I am trying to develop a list of physical teamwork puzzles for 11-16 year olds at camp. When I was a kid at camp, we sometimes had to solve puzzles that depended on equally team work, fitness and critical thinking. The one I remember most clearly went like this:

Position yourselves such that no member of the team is touching the ground with any part of their body other than his/her hands. To complete this challenge, you must be able to sustain the position for at least 30 seconds. You may not use any equipment.

For which the solution was to form a circle of bodies lying down in a push-up positions but with your feet resting on the shoulders of the person behind you. Then, in unison, everyone pushes themselves up and holds the position. Points were awarded for figuring out the solution, for distributing team members such that the strongest teammates were lifting the heaviest teammates and for how long the position was held.

I remember that there were other similar challenges involving crossing an imaginary river (the shores of which were marked with cones or ropes) with rules something along the lines of:

You must cross the river without touching it (the current is too strong). Boards and poles are available to help you cross. Boards can be walked across as long as they are in direct contact with the shore and there is a teammate on the the shore to hold it steady; unfortunately none are long enough to span the river so you will have to jump across a sizeable gap. Players who cannot jump across the gap must use a pole to cross. Poles cannot serve as a footbridge. The pole can either be use pole-vault style or teammates on opposite shores can hold it to across the river to form a bridge that teammates can cross hand-over-hand

The ideal such challenge is an interesting puzzle with a clever solution or multiple solutions that favor different types of team make up (Example: in the river challenge, the pole can only be used as a bridge if teammates on the shore are physically strong enough to support their lighter teammate).

If you know any such challenges or any online resources where I might find a bunch of them that would make for a helpful answer.

  • $\begingroup$ If you move a bit out of the realm of 'puzzles' and more towards the realm of 'board games' you can find a lot of team-effort based strategy games where the whole group plays "against the game". f.e. "Pandemic" is a game where all together fight worldwide illnesses. (Oups, I've not seen the 'physical' in your title. Ignore suggestions then...) $\endgroup$ – BmyGuest Mar 21 '16 at 17:15

A few (though fairly easy ones) we've used:

Let the entire team pass through an A4 sheet of paper.

Obviously, you cut/tear the sheet in a 'snake'-like pattern, just being carefull not to destroy the continious outline. If carefull enough with scissors, you can make an opening big enough for a car.

Boards and tiles - river crossing

the 'river' is the ground, and a few standard 30x30cm tiles make for the load bearing endpoints where you can rest a few wooden planks (30cm wide) on top of. With various lengths of boards, and varied spacing between them, you can create a grid puzzle in which it's difficult, but not impossible to have the entire team cross the river. Needless to say, proper teamwork is tested when paths don't reach from one side to another, but require the entire team to be midway, on the boards, passing down planks while on a somewhat crowded plankway...

The circle sitdown

While in theory very easy, not so easy to pull off in reality. Have a sufficient amount of people queue up, but make it form a circle. Then have everyone sit on the lap of the person behind them. You'll find out timing matters. For increased difficulty, reduce the number of people in the circle.


Here are a few I've experienced in the past:


Crisscross string or thin rope between two trees/poles to create a "spiderweb" pattern with various hole of different sizes, some near the ground and some higher up.

The challenge
The entire team must pass through the spiderweb without touching it, but each hole may only be traversed by a single person.

Generally there will be a few large holes that are easy to get through, but if they don't plan ahead the last person/people will be stuck trying to get through a small hole near the top.

If anyone touches the rope at any point, everyone must return to the beginning and start over.

Ways to modify for difficulty/number of people

  • Allow certain holes to be used more than once, or allow a certain number of "repeats" (not assigned to a specific hole)
  • Give them a pair of scissors that they can use a set number of times to cut individual strands
  • Have some bits of rope that are easily removed so that you can make more/bigger holes if they're struggling too much

Poison Yogurt

Hang a small pail of water/sand/whatever with a handle on it from a tree or pole, at a little above head height (about 2m (6.5')). Draw a circle around the tree with a radius of about two metres (6.5 feet). Provide a stick about 1.5 metres (5 feet) long.

The challenge
The team has all been fed poison yogurt, and the only antidote is hanging on the tree. They must retrieve the antidote, but inside the circle is boiling lava, which will vapourize them instantly if they touch it (everyone must start over).

Ways to modify for difficulty/number of people

  • Make the circle bigger/smaller (note that if the circle gets too big, the task will become virtually impossible)
  • Make the stick longer/shorter
  • Make a "rock outcrop" in the lava, which is a small mat/board just big enough for a single person to stand on. Don't make it too close to the antidote, or it will be too easy to retrieve.

Troll Bridge

Draw a starting line and an ending line, about 4-5 metres (13-16 feet) apart, parallel to each other.

The challenge
The space between the two lines is a troll bridge. The group needs to cross the bridge, but the troll has declared that no more than $x$ individual body parts (hand, foot, knee, elbow, etc.) may touch the bridge. Any more than that, and he will eat everyone (they will have to start over). $x$ should be less than the number of people (otherwise they can all just hop across on one foot). A good rule of thumb is to allow about $\frac34$ as many limbs as there are people.

Ways to modify for difficulty/number of people

  • Modify the number of body parts allowed. Note that, especially for smaller groups, a change of even 1 can make a significant difference.
  • Change the distance between the ends of the bridge.
  • Specify which body parts are allowed (e.g. 3 feet, one hand, and one knee)

Ice Floe

Find a stump, crate, or sturdy box that can support the weight of several people and is not too large.

The challenge
The team has been stranded on an ice floe that is rapidly shrinking. They must support their entire team on top of the stump without anyone touching the ground, for 10 seconds.

Ways to modify for difficulty/number of people

  • Use a larger/smaller stump/crate/etc.
  • Change the time period they must remain aloft. Often a team will find an unstable configuration that they can hold for 3 or 4 seconds before they collapse.
  • If there are too many people, allow a single foot (or hand or finger, etc.) to be on the ground.

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