5 Trust-Building Exercises for Children, Teens, and Adults

Trust-building exercises improve individual and group performance. In this very interesting article, we’ll share five.
5 Trust-Building Exercises for Children, Teens, and Adults
Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales

Written and verified by the psychologist Maria Fatima Seppi Vinuales.

Last update: 27 May, 2022

Self-confidence is an extremely important aspect of our mental health. Without it, you may feel on edge in new or group settings. Therefore, trust-building exercises should be considered in group settings, as feeling comfortable with other people is crucial.

Trust not only allows you to create pleasant and safe spaces, but also facilitates personal interactions. To understand its importance, think about how you feel and the physical manifestations you experience when you’re in an unfamiliar environment.

Surely the image that comes to mind is that of a tense body and a worried mind. Now think about how that changes when you’re at a place or with a person that you feel you know. You probably feel completely different!

However, trust isn’t built from one day to the next, as it requires time and gradual approaches. For this purpose, trust-building exercises can serve as a good starting point.

Trust-building exercises for all ages

Trust-building exercises can be done with children, teens, and adults since they have a playful component that could be entertaining for anyone.

A moderator must be present in all of them. They’ll mostly focus on giving instructions to those who are participating and make sure that everything goes as planned. Therefore, they must pay attention, be a role model with their attitude, and remember that other social-emotional skills are also being worked on.

A group of friends laughing.

1. The trust fall

A great trust-building exercise to boost trust between the members of a group is the trust fall. To start the activity, the group must divide itself into pairs in a big space. No other types of materials are required.

The game moderator must make sure that the partners are mismatched, meaning that they don’t share similar physical or bodily characteristics.

The partners should face each other, with the tips of their feet touching. They should also hold hands.

Once they’re all in this position, the moderator should give a signal and the pairs will begin to throw themselves backward, as if they were going to fall, but protected by their partner.

The first reactions will probably be insecurity and some fear, but then all the group members will feel more relaxed. At that time, the moderator can make the exercise more difficult by indicating some extra movements.

The activity can end after an allotted time or after the additional challenges the moderator proposes.

2. The wind and the tree

This trust-building exercise is an adaptation of the previous one. A bandana or blindfold is required and the ideal location is a wide-open space.

The participants should stand in a circle. A single volunteer should stand in the middle, wearing the blindfold. They should relax their body.

When the moderator gives the order, the rest of the group will begin to push and move the person in the middle from one side to the other, as if they were passing them around. After a couple of movements, another volunteer can take their place in the middle of the circle.

The duration depends on whether everyone wants to be in the middle or not. Otherwise, the exercise can take between 15 to 20 minutes.

Read on to learn more: What to Do When You Have Trust Issues

3. The trust walk

This trust-building exercise can be done in pairs in an open space. You have to place irregularly shaped objects all around the open space, marking a starting point and a finish line.

One of the partners must be blindfolded, while the other will be the one to guide them with directions so that they can safely reach the end of the course.

Whoever is blindfolded will receive instructions such as “Walk to the right”, “Jump the hoop”, and “Take two steps to the left”, depending on how the objects were arranged. You can use rings, cones, and ropes.

The estimated time of the activity depends on the design of the course. Each partner must take turns playing the roles. It doesn’t matter how long it takes to complete the journey. The important thing is arriving safely and feeling confident moving forward.

Each of the proposed dynamics reinforces group trust. The only way to reach the finish line is by cooperating, meaning this exercise allows people to understand the importance of teamwork.

4. Fan of praise

Self-confidence can be worked on to instill the value of personal positive aspects. This activity requires a minimum of six participants in a wide space so that they can stand around in a circle.

It’s a dynamic that requires prior knowledge of the group. The group will need pieces of paper and pens or pencils.

For starters, each participant has to have their own piece of paper and pen or pencil. The moderator will ask them to write their name down. When they finish, the moderator will give them the signal to pass down the paper to the person to their left.

The moderator will indicate that each person should write something positive or something they like about the name written on the paper, clarifying that mean or inopportune comments aren’t allowed.

When all the participants finish writing something about each of the group members, the moderator will start reading the paper or ask a volunteer to do so. If the participants accept, they can delve deeper and write more about each person.

Therefore, this exercise aims to improve self-confidence and self-esteem based on what others see in you.

Another way to do the exercise is to place the papers in a box and have each person draw one. After that, the roles begin to be exchanged.

A group of coworkers playing a game.
Work environments benefit from trust-building exercises, as they help create more productive work teams.

5. Tell me what you’re drawing

The last trust-building exercise consists of separating the group into pairs and giving each pair a piece of paper and a pencil. One of the partners should start by drawing a picture, making sure that their partner doesn’t see it. They’ll have a few minutes to draw the picture.

When everyone finishes, the moderator will give the signal, and the person who made the drawing should give their partner clues to help them replicate it. As it consists of giving different explanations, this game allows people to develop and boost expression and communication skills.

The game ends once the other partner made the replicated drawing.

Sharing emotions, one of the goals of trust-building exercises

After children, teens, or adults finish doing these exercises, they need to assess what they felt, what they liked the most, and what they didn’t like that much. This allows them to express and manage their emotions.

The moderator will be the one who invites the participants to form a circle and share their experiences. Also, it’s very important to contextualize the activities and to become aware of the importance of trust and good interpersonal relationships in groups.

This helps create a climate in which everyone feels safe to share their own experiences and fosters respect.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Yáñez Gallardo, Rodrigo, Luis Ahumada Figueroa, and Félix Cova Solar. “Confianza y desconfianza: dos factores necesarios para el desarrollo de la confianza social.” Universitas Psychologica 5.1 (2006): 9-20.
  • Valdés, Nelson, et al. “Proceso de cambio psicoterapéutico: análisis de episodios relevantes en una terapia grupal con pacientes adictos.” Psykhe (Santiago) 14.2 (2005): 3-18.
  • Avalos, Santiago Maximiliano Troncoso, César Jesús Burgos Dávila, and Jeanette Magnolia López-Walle. “Climas motivacionales, liderazgo y cohesión grupal en contexto deportivo universitario.” Educación Física y Ciencia 17.1 (2015): 1-12.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.