Team Building Activities for Juvenile Delinquents

Dealing with juvenile delinquents is a full-time job for professionals with advanced education. There are physical, legal and emotional risks involved with starting any program for troubled youth. With that warning in mind, juvenile delinquents are often deficient in trust, communication and personal responsibility. Team-building activities can often help develop all three of these traits. The following four team activities are ideal for team building, whether you’re dealing with troubled youth or a Fortune 500 boardroom.

Trust Fall

The exercise is simple. One person faces away from the team. With eyes closed and arms crossed “mummy style,” that person falls backward with legs locked. The rest of the team catches the falling teammate.

This builds trust, each and every time a faller is caught. Likewise, the catchers are all responsible for their part in catching the faller. In most exercises, a rigid, codified set of commands makes certain everyone is ready, thus building communication. Though it seems risky, it’s surprising how seriously even troubled catchers take their responsibility.

Variants on this task include one-on-one trust falls, falling off a chair or other elevated position or falling into a blanket or net held by the catchers. Safety issues include making sure catchers are ready for larger or heavier fallers, positioning leaders in key spots and being certain catchers are paying attention.

Group Problem Solving

Present the group with a problem to solve. This can be physical (hold hands in a tangled group and untangle yourselves without letting go), purely mental (use these resources to plan a trip to China) or a combination of both. In many cases, strict ground rules for communication and resolving disputes are necessary for beginning groups.

As the group works to solve the problem, they build trust as their ideas are accepted and responsibility as they help each other improve their ideas. By working within an agreed-upon framework for respectful communication, they gain experience with those skills.

There are few physical risks for this sort of activity, though a sharp eye is necessary to enforce the rules of communication. Without guidance, old patterns of communication can quickly take over the activity.

Ropes Course

A ropes course is a series of physical challenges, much like an obstacle course, that cannot be completed without the help of a team. In some cases, the challenge itself is based on the existence of a team. Sample activities include getting the entire team standing together on a 1-by-1-foot platform or lifting all team members through a hoop 8 feet off the ground.

Ropes courses combine the physical trust and responsibility of trust falls with the communication and trust of problem solving. Most metro areas will be within driving distance of a facility equipped with a ropes course. Ropes courses require a trained and certified guide, who will know all the risks and cautions of using the course.


Writing and performing in a skit or play is an excellent team-building exercise. Each stage requires communication, planning and problem solving. Depending on how ambitious the production is, it can offer a showcase for skills and talents such as painting, sewing or carpentry. The performance itself requires trust in team mates and responsibility for personal assignments.

As with group problem-solving, ground rules are often necessary to keep communication and negotiation appropriate, especially in the beginning weeks. Keeping your on-stage drama free of off-stage drama is difficult, but can be worth it.

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