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River Crossing

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20 - 30 Medium

The river crossing game is one of many simple games that gives your group the chance to sharpen their problem-solving skills while having a bit of fun. Participants need to cross an imaginary river as a team and they need to get all members of the group safely there.



Practice teamwork and communication skills, trying to break the ice with a new group of corporate team members or get an established group to shake things up a bit.




    Set Up

    Create a river by marking two river banks with the rope. Make the river wide enough to be a challenge for the group to get from one side to the other (look at about 15 – 25 ft.). Distribute the cardboard squares – 1 piece for every 2 people.


    The object of the activity is to get all members of the group safely across the river. They must go as one big group, not multiple smaller ones. Also stress that everyone must be on the river before anyone can get off the river, forcing the entire group to be engaged at once. Participants cannot touch the water (floor/grass) and therefore must use rafts (cardboard squares) to cross. The water is filled with piranhas. Therefore if someone loses their balance and touches a hand in the water it gets eaten(put behind the back). Same goes for a foot. If a person completely comes off the raft they are gone and since this is a team exercise everyone must start over. I recommend using this motto with the group, "start as a team end as a team." 

    You can also be creative and add challenges in as the group crosses. For instance you can say a fish jumped up and tail slapped someone in the eyes so now they cannot see(blindfolded). Tell them the river is acidic and when two people share a raft it tipped and now their legs are fused together(tie ankles together). Use these tools to help take away the natural leaders or more outspoken participants and it forces the others to step up and take on more substantial roles. No scooting or sliding on the squares. This can be a safety issue and it emphasizes individual work versus teamwork. Rafts must be in contact with a human at all times or they will be swept away with the current. 

    Once the group has started the process, your role is to take cardboard squares that are “swept away by the current” and to watch for safety issues. Use this to your advantage as well. The participants will invariably slip up and leave some rafts here or there with no one contacting them, those you should steal. When the first group members get to the other side immediately start to encourage them to hurry and get off the river. 

    Nearly every time the first few people will rush off the rafts leaving them unattended for you to steal and stranding some of their team-mates. Work this into your debrief, when working with a team you can't forget about your mates. just because you have made it to the finish line someone else may not have.


    • Participants must stay in constant contact
    • Each raft represents a symbol named by participants
    • River Sections
    • The tiles can only go forward. They cannot move backwards
    • No one can finish until everyone has left the “bank” of the river
    • Choose to add challenges like muting individuals, using only 1 arm, eyes closed/blindfolded, no one can talk, others can be "gators" in the river and try to impede those crossing the river, stand in front of the group with arms outstretched to simulate tree they must go around.
    • Give group an object that they need to carry with them to safety and discuss what that might represent
    • Create situations for them to draw from that are connected directly to their group

    Debriefing Questions

    • What happened during the process? What worked? What didn’t or what hindered the process?
    • What leadership was demonstrated during the process? How so? What did you observe?
    • What were the individual roles people played? Were members comfortable with their roles?
    • Who knew what the process for crossing was? Who didn’t? How did you communicate the plans to group members?
    • What might the different aspects of the exercise represent in your group: the squares, the river, the loss of squares, the facilitator, etc?
    • When the first people rushed off the river and stranded some of you how did that feel?


    Source: Teampedia

    Comments (2) (4.0 avg / 1 ratings)

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    • Hi Rozemarijn! I haven't run this one myself but I think yours is an interesting question: what are the most successful ways to cross the river? Based on other similar teambuilding games, I'd assume it requires participants to get organised and coordinate their acting as a group, rather than acting every single person in their own interest. I guess they need to build the first section of the raft, as small as possible, and cram all the people on it (NOT during a global pandemic!!) while carrying the other pieces with them, then build an extra part of the raft in front of the group, move to that one while picking up the pieces behind them ( so they do not get "swept away" by the current---aka picked up by tricky facilitators) and continue building and moving across. I would also guess there are other ways of doing it, and that true "success" is in the experience and the debrief that comes after that. Does that make sense to you? Have others tried and have stories to add?

      2 months ago
    • Great exercise, but I'm wondering what the solution is? what is the successful way to cross the river? thanks!

      2 months ago