Ice Breaker Ideas For Staff Meetings or Staff Trainings – Connect With Your Audience!

It’s time for another meeting or training, you can’t escape them, they are needed to build your team and connect! If you are doing virtual meetings, yes it’s time to make sure the camera is right, you don’t have something embarrassing going on behind you, and you are ready to hit unmute or the share button. If you are in person, make sure you grab the right seat, something to take notes with, and get ready to actively pay attention. In this post, I will share some tips and ideas for you to start the staff meeting or training off on the right foot. This is important because you want to capture their attention first, and make it fun or inspiring if you can. You can’t tackle the meeting agenda or training topic by rushing straight into it. I will admit in some cases, you will need to skip this if you are holding an emergency meeting, or something really quick to address your team. It is very important to know your audience, time frame of your meeting, and delegate. Your audience is important because it could be small, large, younger, or older. Each has their dynamics and can impact the timing of your ice breaker. One thing I have learned in leadership is to value time of your people. Start on time and end on time. If you are going to end a little bit later, ask the group if you can have 5 more minutes and stick to the 5 more minutes. It is important to make sure the ice breaker isn’t more than 5-10 minutes no matter how good it is going. Delegating to your team is huge. No one wants to hear you do the ice breaker every time. You will see the ideas I will give you, it will give creative space to your teammates. Now, lets get started with some ideas to help you break the ice!

  1. Quotes or TFTD (Thought For The Day) – We all love a good quote to inspire, make us think/reflect, or just laugh. After you read or show the quote or TFTD, ask your team to say what that means to them. Will spark some good convo early and hopefully prepare the group to participate when you start attacking the agenda or training. Here are some favorite quotes/TFTD’s I have seen lately. “Stop being jealous of people in their winning season. You don’t know what they lost in their losing season.” “If it doesn’t open, it probably isn’t your door.” “I have a lot to accomplish. I don’t have anything to prove. Subtle difference there. -Stephen Curry” “Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor. – Truman Capote” “You don’t hire for skills, you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills. – Simon Sinek” I have tons of quotes in the Leadership Tools section on my website for you to steal and use.

2. Retro/Throwback Question – It is fun to reflect back on when we were young, in college, etc…Ask the group a question that makes them reflect or can find a common interest that you may have never known. If you have a large group virtually, these are easy to drop in the chat as you are waiting for people to arrive or drop in the chat after you ask the question and pick a few folks to unmute. You can also use break out rooms to divide up the people. Plan ahead and have hosts selected before you start the meeting. Here are a few that I have used or stolen from meetings lately…

  • Favorite Concert You Have Attended? First Concert You Have Ever Attended?
  • Your First Job?
  • Without revealing your age, say something that a young person wouldn’t understand?
  • First Movie?
  • Favorite Birthday?
  • Best Gift You Ever Received When You Were A Child?
  • Show Us Your Age By Telling Us A Restaurant You Loved Going To But Is No Longer Around?

3. Short Video Clip – Share a movie or leadership video for your audience to watch. Keep it brief of course, but just like a quote/TFTD you can inspire and ask questions from this. It is also a way to connect with a fun visual. As a participant of a meeting, I love when I have something to watch every once in a while. It gets old being talked at. I also learn and retain information more when there is variety of content. Some examples of video clips can be TED talks, a favorite movie that has a good lesson, or even something funny like a Jimmy Fallon skit. One of my favorite movie clips are from “On The Road with Steve Hartman” I have several examples in the Leadership Tools section on my website. you can steal/use.

4. Share A Book You Have Been Reading – Share a book and read a favorite section to your audience. Ask them a question around it like “What does this mean to you?” or “How does that make you feel?”. Depending on what you read, there are many questions that can pop up. Just general questions like “What is your biggest personal or professional since the pandemic started?”. Other general questions like…

  • If you could have Lunch with anyone, who would you eat with?
  • What is your favorite hobby or what do you do to just get away from everything?
  • Knowing your audience…What is your biggest fear or what was a fear when you were growing up?
  • Your Dream Job – If you could do anything, money doesn’t matter?
  • What is your favorite book?

