Here we present two types of games: low-energy (peaceful, mellow) and high-energy (physically or mentally very involving, often involving competition). Some playful activities are offered especially for younger groups, who have lots of energy to burn, but anybody might enjoy participating or watching.
Think of a creative, Krishna conscious introduction for each game. We give some ideas, but you can use your imagination. Although we don't specify it for every game, you might give a reward to the winners. Prepare the prizes in advance (often a little maha-prasadam does the job perfectly).
The games have different durations, also depending on the number of players are how long you decide to continue. During many of these games you can play some music to help create the atmosphere and add to the experience (soft, meditative bhajans for low-energy activities, loud, lively kirtans for high-energy ones).
Some games will provoke funny situations and lots of laughter and you might want to have a camera or video to immortalize the players in the crucial moments.
Materials: pens and paper
Have the group sit in a circle, on the floor or around a table. Give each person a sheet of paper and a pen. Give a common theme for a poem (the subject could be "Krishna's Lifting Govardhana Hill" or "The Damodara-lila", or it could be "Book distribution", or "Resolutions for the New Year", "The Ratha-yatra", or whatever you like, also according to the level of knowledge of all participants). Have everyone write the first line of the poem at the top of the page; then have everyone pass the paper to the person on her or his right. The person that receives the paper reads the first line and then writes a second line to it (it could be a rhyme but it is not essential). That person must then fold the paper to hide the first line from view, so that only the second line—the one he just wrote—shows. The poets pass again their papers to their right. Each time they get the paper and write a new line, they should fold back the previous line out of view sot that only what they have written shows. Keep the pace brisk: they should just write whatever comes in mind first without taking more than 30 or 40 seconds. You can fix a number of passes, like 8 or 10. Inform people when it is time to write the last line of the poem so that they write some conclusive line. The end result is a strip of folded paper. Have one after another open the paper and read the poem.
Materials: coins and a bucket (or some other container)
Pair everyone up and form a big circle. Give each pair two coins. One person in each pair tilts his head back and places a coin on each eyelid while keeping the eyes closed (no peeping!). Put a container in the centre (a bucket, a box or something). The blinded players must dump the coins into the container, while their partners will direct them verbally, without touching or physically guiding them in any way. If any coin drops, the person must pick it up and start all over again. The biggest fun comes when all the pairs go at once, crowding around the container, blinded by money, trying to hear their partner's directions. The first pair to complete the task wins. The last pair could be asked to do some form of funny atonement.
This game is more interesting with larger groups, but you can also play it in smaller ones. Divide the group in two teams and have the members of each team stand close together. This is the starting position. Start by calling out a shape (you can begin with simpler shapes). The teams race to form a shape out of their bodies (on the floor if the shape is two-dimensional or standing if it's a three-dimensional form). They should signal that they have finished and then go back to the standing position. You can keep increasing the complexity of the shapes to represent. After every round you (or some other spectator) could judge which team made the best, most resembling or original shape. The team that scores most wins (but it could also be done without competition). Sample shapes: tilaka, omkara, the number 108,
Have the group sit in a circle. One person will be in the center and will have to make another smile. He/she goes around the circle, kneels before a person and asks: “Will you please smile for me?” In asking this, the person can make all sort of funny expressions, gestures or use strange voices, but can’t touch the person. The person must respond with, “Sorry, I just can't smile for you,” without smiling. If he/she smiles, that person replaces the first one and has to make someone else smile, approaching one after another until someone smiles. This is a circular game, in the sense that it doesn’t have a fix end. It is up to you to decide when to stop, perhaps when everyone has smiled.
Materials: safety pins
This game can continue throughout the meeting. Give out one safety pin to each person. Everyone must wear it so that others can see it. The idea is that whoever says the word “no” looses the pin and gives it to the person who made him/her say “no”. To again get a pin one has to get someone else to say “no”. Whoever ends with most pins wins.
Materials: pens and paper.
