When it comes to creating a friendly and team-originated environment, team-building exercises are a fantastic way to do just that. Having a group of people sit down and play a few games together allows them to better grasp who their teammates are and give them mutual experiences to bond over.

The 12 best free team building games without any materials needed are:

  1. Group story
  2. Charades
  3. Human knot
  4. Late for work
  5. Tea or coffee
  6. Scavenger hunt
  7. The ABC game
  8. Heads up seven up
  9. Never have I ever
  10. Two truths and a lie
  11. Animal sounds
  12. Wink murder

In the rest of this article, I will go over the 12 best team-building exercises for which you will not need a single item to play. Be sure to keep reading for a detailed guide on playing each of these fun, free team-building activities.

1. Group Story

One of the most fun yet straightforward ways to help your team grow together is to play Group Story. This game focuses on adding to your teammate’s stories and is a great way to understand how everyone’s minds work.

How to play group story:

  1. Have everyone gather in a circle or semicircle. This will help everyone to have a clear view of each other as they help add to the group’s tale.
  2. Have the person who is running the exercises select a story topic. Any topic from “lost at sea” or “the worst day ever” will work fine. The more creative you are, the more fun it will be for the group.
  3. Have the exercise runner begin the story using a couple of sentences. Then pass the story on to another person in the circle. Each person should do their best to help progress the story to reach the end.
  4. Have each person add a few sentences to the story. You can track this by giving a certain number of sentences that must be added to the story or simply having each person stop when they feel they have sufficiently added to the story.
  5. The last person in the circle is in charge of ending the story. Be sure to let the last person know that it will be their job to develop a funny or satisfying end to the group’s story, so they have time to think as the story progresses.

This game is straightforward yet fun as long as everyone is a good sport and participates. The best part about Group Story is that it will be so unique and funny each time it’s played.

2. Charades

A pretty well-known group game is Charades. Charades can be easily modified to be played without any materials, and this tried and true game is sure to be a hit. Additionally, most people already know how to play.

How to play charades as a group building exercise:

  1. Split the group into teams. How many teams you choose will be dependent on how large the group is and how well you feel you can manage the groups. Two larger groups can actually be quite fun so long as you can hear everyone’s guesses.
  2. Have each team take turns acting out and guessing a word. The person running the game will assign each group their word for the round and keep track of the team’s points.

As I previously said, this is an easy and fun way to get everyone excited and working together. Not to mention it’s a fun way to bring out everyone’s competitive sides.

3. The Human Knot

A more physically taxing team-building exercise is the human knot. This game is meant to bring a group closer together as they will undoubtedly be up close with all of the participants as they aim to escape the entanglement of human limbs.

How to play the human knot:

  1. Have your group form a circle. Everyone should be facing the center of the circle.
  2. Have everyone reach one hand into the circle to grab someone else’s hand with their own. No one should grab the hands of anyone directly beside them, or it will ruin the game. So be sure to remind everyone to grab the hand of a farther away group member.
  3. Have everyone reach into the circle with their remaining hand and grab someone else’s hand. Doing each hand one at a time ensures a more complicated knot for the team to figure out.
  4. Instruct the team to maneuver around one another to undo the knot. It’s essential that the players understand that their hands should never let go of the ones they are holding. You must undo the knot without letting go.

Once your group has successfully untangled themselves, the game is complete! This is such a fun experience and it can be done without any outside materials. However, all the participants must be showered and smell fresh as they will be up close and personal with others.

4. Late For Work

Another super fun team-building game that not many know about is the game called Late For Work. Similar to Group Story, Late For Work is about improvising a funny story. However, this particular game calls for a bit more involvement.

How to play late for work:

  1. Set a space that will be the stage for the improv game. You should have the “stage” be somewhere everyone will have a clear view of what’s going on.
  2. Select an employee to pretend to rush into their job late. It’s the employee’s job to develop a fun outlandish excuse as to why they are late for work and to continue explaining until the game runner calls to pause. This person will temporarily leave the room once they are selected.
  3. Have the remaining group members sit down in a line to watch the story unfold. Each person will get a chance to play either as the boss or employee at some point during the game.
  4. Have everyone vote on a location for the story. The place of business can be a pizza shop, car dealership, or whatever other fun creation the group comes up with. The workplace will switch each time the boss and employee do.
  5. Select someone to be the boss (preferably someone who knows the rules well). It’s this person’s job to ask the selected employee why they are late for work and wait for an explanation. The boss can have as much fun as they want to be a grumpy boss and is encouraged to ask the employee questions as they explain.
  6. Ask the selected “employee” to reenter the room. The employee comes back into the room to explain to the “boss” why they are late to work. 
  7. Have the characters switch out and begin again. This will allow everyone to be creative and get silly with the outlandish reasons they are late for their job. The game ends when everyone has had a chance on the stage.

With the right group, this game can go on for hours and will leave the group with lots of silly inside jokes to revisit for years to come.

5. Tea or Coffee

Another straightforward team-building game is Tea or Coffee. This game is so easy and is the perfect lead-in game for other more involved team-building activities.

How to play tea or coffee:

  1. Have everyone sit in a circle. The goal is for everyone to be able to see one another as they speak.
  2. Go around the circle and ask the group if they prefer tea or coffee. Each person should be given time to respond and elaborate on how they take their tea or coffee.

The goal of this game is to learn some small yet essential details about the group and to break the ice as you start to play more involved games together.

