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How ‘Peanut Butter Swamp’ brings girls together

Trying to find an activity that can bring kids together and help them to learn team work and communication skills can be hard. Some teachers or group leaders may think it is necessary to go to a place that specializes in “Team Building”. With my girls, I like to play Peanut Butter Swamp.  This activity is great for all ages.  For the younger girls, I find that it helps them with focusing and working on processing items step by step. For older girls, middle school and up, this is a great way to help break the barriers of cliques within the groups.

The goal of the game is to get everyone in the group from one side of the room to the other without talking. The game can vary in difficulty based on how old the group is, and by how much they need to work together. By taking away verbal communication, game participants have to learn to not only pay attention to what they are doing but also see how others are working together. This activity is a great way to see who has leadership skills, or who has leadership potential but is not sure of his/her own ability.

I decided to play this game with a group of girls who weren’t always enthusiastic about the activities we planned. At first, I wasn’t sure how they would react to Peanut Butter Swamp. When they first tried the game, they weren’t playing together as a team.  After a few tries, I started to see them working together. Prior to starting a new game, they started talking about how to try things differently before they began and weren’t allowed to talk. Half-way through the activity, I had them take a break to discuss how the game was going.  I asked some simple questions:  Why was this game hard? Why would someone call this a team building game? What are we learning from it?

I was really impressed with the way the girls talked about the more frustrating aspects of the game. One girl told her friend that she was indeed frustrated, not at her group, but at the game. She said she was aware of her frustration and didn’t want her teammates to think it was directly related to them, especially as during the game they were not allowed to talk to each other.  The development of their communication skills was great to see in the group and seeing them being able to talk about what they were feeling while not subjecting the group to their individual frustration.

I love seeing this type of communication within groups and seeing how we can build on that and make even more progress with later activities. With this particular group, I have seen a lot of growth in communication and the group demonic sense the game. The girls have worked together better and have demonstrated better communication with us and their peers. I have also seen respect with in the group that wasn’t fully there before.

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