Divide players into two or more teams. Give them a specified amount of time (say, 5 minutes) and have them write down as many ways of caring as they can think of. These should be practical, feasible, observable ways to show care, attention, or love to other devotees or people in general. At the end of the allotted time have each team read what they wrote while you and the rest of the group judge if all the ideas are acceptable or not. The team that lists most ways of caring wins.
Variation 1: have the teams list ways of pleasing Srila Prabhupada, or things to avoid in preaching, or good advices for chanting japa, or animals mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita, or names of avatars, or names of spiritual masters in the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Vaisnava Sampradaya, or places visited by Srila Prabhupada, or divine qualities, or holy places in India, or chapter titles in the Krishna Book, or whatever else you can think of.
Variation 2: Pick a category, for instance: devotees, objects present in the temple, etc. Give a letter of the alphabet (an easy one) and tell the teams have to list as many items as possible belonging to that category and starting with that letter.
Materials: stories with blanks
This is a fun game with language. Have a short story ready. The story will have blanks instead of various words (below you'll find two samples with indications of what words to ask for, but you can make up as many as you want). To fill the blanks ask the group for nouns, verbs (action words such as swimming, singing or sleeping), adjectives (words that describe nouns, such as beautiful, slow, or peaceful), adverbs (words that describe the verb, such as slowly, quickly or steadily) and other missing words (you should be specific sometimes and ask for "a feeling", or "a smell", or "a color". But—attention—without reading the story to them. Just ask, for instance: «Give me a number.» «Tell me a place.» And so on. You can go around the group and have each person provide a word. You will use what they say to fill the blanks. Encourage devotees to to use descriptive, exciting words. At the end you read the story, for everyone amusement.
«The Story of this Bhakti-vriksha Group»
This group started in a [adjective]_______ way, with [number]_______ members. At first the thing they liked most was [verb]_______, but after sometimes their favorite activity became [another verb]________. One problem we faced in the discussion is that some would [again a verb]_______ before the other person finished speaking. The most beautiful experience has been when we all went to [place]_______ and we all [verb]_______ in the grass. By leading this group I learned at least three things: first is that it is better to [verb]_______ before [verb]_______; second, that when a group member feels [a feeling]________ I should ask others to [verb]_______; third, that I should always use words that are [adjective]_______. I know that some group members are [adjective]_______ devotees, and it is a great opportunity for me to serve them by [verb]_______. The last thing I want to tell you about this group is that I will be very [feeling]_______ when we will multiply.
«First Visit to the Temple»
Once I went with my [a type of relative]_______ to visit the Hare Krishna Temple. The garden outside was [adjective]_______, full of [plural noun]________. Inside the door we immediately smelled a fragrant odor of [smell]_______. The devotees looked very [adjective]_______ with their clothes coming from [place]_______. I felt immediately at home, especially with the prasadam: we ate with great [feeling]_______ the divine food, and then we asked: [a question]«___________________?» In the temple shop I bought a [something to wear]_______, the price was [adjective]_______ and the quality was [adjective]________. As soon as I reached home I put it on and I looked myself in the mirror, [exclamation]«______________» I said.
Materials: pens and paper
Divide the group in two or more teams. Ask the teams to write a list of things that are white and are food (and can be offerable to Krishna!). Give them a fixed time (3-5 minutes) and then find out which team wrote the longest list: that team wins.
Variations: have the teams writing lists of: names of devotees in the body of animals, animals mentioned in the Bhagavad-gita (verses and purports), holy places, names of warriors in the Battle of Kuruksetra, countries visited by Srila Prabhupada, or whatever.
Materials: pens and paper
Divide the group in teams of 3-4 people each. Give everyone a piece of paper and ask them to write as many words as possible from the letters in a word or a brief expression such as “Vrindavana”, “Mayapur”, “Srila Prabhupada”, “tree of devotion”, “bhakti-yoga”, etc. Give them a fixed time. The team who writes most words wins. To make it more difficult (and more spiritual) accept only words somehow related with Krishna consciousness.
