The Shelter

Teams work together to build a free-standing shelter which the whole team must be able to fit under, using just newspaper and sellotape.

This a fun team building activity, which is great for improving teamwork, problem solving and creative thinking skills. Perfect for those on a tight budget.


Stack of newspapers and two rolls of sellotape per team

Space required:

Small to Medium (depending on number of teams). Can be done either Indoors or outdoors.

Group size:

8-36 people (Split into smaller teams of 4 to 6)

Total Time:

70-75 minutes

  • 5 minutes to brief and set up
  • 10 minutes for discussion and planning
  • 45 minutes for building shelters
  • 5 minutes for team presentations and testing
  • 5-10 minutes to review and debrief

The Shelter Team Building Activity Instructions

Split the group into small teams of 4-6 people. Introduce the shelter activity and explain that each team will be provided with a stack of newspapers and two rolls of tape to build a free-standing shelter which the whole team is able to fit under. They will be given ten minutes planning and forty-five minutes to complete the challenge and build their shelter. Ask the group whether they have any questions before moving on.

Give each team a stack of newspapers (no more than ten) and two rolls of tape.  Each group is then given 10 minutes to plan and discuss ideas for building their shelters. During the planning stage, nobody is allowed to touch any of the materials.

Once the planning stage is finished, the teams can now begin building their shelters. Remind the teams that they have just forty-five to complete their builds. It is important to remember that the shelters must be free-standing (stand on their own and not attached to anything).

At the end of the building time. You should allow the teams to present their build before testing. All team members must be able to fit under the completed shelter.

Activity Rules

  • Teams have just 45 minutes to build their shelters and be ready for final testing.
  • They can only use the resources (newspapers and tape) provided.
  • Shelters must be free-standing and every team member must be able to fit under.

Suggested Learning Outcomes

  • Creative thinking
  • Cooperation
  • Problem solving
  • Time management

Tips and Guidance

Teams must spend the first ten minutes of the activity to discuss ideas and plan for building their shelters. This should be used as a discussion point during the review and debrief with emphasis on the importance of planning and developing a strategy.

If you want to promote some friendly competition, then allocate a separate room for each team to work from. If you do opt to do this, you’ll be surprised how competitive they get.

To promote teamwork instead of competition, get them to build a shelter as one big group instead. Try to have no more than 12 in the group as there will be lack of engagement for some participants.

Alternatively, you can introduce the challenge as normal with two teams competing and twenty minutes into exercise, get them to stop building and explain that teams will now have to work together and build a shelter the whole team can fit under. This changes the task dynamic completely and they will be forced to review their plans, combine resources and cooperate with the other team. This is especially interesting if the two teams both allocated leaders at the start of the exercise.

If you do this exercise with young people, you will need to give them an occasional time check to keep them on track. For adult groups, use time management as a discussion point during the review and debrief.

Questions to ask during the review and debrief:

  • How did you come up with the design for your shelters?
  • Did everyone have an opportunity to offer an idea?
  • Who had what responsibility? Did you nominate a team leader?
  • How did you manage your time? Did you have enough time?
  • Did everyone in your team have a function? Was everyone involved?
  • Reflecting back on the activity, is there anything you would do differently?
  • What learning lessons can you take from the activity?



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