My favorite book right now is “Green Lights” by Matthew McConaughey.

5.Mini Bar Trivia – Find some fun trivia questions and see who can score the highest. If you have a big audience, break them up into teams. People love to compete. If there is something going on during the week or month, utilize that theme. St. Patrick’s Day, find some fun things online or National Hot Dog Day, ask them some fun questions around that food. By the way, everyday is a National Day, so you will have tons of options. If you are meeting in person, great game for them to write down answers on paper and polish skills on listening and working together. I also love post it paper, and putting it on the wall where people can run to it and write ideas. One of my favorite trivia contests is to list out the alphabet and they have to write down a movie or TV show that starts with that letter. If you are meeting virtually, they also can scribe on a piece of paper and show to camera to just mix it up.

These are a few of my favorites I wanted to share with you. The goal is to connect with your audience. Fun is key. So don’t forget to dress up every once in a while and be silly. We all need to laugh or smile sometimes. Thanks for stopping by and remember to visit my website for more fun ideas to make your program or staff 1 percent better.

Our Staff Are Not Engaged During Training! Tips To Help You Be A Training Rockstar.

Help! Our staff have not really been engaged the last few Summers, what do I do? I received this question last week by a youth professional in Texas. First, the question is great, and you only help your career by asking questions like this. So kudos to him! As I talked, I felt like I just overwhelmed him with all the things that are involved with staff training. I get REALLY excited talking about it. I decided to lay out these thoughts that may help others wanting to be a Camp Training Rockstar. I will do a separate post soon laying out some fun strategies in finding the right staff, recruiting, and interviewing. Hiring the right staff will make these tips even easier for you.

#1: Staff Training Is A Program. It isn’t something you just do to check the box off. You have to have a plan. If you as a staff or person leading others for camp don’t really accept this, then you will be in trouble. Staff are smart and will pick up right away that you don’t care and just threw it together. So put together a calendar of dates and communicate to your staff early, dress up themes for your training days/nights, work with internal and external resources in your community/organization to give you different voices and your content for training. Involve different voices, give them power and freedom to execute, and last have FUN. Leadership staff need a small retreat to plan this program, can be a day retreat where they play putt putt, grab Lunch, and then train. It can’t just be your show, delegate the training topics!

#2: Pretend You Are The Participant. You have been in meetings before, were they FUN? Probably not, which is why this should never be planned like a meeting. Know your audience and your product, this is Summer Camp, not a 9 to 5 business/corporate job. When you plan your staff trainings from the lens of you being in that chair and having to be there for X amount of time, what would you want so you wouldn’t fall asleep or want to run away?

#3 Open Training With Music/Group Dancing . I remember a long time ago getting ready to start staff training, and seeing a staff member already slumped down in their seat mindlessly scrolling through their phone. I was like “Man, seriously? You just killed my mood and energy.” So it was that moment I started to think about how to change how things started. Like most of my ideas, I stole this one. YoungLife is a great organization and I recently went to a club meeting to recruit staff, and I loved how they didn’t start their club until the doors opened and the students ran in screaming and dancing to their favorite songs. Light turns on in my head, and I am like we will do this. So this became culture and tradition. We don’t start staff training in our seats with an agenda, we dance, and on the first night we use confetti cannons from Party City. Do 2 -3 group dance songs, and then cut the lights back on or start your training. People catch their breath, find their seat, and you have started the training with some fun, which is the job they are doing. Double win, these group dance songs need to be appropriate so use them in camp assemblies too. You now have trained on that without the staff knowing. Check out my DJ Playlist tab on the website for music ideas!