Materials: copies of the «Read and Do Test», one for each person
Tell everyone that they have to strictly follow the list of instructions on the sheet you are going to distribute. Stress that they have to do whatever is written there in maximum three minutes.
Hand out copies of the following:
Read and Do Test – time limit: 3 minutes
1. Read all that follows before doing anything.
Be quiet and watch as everyone follows instructions. People often people start doing all the weird things listed, neglecting the first instruction: «Read all that follows before doing anything.» After the time is up you can ask: "So, who completed the assignment and followed the instructions?" Then you should point that some neglected the very first instruction.
Get everyone in a circle. One person starts doing something, for instance scratching the head. The person on the right must repeat the same action and add something else, say slapping the tie. The game goes on with each having to repeat all the previous actions in order, then adding one. If a player misses an action or gets fouled up, he/she is out. The last one to remain in the game wins. You can go around a few times.
Arrange the participants in a circle. An appointed player turns to the person next to him/her and makes a funny face or assumes a funny posture. That person mimics the gesture, passing it on quickly to the next person, and so on around the circle. When the funny face has completed the circuit, another person begins, until all or as many persons as possible have had a chance to initiate the face-making. You can also establish the rule that whoever smiles of laughs is out.
This exercise in impromptu (improvised) speech can be very funny and it is also a good training for public speaking. Before the meeting, cut some headlines from a newspaper and put them in a paper bag or other container. Explain the game: you will ask different people to randomly pick one headline, and then they will have one minute to explain why they wrote that article (as if they were the journalist who wrote it). Often people don’t have a clue what is the article is really about, even after hearing its title. You could also use titles from Back to Godhead or other devotional publication. Keep track of what the original article was about so that you can point that out at the end of their one-minute explanation.
Variation: you can also add the rule that in their speech they also have to include a word fixed in advance, for instance: compassion, simplicity, wisdom, meditation or whatever.
Two players privately select an object in the room (it could be a particular book or whatever). They then discuss it with each other—it could be also in the form of questions and answers—while the others listen and try to guess what it is. Who guesses what the object is, wins. When the object is discovered, another two players select an object.
Variation: For an extra challenge, choose and object not in the room, but somewhere else, like in the temple or in the rest of the house.
Energizer: two people sit on the floor, backs together, feet in front, and arms linked. The have to stand up together. After they succeed add another one to the original pair and have all three of them stand up together. Keep adding people until your whole group (or rather all the people of the same gender) tries to stand together. You can put some upbeat devotional music in the background.
Materials: A large drawing of a face, two buttons for every participants
Srila Prabhupada wrote: “In Bhagavad-gita it is said that one can see the Supreme Personality of Godhead through jnana-caksusah, eyes of knowledge. He who opens these eyes of knowledge is called a spiritual master. Thus we offer our prayers to the spiritual master with the following sloka:
caksur unmilitam yena
tasmai sri-gurave namah
"I offer my respectful obeisances unto my spiritual master, who with the torchlight of knowledge has opened my eyes, which were blinded by the darkness of ignorance." (Gautamiya Tantra) The guru's task is to open the disciple's eyes of knowledge.” (Srimad-Bhagavatam 8.1.11, purport). Place the large drawing of the face on the floor. Each player will drop or throw (from an established distance) the pair of buttons to form the eyes of the face. Who places the eyes most accurately wins.
Materials: pens and paper
This game has a surprise element. Have everyone ready with pen and paper. Tell that at the «go» everyone will have to write down a list of something (objects related to Deity worship, names of Krishna, names of devotees, cities where there is a temple, spiritual qualities, names of spiritual places, or whatever you choose) in a time limit of two minutes. When everyone is poised and ready tell to shift the pen to the other hand: right-handers become left-hander, and vice versa. The player who writes the longest and/or the most legible list wins.
A Bag of Fun
Materials: several pairs of old stockings, two blindfolds, two pairs of thick gloves, and two paper bags.