6. Scavenger Hunt

Another fun yet simple team-building game is to have an impromptu scavenger hunt in whatever space you are in. The game runner should quickly make a list of items throughout the space for the teams to find before starting the game.

How to have an impromptu scavenger hunt:

  1. Split the group into two teams. This will help create some level of competition and motivate the teams to find the items faster than the other team.
  2. Give each team their list of scavenger hunt items. The items should be relatively the same difficulty to find for both teams.
  3. Set the teams loose to find their objects. After the teams start the fun, madness will ensue as both teams frantically search through the space for their items.

Having a scavenger hunt is excellent since it’s simple for everyone to participate in and can be done with very little preparation for the game.

7. The ABC Game

Another entertaining game is the ABC game! This game is typically played in a moving vehicle, but it can be just as easily played in an office, strip mall, or any heavily signed place.

The game’s goal is for the teams to reach the last letter of the alphabet using only letters from signs or license plates.

If you opt to play the game inside, you will want to rule that you cannot get more than one letter off of a single document or posted paper; otherwise, the game will go too quickly.

How to play the ABC game:

  1. Split the group into two teams or more. Each group should be even and not have too many members, or it will be too easy for the groups.
  2. Have the groups start finding all of the letters of the alphabet. The first group to the letter z wins the game.

This game can be a lot of fun but also goes by very quickly. To combat this, you can play the game a few times, loop the alphabet stating that you must get to z twice each time, or you can play multiple times and even change up the teams.

8. Heads Up Seven Up

A childhood favorite, heads up seven up will never cease to be a fun way to get everyone comfortable and working together. The game’s premise is simple and makes it an excellent icebreaker game to start with.

How to play heads up seven up:

  1. Have everyone close their eyes and put their heads down with their thumbs up. Ideally, this is done by placing one’s head on a desk, but you can have your group simply close their eyes and look down.
  2. Select seven people to walk around during the game and touch one person’s thumb each. Each chooser will get the chance to tap one person’s thumb, so they should be quiet so as not to clue their chosen person to their identity.
  3. Once all seven of the people have tapped someone’s thumb, have the people who have been tapped stand up and guess who it was. They only get one guess as to who touched their thumb. If they guess correctly, they will be one of the seven next rounds.

Though the game is undoubtedly a bit juvenile, it’s still a fun way to help everyone get connected and to aid in remembering teammates’ names. Note that you can also play this game with less than seven choosers, heads up four up doesn’t sound as catchy but will still be just as fun!

9. Never Have I Ever

A fun modern team-building game is Never Have I Ever. This game helps the teams to get to know each other better and is a great way to learn about the experience of everyone on the team.

How to play Never Have I Ever:

  1. Have everyone sit in a circle or at least where they can see one another. This will help teammates to better remember facts about their group later down the road.
  2. Have everyone hold up ten fingers. The last person with fingers up in the game wins. 
  3. Go around the circle and have everyone state something they have never done. For example, “Never have I ever been out of the country.” The goal is to get others out with things you have never done, but you know others have.
  4. The players who have done this thing must put a finger down. When you run out of fingers, you’re out and must now watch the game.

This is probably one of the best games you could play in order to get your team better acquainted with one another. 

10. Two Truths and a Lie

A similar fun game that can be played to help build teamwork is Two Truths and a Lie. This game will also help the team members to get to know each other and to have fun doing so.

How to play two truths and a lie:

  1. Everyone is to think of two truths about themselves and one lie. The goal is for people to not be able to distinguish the lie from the truth.
  2. Each person will take a turn sharing their two truths and lie while the others guess which one is the lie. After everyone is done guessing, the person who spoke will tell everyone who was right.

What truly makes this game a fun team-building exercise is all the fun and bizarre facts everyone gets to learn about one another.

11. Animals Sounds

A great game to get everyone to leave their egos at the door and to have fun with one another is the game Animal Sounds. This game is a little childish but can leave your group in tears of laughter.

How to play animal sounds:

  1. Have everyone stand in a circle with one person in the center. The circle will need to be wide enough for everyone to switch places throughout the game if they desire.
  2. Have the person in the center spin with their finger pointed outward. When the center person stops spinning, whoever the finger is pointed at must make the requested animal noise.
  3. The center person will ask the selected player to make a particular animal sound, and the player must oblige. The sound doesn’t have to be accurate, and the less accurate it is, the funnier the game becomes.
  4. The middle player then guesses who made the animal sound, and if they’re correct, that person now takes the middle slot. If they’re incorrect, they stay in the middle until they guess correctly.

As you can see, this is a great game to get everyone feeling silly and comfortable with one another. Plus, you will learn about who makes an excellent elephant impression and what exactly John thinks an aardvark sounds like.

12. Wink Murder

Last but not least, Wink Murder is a fun game for all and is an excellent team-building game to help everyone get to know each other and feel comfortable.

How to play wink murder:

  1. Everyone stands in a circle with a person at the center. Everyone should be facing the center player and do their best to have a good view of the other players.
  2. One person is selected as the “murderer” and will wink at other players when making eye contact. Once a player has seen a wink, they must dramatically scream and fall to the ground dead.
  3. The person at the center’s job is to catch the murderer. They do this by guessing who they think is killing the other players, but they only get three guesses. If they guess correctly, the murderer becomes the center player for the next round. If they guess incorrectly all three times, they stay in the center. 

The game is pretty simple, yet fun as everyone does their best to fool the person in the center and die in funny, dramatic ways.