When planning small groups once I have determined my goals, the competencies the students in the particular group need to practice, and key concepts to cover I begin selecting materials and activities that will engage the members. I like to use props and a fun activity to introduce important topics. I use a variety of props but some of the ones I use frequently are koosh balls, cotton balls, straws, balloons, bean bags, and hula hoops. I never just do an activity because it is fun, I tie it to a specific outcome or competency so when it is complete there is something to process. In this post I am sharing 3 of my favorite cotton ball activities.
Supplies: Cotton balls, drinking straws, space (a big table or the floor)
Self-regulation: This game demonstrates that breathing takes practice, controlled breathing, and focus. Students get into partners standing a good arm’s length apart. Students begin by blowing the cotton ball at their partner. The goal is to hit their partner with the cotton ball using only their breath. When done, students stand with their feet apart. They then take turns trying to score a goal by blowing the cotton ball through their partner’s feet. Finally, each individual student places their cotton ball on the palm of their hand. Their challenge is to slowly blow the cotton ball to the tip of their index finger without blowing it off the hand. (I learned this one at the training I attended last summer for the MindUp curriculum.)
Cooperation: Partners sit with straws in mouths. Directions: Fist person picks up a cotton ball by sucking the straw. Then pass the ball to partner’s straw without letting it drop. Second person can then let the cotton balls drop in the bowl. Winning team gets most cotton balls into bowl using only the straws.
Problem Solving: 1. Set a Starting Line and a Finish Line (10 to 15 feet apart.) 2. Give each player a drinking straw and a cotton ball. 3. Let them know they must move their cotton ball from the Starting Line to the Finish Line using only the straw. 4. Tip - Don't tell them how to use it. They can use it like a hockey stick or use it as a straw and blow the cotton ball.5. The 1st person to get their cotton ball across the finish line wins.
I always down play winning and talk about the importance of team work and sportsmanship. Children love activities. When they come into my office someone in almost every group asks, "Are we going to do an activity today?" It is worth the time to look for activities that help teach the concepts and skills you want members to acquire as the result of being in a group. If you have a great activity with a prop please add to comments below.