#4 Dress Up Themes. Do a mix of themes you would have at camp during the Summer so they are already prepared and a mix of just other fun themes. Some of my favorites are Throwback Thursday, Neon Night, Beach Blast, Senior Citizen Night (Dress As Old People), and Sports/Jersey Night. This will set the tone for your accountability. You can’t enter training unless you are dressed up. Start the critical conversations early, make them go home and change. They can’t show up to camp without the costume, so follow through so you don’t have that problem at camp while greeting parents, managing kids, and/or programming. Dressing up changes the mood, and creates more of the FUN culture you want. Also life is short, we need to laugh more.

#5 Contests/Songs/Videos/Skits (Interactive Training). During your agenda, make time for some interaction. Don’t speak at them the whole meeting, remember “you are the participant” and would you want that? So incorporate some contests to teach them. For example Cup Stack, Balance Contest, Block Stack, Rolling a bouncy exercise ball into a baby pool and making it stay “Shot of a lifetime!”. Every once in a while between the agenda have your leadership staff or camp staff lead a song for others. I love to use videos (old movie/tv clips on YouTube) to highlight a point in training or for a devotion/mission moment. Staff love to see things, I actually learn best this way!

#6 Training Topics, Be Smart With How You Group Them. If you plan your safety training, you may want to have a serious night, hard to pump them up after going through some tough scenarios. If you are doing something like Group Control/Transitions then follow that up with Enthusiasm or Songs. Try to have a balance when you can. One of my favorite Song trainings is when I have the new staff that have worked less than a year battle the staff that have worked 1 or more years. Great activity because the veteran staff feel the pressure, and the new staff have a voice and stage to showcase new songs/cheers for the group. It is also a good idea to have training notebook that lists the training calendar, themes, staff directory, and other things for them to take notes with. If they don’t bring their notebook to training, then they have to go home and get it. Good balance of the FUN/This is still a job. I use the analogy of I can’t show up to work without my laptop. I can’t tell my supervisor, oh well I will just sit here today.

#7 Day In The Life Of Camp, Real Scenarios. Have your staff to do a group exercise on how to solve scenarios that will arise at camp. See how they problem solve, give them to ask questions, see how they react on the fly. Give them some equipment, and have them show you how they would lead a game to a group of kids. Give them feedback, have other staff give feedback. Take them through transitions of moving from place to place. The more they see the job and go ahead and get in the trenches of camp life, the better. I love to set the vision, but don’t spend to much time throwing out quotes, inspiring, and showing movies. They still need to critically think and problem solve.

#8 Parent Panel/Staff Alumni Panel and Special Guests. Have some chairs or stools setup, and have parents or former staff explain to the group what camp means to them. Why do they send their kid to camp? What do they want most from you? Let the parent take questions from the crowd. It’s good for them to hear different perspectives. For the staff alumni, what is something you were most proud of as a staff member? What is something you would do differently at camp now that you don’t work here anymore? What was a huge challenge for you? Invite other leaders from camps, community leaders, etc…Let people see firsthand how awesome your program is.

#9 Staff Bonding and Food. Have your leadership team setup a fun committee to engage the staff in some fun events like a beach day trip, amusement park, staff intramurals, etc…Create a fun culture because they are working long hours during the Summer. During training setup a few food nights. After training everyone meet at Cookout or pick your favorite local fast food hangout or local small business! Give them the dates ahead of time so they know. Have food at training. We have done Pancake Night, and brought griddles in to cook. Just be creative, usually the best ideas come from your leadership team because they are the ones you need to empower to facilitate these. If you are the supervisor, it’s ok to not be at all of these. Let the staff have time to unwind and build friendships with each other. Be clear with them about how they represent themselves outside of work, and that any activity is promoted ahead of time for all to know, and inclusive for all. We have made a calendar to put in notebooks before of the Summer events.