Ask for two volunteers. They should be without shoes or at least without one shoe. Have each put on a pair of gloves and give each of them a bag containing several pairs of old nylon stockings. Blindfold them. Whoever succeeds in first getting all the stockings in the bag over one foot wins. The fun thing is that the gloves make it difficult to tell the top of the stocking from the foot. This produces plenty of laughs for the spectators.
Materials: one orange (or other suitable fruit) for each team
Form two or more teams (strictly same-gender) and have them stand in rows. Put an orange under the chin of the first person of each team. The orange is kept there by lowering the chin toward the chest. The person has to pass the orange—from chin to chin and without touching it with the hands—to the next in line and so on. The first team to complete wins.
Materials: slips of paper
Write the names of the participants on slips of paper and put them into a hat or other container. Have everyone line up on one side of the room. As each person's name is randomly pulled out of a hat, that person must cross the room in a manner different than the others. So, if the first person simply walks, everyone that follows must get to the other end of the room differently, by hopping on one leg, walking on their knees, rolling on the floor, or whatever they like.
Materials: pens and paper
Divide the group into two or more teams. Have them search for objects the team members have on them (as items of clothing or things in their bags and pockets) that start with each of the letters of the alphabet, from A to Z (you can specify that undergarments don't count). Have teams write down all the items they identify. Give a time limit. First team to get all the letters wins. If they can’t find an item for each letters, the team that gets most wins.
Variation: tell the teams to put all the items representing the letters in a bucket.
Materials: pens and paper
This activity helps in promoting trust in the group. Give a piece of paper to each group member. Ask everyone to write a positive message about the group and the experience of interacting with the other group members. Collect all the papers, shuffle them, and redistribute them, and ask each person to read the message aloud.
Going around the circle, have everyone say loud one of the holy names of the maha-mantra: “Hare” “Krishna” “Hare” “Krishna” “Krishna” “Krishna” and so on. Whoever says the “wrong” name (not according to the right sequence of the maha-mantra) or hesitates too long is out. The last remaining player win. If nobody makes a mistake or a few people remain playing for too long, you can go to the second version:
Variation: Have each participant call out two names: "Hare Krishna", Hare Krishna", "Krishna Krishna", "Hare Hare" and so on. Same rules as the first version above.
There is also a third version:
Variation: have each person say three names in a row: “Hare Krishna Hare” “Krishna Krishna Krishna” “Hare Hare Hare” “Rama Hare Rama” “Rama Rama Hare” “Hare Hare Krishna” and so on. The last remaining player wins.
· Have the group stand and stretch, while shouting out loud “Gauranga!”
· Throw one, two or three balls around the group. You could add—but it's not essential—that those who touch the ball but let it fall on the floor are out.
· Individual cross-body touching, right elbow to left knee, left elbow to right knee, twenty times, fast.
· Tap head and rub stomach simultaneously, then swap movements.
Have everyone standing or sitting in a circle, giving each other the back and have everyone massage the head and shoulders of the person in front. In these and similar activities involving physical contact in circles, you can have the men and the woman forming different circles, or you can have the man-woman links formed by two grihastha couples (when available).
This activity helps in building trust, intimacy and awareness of others. Have participant pair up, one will be the sculptor, the other the sculpture. The sculptor gently moves the other’s body into a sculpture using his/her imagination (if people can’t come up with any idea you can suggest them to sculpt Krishna, Arjuna, Hanuman, Garduda or whoever). The sculpted allows the body to be moved and keeps it where the sculptor places it. You can do this in silence or with background music. Participants don’t speak. After a few minutes have the pairs swap roles.
Variation: group sculpture: one or two people do the sculpting while everyone else becomes part of the sculpture. Sculptors move participants to create a group sculpture, making sure that individuals can keep their balance. The mood of the activity is gentle and slow with both sculptors and sculpted being aware of each other. At the end you can invite people to share about the experience.
A fun game that can be done with very large groups (once 1700 people did it in a stadium in Boston, USA). Have the players stand in a circle with shoulders almost touching. Have them turn to the right so that they are directly behind someone. As you count to three, everyone slowly lowers to sit on the knees of the person behind, while holding the waist of the person in front. The number three is the signal for the moment of sitting. Poor timing can send the whole group to the floor. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. You can have everyone doing the counting together. Suggest that those with bad knees sit this one out.
