Crossing the River

Enjoyment Factor: 6/10

Teamwork Rating: 7/10

Leadership Opportunity: 7/10

Age Range: 9+

Activity Time: 20-30 Minutes

Set Up Time: 5 Minutes

Equipment Requirements: Low



This game is a classic that appears in various forms all over the world. It is one which I definitely take no credit for inventing but include as it is a good fall back icebreaker or team building game as well as that it is used as a component in some of the big activities. For being a simple activity it is a great method of demonstrating the value of clear communication to a team as well how easy it is to lose concentration when a task seems simple.

the Idea

Your team is out adventuring and low and behold they come across a river flowing with lava! Fortunately the universe has provided them with a means to cross the river although it is far from simple. By the edge of the river there is a pile of stepping stones (I always used rubber disks approx. 10 inches in diameter but any similarly sized object can be used). The team can tread safely on these stones and thus cross the lava. The catch is that they react to pressure so if a team puts one down in the river without pressure on it then it will float away. The stones must have some kind of contact with a team member at all times to keep them in place.

Crossing the River.png

what you need

  • Stepping stones - rubber disks, cutout cardboard circles, placemats, cones, anything really. depending on how far your river is I like to have just enough stones so that you could cross it taking large steps in one go.
  • Markers for the beginning and end of your river - rope or cones are good.
  • It can be fun to add in forfeits for team members - blindfolds, missing limbs, allowed to talk only when holding an object etc. 

general tips

  • I liked to make the river wide enough that the team would have to pick up the stones behind them as they go so that they can reach the other side.
  • The other option is to provide just enough stones that they can make it in one trip as long as they don't lose any but if they do then they have to cross the river in two groups and work out a way to get the stones back to the original side for the next group.
  • Typically you will find that in their first attempt teams will lose a good few of their stones early on which makes it much more difficult.
  • I liked to make sure the stones were small enough that it was a struggle to fit two feet onto one at once which makes balance a little more difficult and adds a extra challenge.


  • Blindfold one or multiple players.
  • Limit speaking time, or have an object that allows speaking.
  • Transport an object, ideally something awkward i.e. Swiss Exercise ball.

Learning outcomes

  • This game appears really simple so teams are often tempted to rush into it and before they know it some of their stones have been washed away and they have group members all over the place - clear communication if key!
  • One point to watch out for is often the first person to reach the other side will be so happy they are close that they will step straight over forgetting about making sure someone replaces them on their stone as they go and thus they lose the stone linking them to the far side.
    • This point allows for a good discussion about how easy it is to become distracted by self interest and how that can be damaging to a teams overall goals.
  • A further point that this activity demonstrates well is the value of putting a plan in place before acting. The simple nature of the activity encourages people to dive right in and often leads to either stepping stones or team mates being overlooked.
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