poles and piece of string or rope tied between the poles about 4 feet high from the ground. The object is for the entire team to get over the "electric fence" (the string or rope) without getting "electrocuted" (touching the rope). No going under either! Only one team member can go over at a time, but can be helped by team-mates. Other team members can help any way they want, but once a person is over the fence, they must stay over the fence and may not come back around to help anyone. So the last person each time must somehow get over the fence without help from the other side. This game requires lots of teamwork and cooperation. Try it with the rope at different heights, perhaps with several fences in a small obstacle course.

Final task

Adapted from a suggestion sent in by Craig Murray

(Good task to help raise awareness of disability and to encourage team work)

Shuffle a normal 52 playing card pack. Each person takes a card from the pack which denotes which lack of ability they will have for the task

Clubs = Not able to use their legs
Spades = not able to use their arms
Hearts = not able to speak
Diamonds = not able to see

Then ask players to complete an obstacle course as a team. Team members will have to work together to complete the course. Near the end, if you want you can push them harder and put more pressure on by saying they only have 30 seconds left.

Flight

Using any given materials design and build an object which will stay airborne for more than 15 seconds (even harder if you are indoors as you may not have the height to give an advantage!). You might like to think about including items such as elastic bands, balsa wood, paper, tissue paper, glue, etc...  

Log run

Adapted from a suggestion sent in by Craig Murray

Individuals in each group have to complete an obstacle course carrying various large items such as large bags, tents, crates, barrels, etc. BUT items are NOT allowed to touch the obstacle. If items touch an obstacle individuals have to start again. In addition every 30 seconds individuals on the course have to swap whichever item they are carrying with another in the team.

If playing this out-of-doors, the use of buckets of water being thrown over players as they try to complete the course is suggested.

variations

- Have a range of large items for each team. The next team member can start as soon as the person in front has passed the first obstacle. Team members on the course change with others on the course when the whistle goes.

- Only one member of the team goes at a time. When the whistle goes the next in line runs on to take over, with the player being relieved returning to end of the line.

Marble Run

Using scrap material available or collected over the previous weeks, design a structure or 'run' which will keep a marble rolling for the longest time, before touching the ground or floor. (So long as the marble is not touching the actual surface the 'run' is built on, it counts.)

The Drain Game

A variation of 'marble run'. Teams are given a set time to build a track out of the materials provided, once this has been completed teams will roll a ball down the track, but the prize goes to the team that takes the longest to reach the end.

Rescue

suggestion sent in by Craig Murray

2 members hide and pretend to have an injury of some kind (this can fabricated as much in advance as desired, e.g. stage blood, etc). Groups go out in 2 teams to find those who are hidden and injured and have the task of bringing them back safely. Task is good for developing team work.

Rope Trail

aka: Night line

Using lots of string weave a course around an area indoors or outdoors, going over, under through various obstacles, etc. Participants are are blindfolded and either with a seeing partner or without any help have to negotiate themselves around the course by only following the string.

It's not unknown for rope trails, when outdoors, to lead through streams or for people to be strategically placed around the course with water pistols. 

Treasure Hunts

Fairly easy to set up, but not something you can do on the spur of the moment... unless you already have the materials at hand. For ideas see our dedicated Treasure Hunts page. Try using hand held GPS as part of the hunt!

Whistle Stop

Using musical instruments for instructions teams must navigate their blindfolded sheep through a course to pick up ‘rewards’ & earn valuable points.

Photographic Challenge

Taking advantge of any digital or phone cameras available, teams or individuals have to seek out photographic answers to a list of questions and/or tasks to complete.

Wacky Races

Requires a lot of spare scrap materials or perhaps even arrange this over a couple of weeks with part of the challenge for teams to source and gather materials they can use to build a go-karts that they can race. The first team over the finish line with a ‘complete’ kart win. We'll leave you with decision on how the go-karts should be powered!

Blind Fold Tent

An excellent team exercise requiring teams to be split into pitcher & instructors. Pitchers will be blindfolded & under the guidance of the instructors (via radio) pitch a tent.

Antique Trail

Teams are given a selection of valuable & worthless antiquities, teams then participate in three rounds:

Of course it helps if when you give the pieces to the teams you know what the pieces are and their value.

Egg based

Egg Launcher

An excellent finale activity whereby teams build a catapult to launch their eggs. With a couple of twists this makes for a highly entertaining activity.

Egg Retrieval

Attach raw or hard boiled eggs (or something equally breakable but not precious) to a ceiling or beam using thread or string. Without climbing or using your hands retrieve the egg without it breaking.

Egg Throw

Do this outdoors using raw or hard boiled eggs (depending on how messy you want this to be). Not strictly a group challenge, but it can be worked into one. Groups divide up into pairs with an egg for each pair. Standing close together in an open field facing each other, each pair then proceeds to throw the egg between themselves, taking a step back each time the the egg has been successfully caught, so the distance being thrown over gets increasingly greater. Group or pair which succeeds in throwing and catching the egg without breaking it over the greatest distance wins.

Mars Landing

To highlight the problems of landing a vehicle on another planet safely without it breaking. Challenge groups to come up with and build a design which will stop an egg breaking on impact when dropped from a height. BUT whatever design is used it must go with the egg and cannot be in place.

This challenge could possibly be carried out over a few weeks... one week to design, etc; another week or two to build it and another to test it all out, 'crunch time' as they say....!!

Water based

Floating duck

Sent in by Craig Murray

Put a plastic duck in the bottom of an empty bucket. The object is to fill the bucket with water so that duck rises and eventually floats out of the bucket. To do this players have to walk between a source of water and the bucket but are not allowed to put their feet on the ground.

Key Retrieval

Prefabricate a long narrow clear tube sealed at both ends bore a hole in the side at one end and place a key or object to be retrieved attached to a piece of wood through the hole. Attach the tube to a tree or post in an upright position so that the hole in the tube is at the top and the key/object visible at the bottom. Challenge is without moving the tube remove the key (Answer is to fill the tube with water and float the key)

Paper based

Paper based challenges are easy to set up - just requiring a lot of old newspapers and/or magazines. We both a 'Bridge too far' and 'tower' were very successful during playschemes.

A bridge too far

Each team is shown two equal sized chairs, a heavy object such as large book and then given a pile of newspaper and one or two rolls of sellotape. The challenge is using the material given to build the a bridge which will support the heavy object. At the end without the help of human hands to hold it the bridge that bends the least while supporting the object in the middle wins or failing that supports the object for the longest time before collapsing wins.

Sky High

Divide into teams and give each team a pile of newspaper and one or two rolls of sellotape. The challenge is for each team to build the highest freestanding structure they can using only those materials they have been given. All structures have to be able to stand upright without help for more than 1 minute. Extra sellotape is at your discretion.


Glossary

Sellotape = adhesive or sticky tape.