7-Up – a Problem-Solving Activity

This activity is one I like to use with groups that need a good challenge.  I like it because it sounds ridiculously easy to achieve, but it is actually quite difficult. It will naturally surface conflict and competition in groups.  Group members will start to challenge the rules and cut corners to achieve success, and they will ask the facilitator for clarification of the rules.  It’s also one you can use with easy-to-source items.

Props Needed: Seven tossable items for every 10 people.  These could be koosh balls, rubber chickens, bean bags, tennis balls, hackey sacks, etc.


Activity Directions:

  • This activity is somewhat involved but quite worth the effort to learn.  Circle up the players and let them know that you will be introducing Tossable Objects into the group 1 at a time. The activity must follow a certain set of rules.  If a rule is broken, the activity starts over from the first object.
  • Rule 1:  Players must start each toss from a circle position.  You, the facilitator, will be adding an Object each round.  Tell the group that you are going to toss the Object up into the air with the aim of the Object landing in the center of the circle (you will always toss your Object in this manner).
  • Rule 2:  All tosses must be at least as high as the tallest player in the group and players may not move positions.
  • Rule 3:  Objects cannot touch the ground.  At this point you will say, “1, 2, 3 toss”  –tossing the first Object you are holding on the word ‘toss.’  So, someone in the group will want to catch the Object—don’t want to violate a rule!  After the first toss and successful catch, add:
  • Rule 4:  All tosses must happen on the word “Toss.”
  • Rule 5:  Any player in possession of an Object must toss their object into the center of the circle
  • Rule 6:  All players are required to be physically safe—near misses will count as a physical safety violation—which would constitute a re-start.  With that said and done, I will say to my group, “Are you Ready?”  If I do not hear anything to the contrary, I say, “1, 2, 3, toss.”  Now two Objects are tossed.  If there are no violations of the rules or safety (you will have to be the judge—don’t be easy on them!) take out another Object and ask, “Are you ready?”  The objective is to get the group to plan by asking for time, “No we’re not ready!”  Being “pushy” or “pressing” the group with, “Are you ready?” tends to create frustration down the line as you add more Objects and re-start a couple times.  You want the group (or players in the group_ to experience a “moment” so they can ask for what they need.  (My first attempt at this took us, a group of facilitators, 40 minutes to get 7 objects.  Also, I’ve had a group successfully go through 7 objects without a problem).
  • So, the challenge is to get all 7 Objects into the group, all tossed and then caught at the same time.  (consideration:  10 players is the ideal number but it can be done minus or plus a few more).


Facilitator Script: 

“Hey everyone, gather around.  I need you to divide yourself into small groups, with 9-10 people per group.  Please stand in a circle with your small group.  (Wait for this to happen.)  I’m going to demonstrate what to do with this group. (Include yourself in one circle.)  I’m going to give one person in each group a small bag that has 7 tossable items in it.  Whoever the tosser is, will pull one item out of the bag.  This person will say “One, two, three toss.”, and toss this item into the center of the circle.  This item must be caught by someone else in the group in order for the activity to continue.  (Demonstrate this.)  OK, since Patty caught this first item, the game may continue.  Next, I am going to select another item out of the bag.  Again, I will say, “One, two, three toss.”  Both Patty and I will both toss the items at the same time into the center of the circle.  If both items are tossed and caught, the game can continue.  This process continues until all seven items have been successfully tossed and caught.  If an item is dropped at any time, the group must start over with one item and work their way back up.  All tosses must be at least as high as the tallest player in the group, and players may not move positions.  You must also stay in a circle formation.  All items must be tossed into the center of the circle.  Please be careful to avoid any head-on collisions while attempting to catch an item.  Nothing is worth getting hurt over today.  Are there any questions?  (Pause for questions.)  You may begin!”

Teachable Moments / Possible Debriefing Questions:

  • What were some of the strategies you and your group came up with to be successful at this activity?
  • How many of you thought this sounded like an easy task?
  • How many of you got frustrated during the process?  Describe something that frustrated you.
  • What did it feel like when you had to start over?
  • How does this relate back to the real world?
  • What could some of the tossable items represent in your life?

Source:  Facilitated Growth, by Cummings, Pimsler and Sherman.

Original game created by Karl Rohnke, Silver Bullets