Most importantly, this job for many is their first or one of their first jobs. Find ways to implement life and job skills along the way so they are prepared for the future. For example, holding someone accountable that doesn’t have their notebook is a tough conversation, but if you hold them accountable they will learn in their next job or career that they must be prepared and follow directions. Give them a small training in social media and how they utilize this now that they are employed. Go over the policies around drug use and underage drinking. It’s important for them to hear about the future, because many are just living for the moment or in the present. Also remember that you may be the only person that has told them “No!” or given them rules/expectations other than their guardians. If you are looking for some more fun ideas for staff training, check out the Resource Zone. I have several listed and will continue to update! Now go be a Staff Training Rockstar!

Bottle Bash! Social Distance Game for Indoors or Outdoors.

I came across Bottle Bash the other day! A great game that can be played indoors or outdoors while maintaining social distance. As you look to add more games into your program, continue to try new things. If you are operating an After School program, Summer Camp, Youth Group, or just need a new fun activity to engage your community, this is it! Bottle Bash is only $39.99 and isn’t going to break your budget. So what is Bottle Bash exactly?

A simple frisbee game that can be fun and challenging. just space the poles out somewhere between 20 and 40 feet apart depending on your frisbee skills and start tossing the frisbee. You score 2 points if you knock the bottle off the pole and onto the ground. You can hit either the pole or the bottle directly. As long as the bottle hits the ground you get the 2 points. You can also score another point if your frisbee hits the ground. Now over the defensive side of the game… When your team is not tossing, you are playing defense and can catch the bottle and the frisbee before they hit the ground effectively canceling out any points for the throwing team.

Scoring Points(1) Only the throwing team can score points. Points are awarded when objects hit the ground. Objects Point System:           *Dropped Disc = 1 Point           *Dropped Bottle = 2 Points           *Dropped Disc & Bottle = 3 Points           *Maximum points awarded per throw = 3 Points(2) Defending team can save points by catching disc and bottle before they hit the ground(3) Games can be played to 11, 15, or 21. Teams must win by 2. The winning points can be scored by either a dropped disc or a dropped bottle, but in order for the winning points to be scored on a dropped disc, the bottle must be knocked off the pole

.Rules(1) Disc must be considered “catchable”. This means that the disc is not thrown too far to the left or right of the players or too high based on their, age, skill level, and capability.(2) The “Low Disc Zone” marked on the bottom of your pole indicates where the disc no longer counts for points. If the disc is below this line on a throw or landed before reaching the pole, points are not awarded to the offensive team.(3) If the disc is low, but hits the pole, the Bottle is Always Live! This means that although you and your team mate do not have to worry about the disc, you still have to catch the bottle.(4) No guarding. The disc cannot be stopped before hitting your pole or bottle.

Bryan and John started Poleish Sports with a simple goal in mind: to provide absolutely fun and addicting skill games to liven up backyard games, beach games, tailgate games, camping games, corporate event and summer camp games. They spend much of their time on the lakes and mountains of New Hampshire where lawn games and outdoor games are part of the day’s fun, and new games are sought after. The game was initially cobbled together with odds and ends from the garage when Bryan first introduced the game to John. Once they recognized that the game was a hit with all audiences, Bryan and John devoted countless months of research and development to design a game kit that could be played on all surfaces and under widely varying conditions. If you want to learn more visit their website Bottle Bash. I have included this game in the Resource Zone if you are looking for more fun ideas to make your program 1 percent better.

Cornbowl! Social Distancing Fun!

If you are looking for a fun new game that keeps you social distanced, try Cornbowl! It is like Cornhole, just with a twist. This game was invented in Saugus, Massachusetts and can be played in any youth program and be played outside or inside. The boards are magnetic and the pins stick to the top. Each Cornbowl set comes with a 2×4 game board, 10 magnetic pins, 3 bags, and dry erase scoreboard with marker. The set is $230 and can be purchased on their website. They have two videos included on their website that shows the game in action too. I have included the Rules to Cornbowl that I took from the Nashville Sports League website (

If you are operating a youth program, setup a tournament between your participants and have some fun competition. You can use at a staff training before you start to break the ice. This is also the perfect game for Rides In/Out when you are having kids dropped off or waiting for them to be picked up. Just like the Nashville Sports League, you could set this up in your community as well. The options are endless. These games bring people together safely. I have added this to the Resource Zone on my website. If you are needing more ideas for fun games, check this out. Have a great rest of your weekend!