Tell the group that you are going on a picnic. Anyone can come, provided they bring something appropriate with them. Tell them that there is a rule but you can’t explain it: they have to figure it out, and when they understand it they should not tell others. Then you start by saying your name and one thing that you’ll bring with you. It has to be something starting with the same letter as your name (for instance: “I am Balarama das and I’ll bring some bananas.” Going around the circle each person must do the same, saying their name and what they are bringing. You will tell them if they can come to the picnic or not: they can come only if the thing they bring begins with the same letter of their name. It might be good to have in the group one or two people who know the rule of the game. Go around the circle until everyone has understood or people are too frustrated by not understanding the trick.
Srila Prabhupada’s said: “Here in this material world everyone is mad. Somebody is thinking, “I am king.” Somebody is thinking, “I am minister.” Somebody is thinking, “I am president,” “I am this,” “I am Narayana,” so on, so on, so on, all madmen, all madmen, because it will be finished.” (Lecture of 28 October, 1972). Explain that in this game the whole group has the same mental disease and the psychiatrist has to find out what particular madness afflicts everyone. Have someone volunteer to be the psychiatrist (someone who hasn't played it before) and escort him/her out of the room until you instruct all the others. Explain to the group that everyone thinks to be the person on the left, therefore they will answer all the questions of the psychiatrist as if the person on the left were answering. Bring the psychiatrist back into the room and tell that he/she has to ask only "yes or no" questions (questions that can be answered either by yes or no) to find out the illness, in other words whom they all think they are. Encourage the psychiatrist to ask personal and even obvious questions (Are you male? Are you wearing jeans? Are you older than 30? And so on). You can give a time limit, say 10 minutes.
Variations: the players think they are something else (a sannyasi, the Temple President, a personality from the scriptures or whatever).
Materials: Bhagavad-gitas (ideally one for every devotee, but at least one for every two or three devotees)
Divide the group in two or more teams. It’s best to have teams of 3-4 people so that everyone can participate in the excitement even if they don’t know a lot about the Gita. Ensure fair competition by arranging that the ‘scholars’ are fairly distributed in the various teams. You will ask the teams to find specific words and details in the Bhagavad-gita. Specify that what they have to find could be either in the translations of the verses or in Srila Prabhupada’s purports. The first person (or team) that finds it and says loud the number of the verse and the chapter scores a point. Whoever makes more points wins (you can have them reach a fixed number of points, like 5 or 10, or have a time limit for playing).
Sample questions: Find a place were the Gita mentions a fish, a monkey, the word “creation”, Ksirodakasayi Visnu, the word “fool”, the conch of Krishna, the ocean, a scorpion, the sun, death, the moon, birth, karma-yoga, Brahma, a chariot, the word “fruit”. Avatara, Paramatma, reincarnation, guru, jnana-yoga, a shark, the word “bow”, the word “chariot”, Brahmaloka, spiritual world, surrender, Upanisad or Upanisads, India, And so on.
Variation: have them find the answer to particular questions (if they don’t know it already). For instance: What is the name of the conch of Krishna? Who gave to Arjuna his chariot? Who among the Daitya demons represents Krishna? Who is the last person who speaks in the Gita? Who is the first person who speaks in the Gita? In which chapter is the analogy of the well and the large reservoir of water? In which chapter is the analogy of the sky and the wind? And so on.
Materials: a large piece of paper (or a white board), markers (preferably various colors).
You can play this with every person playing by himself/herself, on in small teams. This very instructive game is for devotees who are already familiar with the Gita. New people should join someone else, so that they can somehow participate.
You draw analogies from the Gita (verses and purports) on the large paper (ideally a flipchart) or the white board (black board would also do). Whoever guesses the analogy first gets a point. But to score they have to tell both aspects of the analogy (for instance: just like the tortoise withdraws the limbs in the shell, the yogi withdraws the senses from the sense objects). They can start guessing at every stage of the drawing, but they have only one chance for each drawing. If you feel totally incompetent at drawing, have someone else draw.
