Need ideas for competitive teen events at church conference
July 8, 2019 10:50 AM   Subscribe

I have to plan about 12 hours of fun competitive games for some pre-teens and teens at a church conference while the adults are being churchy. I am fairly resource constrained and bound by expectations of, well, parents at a church conference. I want the kids to have fun. I don't want to get sued. But I want to come up with stuff that they might not have experienced before. (Requirements below the fold.)

I have four three hour segments over a couple of days to fill with activities. For most of that time I'm planning a "Survivor" style competition where they can compete in a variety of events that will take them out of their comfort zones in a safe, non-parent-alarming way. We'll have a leader board and and awards ceremony at the end.

The two ideas I have so far:
Noodle Jousting -- Everyone simultaneously uses pool noodles to knock hats from others' heads while retaining their own hats
Cheese Ball Face -- Contest to see who can attach the greatest number of cheese balls to their face using shaving cream

I need other ideas. Constraints, guidelines I'm trying to work within:
- The conference theme for the kids is being brave, trying things new to you, risking looking foolish to accomplish goals
- Kind of a skimpy budget, so I need to use cheaper, quotidian materials.
- Needs to be something 15 or so teens could do in 30 minutes or less
- Best if the winners could be objectively determined (e.g. no judging "best" anything)
- Age range is 12-17
- I'll have just one other "counselor" besides myself
- We'll be in a community room. So I don't have a gymnasium's worth of space indoors
- It's a damn hot July in Texas, so I need some stuff I can do indoors
- We can make some mess, but only messes that can be easily cleaned up.
- Must be safe (e.g. not "Chubby Bunny")
- Bonus for events with Instagrammable results (like a face full of cheeseballs) because I hear teens are into that
posted by cross_impact to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Around Christmas last year, @Adriyoung's family's competitive-white-elephant went viral, and there are LOADS of absurd, foolish games on display. They are hecking instagrammable, not messy, work for different ages/skill levels, and look like they cost a total of about $5 to set up.
posted by bcwinters at 10:58 AM on July 8, 2019 [7 favorites]

Check out theatre games -- many of them are specifically designed to (safely) teach risk-taking and encourage folks to get a bit silly.

Zip Zap Boing is very fun, and can be played as an elimination game (anyone who makes a mistake or falls out of rhythm is eliminated -- last one standing wins). Everyone stands in a circle; one person at a time yells a word (Zip, Zap, or Zop, in that order) and points to anyone else, who has to say the next word in rhythm, and point to the next person. At any time, someone may choose to say "Boing", which bounces it back to the person who sent it to them. Start slow and speed up as you go!

Clap Snap Stomp, Alphabet Game, Round of Applause, Stop Go Jump, New York New York, and other games can also be played as competitions. Here are a couple of lists of theatre games. They can be a lot of fun even if not every one is done competitively!
posted by ourobouros at 11:15 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

A quick comment: noodle jousting needs straps/goggles for keeping eyeglasses on faces unless you're sure nobody wears them.
posted by teremala at 11:18 AM on July 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

Minute to Win It games are awesome for this kind of thing. Make sure to give teams practice time (10 min. or so) before the competition starts - it really enhances the competitive element.

Also, if you're doing Survivor-style events, you might consider giving each team a fabric arm/leg/head band. I planned an event like this many years ago and there are still folks who have their "team colors" that I bought on sale at JoAnn Fabrics.
posted by WaspEnterprises at 11:27 AM on July 8, 2019 [7 favorites]

Minute to win it games are also everywhere online and usually don’t involve too much stuff. Just in case that helps with searching!
posted by itsamermaid at 11:27 AM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Lift It - Link is to an existing game, but you can probably make your own version. 2-3 players per team all wear headbands with a longish dangling hook attached. Teams compete against each other to collectively lift items and stack them into designated tower shapes. So much fun to play and to watch

Memorize a silly or tongue-twisting poem like To Sit In Solemn Silence - but you have to get it word perfect to pass.

Added Complication to the above: One person has the written poem, the other must memorize it without seeing it. Extra Added Complication: While standing on a balance board.

The Blind Leading The Lego - Get small (30-50-piece) Lego sets or other building toys (or IKEA furniture). One player gets the instructions - they are the caller. The other one(s) must build the set perfectly WITHOUT ever looking at the instructions or talking.
posted by Mchelly at 11:49 AM on July 8, 2019

I chaperoned my daughter's chorus retreat this year, and they did a bunch of Minute To Win It type games.

