Break Ice and Build Teams with 3D Wooden Puzzles

Posted by Emily Ogle on

Original Hobby offers a variety of 3D wooden puzzles that you can assemble and paint yourself, with options ranging from vehicles like airplanes and boats to solar-powered windmills and watermills. It’s easy to see the educational benefits of puzzles like these for children—they encourage STEAM thinking and imaginative play—but there are benefits for adults, as well. Anyone who’s attended a company conference is familiar with ice breakers and team-building activities. You and your fellow employees are shepherded into a conference room and separated into teams—sometimes you’re with your department; other times you’re not. Such exercises can be uncomfortable if they aren’t thought out well, but they all strive for a similar goal: to improve communication and professional relationships within a business or company.

According to Huddle, most team-building activities focus on four different skills: communication, solving problems and making decisions, adaptability and planning, and building trust. As a tool, 3D wooden puzzles can aid with all of these. For this blog post, we’re going to think about a few team-building activities and how they might be altered or improved with wooden puzzles. At your next meeting or internal conference, consider using some of these ideas to foster communication and teamwork among your employees.

The Race

The Race - Egg Timer

One way to implement the 3D wooden puzzles into a team-building activity is to give groups pieces and instructions for the same puzzle, telling them to complete it as quickly as possible. The first team to finish the puzzle wins—you can expand upon this idea by making it a race to complete the most puzzles in a set amount of time. To increase the difficulty, you could tie group members’ hands together and give them the task of completing the same puzzle with their hands tied. The group will have to adapt, communicate, and learn how to act as a unit.

No Instructions

No Instructions - Airplane Safety Information

You can also choose to create activities that disregard the puzzle instructions. Give groups all the same puzzle, and don’t divulge what the pieces are supposed to create. They will have to assemble the model without having any idea what they’re building, resulting in interesting and creative constructions. Award points to groups that craft particularly unique objects or ones that most closely resemble the intended structure. For something a bit different, hide a completed puzzle in the room, then allow someone from each team to examine the sample one at a time. They’ll need to describe the object and its construction to the rest of their group: each group only has this person’s impression to work from, encouraging people to listen and pay attention.

The Missing Piece

The Missing Piece - Jigsaw Puzzle

Some team-building activities tell participants to assemble jigsaw puzzles, but pieces are missing or in the possession of other groups. These exercises aim to teach people that sometimes compromise is necessary and solutions are unexpected. One example is if you were to give each team a different wooden puzzle but with one piece removed. Groups might immediately realize that a piece is missing, or it might take them until the last few moments of the activity—either way, they must still complete the puzzle to the best of their ability. At the end of the exercise, ask everyone what this missing piece represents in terms of the team and the company. This question will hopefully get them thinking about the company as a puzzle that needs every piece to function.

Mixing Pieces

Mixing Pieces - Team-Building Puzzle

In another exercise, each team has a different wooden puzzle, but some pieces are mixed in with other group’s puzzles. Keep this knowledge hidden—the idea is that, upon realizing the truth, teams need to figure out how to convince the other groups to give their pieces back. The unpainted wooden pieces might be hard to distinguish from each other, so you may want to paint them different colors beforehand: one for each model. If you have a smaller assembly at your conference, then you could divide the pieces of one puzzle among all the groups. At first, teams will think they are competing against each other on different puzzles. They will need to identify the problem—that they are working on the same puzzle—and resolve it through cooperation.

Create and Decorate

Create and Decorate - Paint

To make your team-building activity a bit more artistic and focused on creative expression, tell groups to paint the company logo on the puzzles after assembling them. See which team can recreate the logo best, or perhaps host a redesign competition if you’re looking to rebrand. Alternatively, instruct teams to construct the puzzles and decorate them as if they were the department or company vehicle. Purchase a five-pack of vehicle puzzles, and let groups choose which vehicle they associate with the company and how they would decorate it. At the end of the activity, you get a glimpse into how the groups see their departments and the company itself.

Team-building activities can be essential to the success and cohesion of a business. There are many ways you could use wooden puzzles to create games and exercises that bring co-workers together. Can you think of any that we didn’t mention here?

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