Rules Cornbowl


The Ultimate in Backyard Bowling


–       18 Feet is the distance from where you throw the bags to the front edge of the game.

–       When setting up pins, red strip must be on top for magnets to work. Back of board should be at least 6 inches from wall. 


  1. Bags are to be thrown underhand from behind foul line. (the front of the board)
  2. Begin with two players from Team A and two players from Team B. 
  3. 3 bags are thrown per frame. Team A player 1 throws two frames per turn. Next, team A player 2 throws two frames per turn.  Then team B player 1 throws 2 frames.  Finally, team B player 2 throws their two frames. Repeat until all 10 frames are completed by each team. 
  4. Teams will alternate setting up the pins & keeping score.  For example: While team A players are throwing, team B players will reset the pins & keep score. This keeps the game moving along. 
  5. Once all ten frames are complete from players 1&2 on each team, then the remaining two players (3&4) from each team will begin(step 3).


If you get all of the pins down in 3 bags: you score a 10. For paper scoring write an X in the box. You do not get any extra points for a 10.


If you get all the pins down in 2 bags: you score a spare. For paper scoring, shade a triangle in the box. This completes your turn. On your next turn, toss 3 bags as usual. Enter the number of pins you knocked down on your first toss. Do not reset pins yet! Toss 2 more bags and add these pins to your first toss then enter the total on the next frame. This completes two frames (or turns).


If you get all of the pins down in 1 bag: you score a strike. For paper scoring, shade both corners. This completes your turn. On your next turn, toss 3 bags as usual. Enter the number of pins you knocked down on your first 2 tosses. Do not reset pins yet! Toss 1 more bag and add these pins to your first two tosses then enter the total. This completes two frames (or turns).

SCORING (Scoresheet on site)

FlingGolf – New Way To Get People On The Golf Course!

Need a great game to play outside while social distancing? Check out FlingGolf ! I cam across this the other day when searching for new games. FlingGolf has actually been around since 2014. Alex Van Alen came up with this idea, and has grown the sport to over 1,000 golf courses worldwide. I am located in NC, and there are several golf courses in my area that host FlingGolf. So how did Alex come up with this idea and what is it exactly? Alex grew up on a farm west of Philadelphia. He had always combined equipment with games such as football with skates or lacrosse with golf balls. He had thrown a golf ball with a lacrosse stick, but couldn’t get much distance. He wanted to throw the ball at least 200 yards and control with accuracy. So he designed some prototypes, and was able to get something designed! Now it was trying to find a place to play, and thought that maybe all golf courses wouldn’t be the stuffy, uptight places you see on TV. He spoke to some key people at a conference, and said this could be a way to infuse new energy to golf courses. No changes are needed at the golf courses and wouldn’t cost the owner anything. It is a great ROI because they are bringing new people to the course. They now have players playing from a local 9 hole place to Pinehurst or Pebble Beach. He has a lofty goal to have the players conquer all 15,000 golf courses in the U.S and 35,000 golf courses around the world. He is looking for people to pave the way, and to introduce FlingGolf to these other courses. So what is exactly FlingGolf and how do you play?

FlingGolf is a sport that is easy to start and fun to master. You play on any golf course, and instead of playing with a golf club, you use a New Swarm FlingStick thrower to hurl the ball and shape every shot from tee to hole. You can play in a foursome as well. The picture I shared on this post is a FlingStick and how it is constructed. They have junior and adult sized sticks. The junior stick is $89 and the adult sticks start at $119. They even have rental packages if you are needing these to host an event. If you want to learn more, visit their website at

I will add this to the Resource Zone on my website. The Resource Zone has tons of ideas to help make your program 1 percent better. Thanks for stopping by!