Variation: you just read half the analogy and the players have to complete it. For instance: “…as the mighty wind, blowing everywhere, rests always in the sky…” (“…all created beings rest in Me”, says Sri Krishna in chapter 9, text 6).
Get 5-9 people in a circle and have them reach across and grab the hand of two other persons. They cannot grab their own hand, nor they can hold both hands of the same person. Then they have to untangle themselves without letting go.
Materials: paper, tape
Write different names on pieces of paper and tape onto each person's back. They should follow a theme, like personalities from the scriptures or contemporary devotees. Everyone has to go around asking yes or no questions to other people to find out what name is on their back.
Materials: big plastic bucket (possibly 20 liters or so, but smaller will also do)
This can be played in teams. Three, four or five players lay on their back with their feet up in the middle. Their feet will form a “table”, a platform for holding the bucket. Put the bucket (full of water!) on top of the "table". The players have to remove all their shoes (and/or their socks) without letting the bucket fall. If you play it in teams the teams that completes the operation in the least time wins. You can make it easier or harder by increasing or decreasing the amount of people or water.
Draw a long line on the floor (with chalk, yarn or tape, or use some existing dividing line or a carpet). One side will be the antaranga sakti (internal energy) the other side of the line will be bahiranga sakti (external energy). Line all people up on one side: they represent the tatashta sakti (marginal energy—which they are anyway). When they are on the bahiranga side and you call “Antaranga!” they will all jump from bahiranga to antaranga. When they are on antaranga and you call “Bahiranga!” they will all jump from antaranga to bahiranga. You might also call the name of the side they are already in, and in that case they don’t have to jump. The last to jump when they have to jump is out of the game. Also the first one who jumps when they don’t have to jump is out. The last remaining player wins. You will try to confuse them by pointing to the wrong side or by changing the pace of the yelling.
Materials: some solid prasadam (gulabjamuns or cookies; something that can be bitten) and blindfolds
You can introduce this game with the following words of Srila Prabhupada:
“You can understand God simply by service. There is no other way. And the faith begins from the tongue. You see? Therefore it is advised that you chant and take prasada. Then faith will come. Sevonmukhe hi jihvadau. It begins... The faith begins from the tongue. "Why?" People will be surprised. "Faith must begin from the mind, from the eyes, and why it is said tongue?" They do not know. That is also faith, that "Simply engaging tongue in the service of the Lord, I shall understand." So this is also blind faith. But actually it is happening. Chant Hare Krishna and take prasadam. That's all." (Morning Walk, San Francisco, 21 July 1975)
Several small teams (2-5 people per team) can play this game simultaneously. Prepare some prasadam in separate plates or bowls on a table, numbered or named for each team. Each team selects a volunteer who gets blindfolded. The blindfolded person must reach the prasadam and eat it, but without using his hands. The rest of the team will give directions, but can use only the holy names:
“Gauranga” for “go forward”
“Hare Krishna” for “go to the right”
“Hare Rama” for “go to the left”
“Haribol” for “stop”
“Sarira Avidya Jal” for “Eat, the prasadam is here.” (You might want to write this directions on a large board for everyone to see.)
Also they cannot touch the blindfolded person. The first one who finishes eating the prasadam wins.
Materials: many small pieces of paper and envelopes (one envelope for each participant)
The whole group sits in a circle. Give everyone an envelope and various pieces of paper (three, four or more). Tell them to write one compliment on each piece of paper, possibly in readable handwriting. For instance:
“You are a good listener.”
“You are very humble.”
“I like your sincerity.”
“The group meeting is more fun when you are here.”
“I like that you are soft-spoken.”
“You never loose temper.”
And so on.
After a few minutes tell them to put the pieces of paper in the center and mix them. Divide equally all the pieces of paper among the group members. Then tell them to write their name on the envelope they received at the beginning and put it in the center. Now ask them to put each of the compliments in their hands in the envelope of the person who deserves it. At the end they will all receive their envelope. Give them a couple of minutes to check what compliments they received.