Big Hits:
Flip Cup - 6 full cups of water, drink each cup, then set it upside-down on edge of table with a little bit hanging off. Flip it with a finger so that it lands right-side-up. Move to next cup.
Can Plate Stack - place one empty soda can on the ground, put a paper plate on top. Balance two empty cans on the plate, add another plate, now do three cans, etc up to five cans and a final plate.
Cookie Face - Put a cookie on your forehead. Get it into you mouth using just facial muscles.
Sort M&Ms - Starting with a mixed pile of M&Ms, sort them by color into cups using a straw (suck on the straw and get an M&M to stick, move it to cup, release suction).
Chapstick Chopstick - Using chopsticks, stack three Chapsticks into a tower.

Ideally, you divide into teams and then have four or five teams all competing at the same time, but you could do it individually as well.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:18 PM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Would improv games be appropriate?

We like the one with hats: you play in pairs of 2 performing in front of the rest, both of you are wearing hats. The object of the game to is grab the other person's hat - BUT - you can't just grab or wrestle for it. You have to improv your way into getting closer to them and/or convincing them should give you your hat, and they have to keep away from you - like you start off playing that you are a maitre d' in a restaurant, asking for their hat & coat, and they play that they are too cold to give up their hat. The winner is the first person to get the other person's hat without breaking character. All the other usual improv rules (can't contradict, etc.) apply.

There are many others, of course, this is just the one I remember.
posted by jb at 12:20 PM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

I'm probably biased, but engineering challenges were always my favorites as a kid. For example:
- Build a boat out of a single sheet of wax paper or tin foil (along with tape and scissors) and see who's boat will hold the most pennies before sinking in water.
- Using some random objects (string, paper drinking cups, paperclips, tape, etc.) figure out how to transport a water balloon (or ball, if you don't want to risk water) from one side of the room to the other without anyone touching it or moving their feet after starting.
- Paper airplane distance contest.
- Built the tallest free-standing structure using only a single newspaper.

Blindfolds are also fun: walk the straightest line, or assemble a puzzle based on the instructions shouted by your peers, or guess what an unusual object is based on touch.
posted by eotvos at 12:26 PM on July 8, 2019

If they’ll be in teams the whole time consider doing some sort of team building activities as part of each segment that aren’t necessarily winning focused (but can be!). You could do something like having to make a team flag. Odyssey of the minds also provides some good activities!
posted by raccoon409 at 1:21 PM on July 8, 2019 [3 favorites]

There's some fun cooperation/teambuilding games with a low budget I like:

All Aboard! (Seeing how many people you can get on a flipped-over milk crate.)

Ants on a Log: Everyone lines up on a curb or bench, and you try to reverse order without falling off.

There's lots of ideas on both those sites, and also here from the State of Michigan: (Word doc direct download)
posted by ApathyGirl at 1:27 PM on July 8, 2019

You might want to look up STEM Challenges. There are ones out there that use everyday objects like cardboard, plastic cup, paper clips, straws, etc.

I did a STEM training where we had to build the tallest tower using cardboard and plastic cups. Then we had to do the same thing, but make a tower that could resist a hurricane (the fan).

PM if you want to see some pictures.
posted by kathrynm at 4:29 PM on July 8, 2019

Think about what this experience will be like for the teen who is socially or physically awkward and try to have some options that make this not-too-horrible for them.
One thought is to have a list of games and let teams rotate who competes as long as everyone competes at least x%. This encourage people to think about what they are good at and trade off a bit without entirely avoiding the event. (I know you want them to be brave and try new things but you also don't want to push them too hard.)

Thowing some STEM challenges or paper and pencil quizzes into the mix might help bring out other skills.

Another thought is to occasionally award points for really random things like who ever is closest to this chair when the bell rings or whoever has the birthdate (month/year) closest to this random number.
I'm sure other metafolks will have better ideas.

Also both Odessey of the Mind and Destination Imagination used offer lots of ideas for quick challenges that encourage creativity. Not sure what is publicly available any more, but worth checking out. (And designed to be done in a classroom setting so low budget, low or contained mess.)
posted by metahawk at 5:02 PM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

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