Trust-Building Games for Children

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Trust between the individual members of a classroom can affect how the learning community functions as a whole. Whether it's the beginning of the school year or the class just isn't getting along, trust-building games can help children to feel more comfortable with each other. Games that encourage children to rely on each other, or a teacher, breed a sense of mutual understanding and can boost communication skills.

1 The Trust Fall

Image of children's hands in the middle.
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A trust fall game puts the group in charge of one individual's safety. In this traditional trust-building activity, one child falls backward into the waiting hands of the others. The child who is falling must trust the others to catch him. Have the students stand as close as they can to the person falling. Put a padded gym mat under the children for added safety. Have the person falling say something such as, "I trust my friends to catch me" or, "I trust that my class won't let me fall." The other children must answer back, "We will catch you" or, "You can trust in us." before the student leans back and falls.

2 Obstacle Course Lead

A boy is completing an obstacle course.
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Set up an obstacle course that requires one child to lead the other child through to the end. This game is sometimes called "minefield." Leading one another through an obstacle course requires children to use their communication skills to develop a sense of trust. While simply dragging a classmate through the course doesn't seem to do much, blindfolding one of the children takes the game to a more trusting level. Set up orange construction cones, chairs, desks and other obstacles for the children to move around. Pair the students. Blindfold one and have the other student act as the speaker. The speaker must use her words to guide the blindfolded student through the course. The student in the blindfold must trust the speaker to get her through the course without running into anything.

3 Collision Course Move Away

Young kids are lined up to run on a track.
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Have the children stand in a straight line, all facing in the same direction. Pick one student to be the runner. The runner must stand a few feet in front of the line, facing the rest of the class. He must indicate that he is about to go by saying something such as, "I am going to run now. I trust my friends to move away." The class answers back in unison, "You can trust us." As he runs, the students must move out of the way to avoid a collision. The runner must trust that the students will move. He should slow down or stop as needed until he has moved past the entire line. This shows that he trusts his class to keep him physically safe. Play this game outdoors in an open space. Ensure that there are no safety hazards such as playground equipment or other obstacles nearby.

4 Show-and-Tell Swap

A young girl is presenting her stuffed animal.
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Children can develop a sense of trust for their classmates by taking care of something that is special to them. This provides the building blocks for a deeper, more caring relationship. Ask each child to bring in a meaningful show-and-tell item. For example, a child might bring in her favorite stuffed teddy bear. Pair the children. Have them swap show-and-tell items. Each child must care for her partner's item for the entire school day. If the children constantly check in on the items or show any other signs of mistrust, they lose the game. They win if they can make it through the day trusting their partners to demonstrate responsible behavior.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.