Materials: small pieces of paper, blindfolds
Give everyone a small piece of paper with a number on. The numbers will be sequential: 1, 2, 3, 4 and so on, as many numbers as there are people playing. Nobody can tell, show or reveal the number. Then the players get blindfolded and have to form a single line in numerical order, with the number 1 in front. The only rule: no talking permitted. The players can clap their number with their hands, or they can tap others as many times as their number. For added difficulty you can set a time limit.
Balloon Dress Up
Materials: 2 sets of dresses, 2 large balloons
Get two volunteers (you can have more than two if you have enough set of clothes). The object of the game is to get fully dressed while keeping a balloon in the air at all times. Obviously the players must be already decently covered before they start putting on the extra clothes. Make sure that the two people have the same or at least very similar items of clothing (for instance: dhoti, kurtan, sweater, and socks). The winner is whoever dresses up completely without letting the balloon touch the ground.
Materials: little pieces of paper (drama costumes and accessories are not indispensable but would help)
Write everyone's names on separate pieces of paper and place them in a bag (or hat, or whatever). Beforehand you would have thought of different situations or lilas for the "actors" to play. Pick a scene or story and draw out as many names as actors needed (for instance: for the death of Hiranyakasipu you need at least three: Hiranyakasipu, Prahlada, and Nrisimhadeva). Each cast of actors could prepare their performances simultaneously and then present them one after another.
Getting in the Group at any Cost
This game helps to recognize that sometimes we tend to keep people out of our groups even without realizing it. Get a volunteer and have the rest of the group arranged in a circle, standing. In front of everyone tell the volunteer to do whatever it takes to get into the group. Remember that you must not tell the group to try keep the volunteer out. The volunteer can jump over, push or whatever it takes. At the ‘go” he/she starts to try to get into the group. After a few minutes or after the volunteer succeed in penetrating the group ask him/her: "What did you have to do to get into your group?" "How did you feel about trying to get into the group?' After listening carefully to the answers tell the group: "I told the volunteer to do whatever it took to get into the group, but I never told you to keep him/her out!" They might suddenly realize that this is true.
Materials: lots of drinking straws, rolls of tape
Form two or more teams of 5-7 players each. Give each team the same number of drinking straws (thin, hollow plastic tubes used for sucking up liquids), 50 or 100 will do, and one or two small rolls of sticky tape. The team building the tallest self-supporting structure wins. Give them 10 or 15 minutes to complete the task.
This exercise manifests different teamwork dynamics: who are the leaders, who are the followers, etc.
How Many Are There?
Fill a bowl with peanuts, almonds, small sweets or whatever. Whoever guesses the exact number or gets closest wins.
Materials: enough small pieces of paper (the number of participants multiplied by itself)
This is for groups in which everyone is familiar with email. This activity offers the opportunity to give positive feedback to each other. The group sits in a circle and you ask everyone to write an email address for each of the other players. The addresses should have some warmth and personality, reflecting only the most positive aspects of the person's style, character, role, skills or experience. After writing all the addresses each player get all the addresses written for him/her.
Being Part of the Group
Materials: short messages written on pieces of paper (one for each participant)
The goal if this game is to provide a vivid demonstration of the satisfaction of being included in a group, and the uneasiness of being excluded. You will arrange that everyone will join in smaller groups, besides one who will be left out (in larger groups you can leave out even two or three people). Prepare in advance a series of short messages (for instance: “Chant Hare Krishna and be happy.” “Books are the basis.” or whatever) and make 5 copies of each (If your group is small you can make only 3 or 4 copies of each message). Write also one different message, but don’t make any copy of it. Have people pick up the messages (the pieces of paper could be folded) from a hat or box, one to each person. Then have them read the message (silently, not loudly) and circulate around the room, introduce themselves, and repeat the messages (softly). Once they find someone with the same message they should stay together. Tell them to continue this search until they all find their companions. Tell them that after forming their groups each should tell something confidential about himself/herself. When all but the loner are in their groups, wait for a couple of minutes and lead everyone in the following debriefing of the experience:
1. How does it feel to not be accepted into a group? Does this ever happen to you in real life? How does it feel?
2. How did it feel when you found someone with the same message?
3. Why didn't those persons already in a group reach out to the excluded persons?
4. What can we do to include others?
5. What lessons about team-building can we draw from this experience?
The Color of Influence
Materials: a set of four small pieces of paper with four different colors for each participant (generally red, green, blue and yellow), two envelopes for each participant (one with the colored papers, and one labeled “Response”), a couple of large pieces of paper (or board)
This activity helps in identifying the degree of influence the group members feel they have within the team. It also helps to clarify perceptions of influence. Give two envelopes to each participant (one with the four colors and one labeled “Response”). Explain that in one envelope they will find four colors: red, green, blue and yellow. Ask them to consider to what degree they feel they have influence within the group and then select a color according to the following scheme (which you will have written on a large piece of paper or a board):
· Green - I have quite a bit of influence
· Blue - I have little influence
· Yellow - I have no influence
Ensure that people sit far enough apart to be able to select a color privately and explain that their selection is anonymous. Give them enough time to seriously consider their response and then ask them to put the color they choose into the envelope labeled "Response". Collect the “Response” envelopes. Ask the participants what they considered when determining their degree of influence. You can also record the responses on a board or flipchart. Common responses are: “Whether my opinion is asked.” “Whether my ideas are listened to.” “Whether outcomes are influenced by my input.”
Stick the colors to a board or flipchart sheet, putting same colors close together. Describe the pattern suggested, for instance, “Most people feel they have a good deal of influence but a few feel they have little influence.” You can also discuss the results asking different questions, for instance: “How does this affect the group?” “Does this pattern and/or discussion suggest that we should be doing something differently?”
One Problem, Many Solutions
Everyone sits in a circle, with pen and paper (to make the activity quicker form sub-groups of 6-8 people each). Ask them to think of a current problem, concern, perplexity or challenge they face and write it down. Tell them to be specific (don’t write “health problems”, but “constant headache prevents me from concentrating”). Allow one or two minutes to think and write, then ask them to pass their problem to the right. That person reads the problem just received and jots down the first thought or thoughts that come to mind in addressing that problem. Allow one minute for writing the solution. Repeat this process every minute, and keep it going until everyone gets his/her own sheet back. If time allows, you can briefly discuss the experience:
1. Did anyone discover solutions or ideas not previously considered?
2. Can you see any value in trying some of these suggestions?
3. Do some of these suggestions trigger other ideas or solutions for you?
4. What lesson does this teach us about reaching out to others for their assistance?
Everyone sits in a circle, with pen and paper. Ask them to think of a current problem, concern, perplexity or challenge they face and write it down. Tell them to be specific (don’t just write “envy”, but “I feel bitter because a Godbrother is being more successful then me in his devotional service."). Allow a minute or so to think and write (without putting their name), then ask them to fold their paper and place it in the container in the center of the circle. Pick one piece of paper and read the contents, which remain anonymous. The rest of the group will offer some words of advice and encouragement to whoever wrote, even though they don't know who that is. Pick as many pieces of paper as time allows.
Divide the group into team of three to six members. Every team selects one event form the scriptures of from the Vaisnava tradition in general and pantomimes for the rest of the group. The watchers try to identify the scene or story being enacted.
Variation: episodes from the scriptures are written on slips of paper and then drawn from a box for performance.
Who Am I?
One volunteer picks a personality from the scriptures (without telling who that is). The rest of the group has to discover who is that personality by asking questions, but only "yes or no" questions: "Are you a man?" "Are you in Lord Caitanya's lila?" "Are you alive?" "Are you a demon?" "Are you in the Ramayana?" and so on. You can give a time limit, for instance three minutes. Whoever identifies the personality wins. If the personality is not discovered within the time limit, the volunteer wins.