Justin Harris – Take It Personal (Great Devotion/Ice Breaker for your next meeting or program)

Justin Harris – University of Cincinnati (Twitter – @fatherofballers)

I have a simple and easy devotion or ice breaker to use for your next meeting or program. Justin Harris is a football player for the University of Cincinnati. On January 2nd, his team lost in the final minutes to the University of Georgia in a heart breaking loss. He decided to come out on the field and watch the whole trophy presentation. This photo I shared was taken by the father of a player on the University of Georgia. He was touched by this young man’s mentality to take it personal. In my opinion, I also see this photo representing his focus on the future and next season. Often in life, things don’t always go your way. How do you reflect and what do you learn from that moment? It is easy to blame others, or to not think about the situation. Sometimes you just have to say, “it’s nobody’s fault, they just beat us.” Adversity stinks, there is no way around it. Go through the valley, it will make the mountain top feel that much better. Here are some questions you could ask your participants, team, or co-workers.

  1. What is something you didn’t win and what did you learn? This can be anything from your past, doesn’t have to be losing a college football bowl game!
  2. Why is adversity such a hard thing?
  3. What do you think this picture represents to you?
  4. What can you do as a leader when adversity strikes or you lose?
  5. What can you do when things go your way or what have you learned when you hit that mountain top?

Devotions and Ice Breakers are important to programming. Just take 5-10 minutes to start your meeting or program. We all need to slow down and have time to talk to one another. Social skills are very important, and you have the opportunity to help strengthen this with your participants or team. I will drop this devotion in the Resource Zone. Tons of other devotions and ideas in there to help as well. Until next time!

Focus on what we can do, not what we can’t do! Social Distance Game Ideas

I attended the 2021 Campfire Conference virtually yesterday, and received a few things I wanted to share with you. With COVID-19 still looming, a great message as you approach your programs is to “Focus on what we can do, not what we can’t do”! I know it can be frustrating as many of you have been modifying programming since March. Hang in there, and take some of these ideas. Share your ideas with me too by emailing me at Don’t forget to bring back some ideas that may have worked 5-7 years ago like “Minute To Win It” challenges or that fun Tic Tac Toe game where you would run to one end of the gym with a bean bag and drop it on floor, and run back to grab another bean bag. Do you remember those? I guarantee your kids and staff did, and some never played them because they were not even born yet. Here are some things I wanted to share with you from a workshop I attended with Chuck Steinfurth from the First Coast YMCA. Always shares great things!

  1. Soda Box Jenga – See if you can get some old soda boxes together and use as Jenga pieces. A cheap and easy way to play the game. The pieces are bigger and work perfectly outside or inside.
  2. Cereal Box Memory – Cut off the front of the cereal boxes and use as your memory pieces. There are so many different cereal brands, you can have a fun and challenging game.
  3. 50 Ways to use your pool noodle (Chris Cavert and Sam Sikes) – Tired of playing the same tag games? Grab this book and will help give you some new games.
  4. Rock Throwing Range “Think Outside The Rules” – Setup a space outside, and have a place where you can hang up some fun objects. (Metal pots, metal signs, rubber tire and just fun things to hit that can make a fun sound too. Great way to burn some energy. You can also use slingshots, and use corn or old dry dog food. Sounds random and silly, but its cheap and easy. Your kids will love it.
  5. Makerspace – It is a place where young people have an opportunity to explore their own interests; learn to use tools and materials, both physical and virtual; and develop creative projects. You will need to start with some common supplies like cardboard rolls, foil, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, construction paper, tape, coffee filters, cups, boxes, string, and anything really. Just have the kids make what they want. If you want to take it to another level, make something assigned like a Robot using the supplies. If you want to advance it some more, have them a complete a challenge with the supplies. Allow time to design, build, and present.
  6. Integrate Makerspace with STREAM (Science, Technology, Reading, Engineering, Arts, and Math). For example read a book like “The Three Little Pigs”. Then identify the challenge (House will be blown down), Draw a solution, and build a project. Test it out by using a box fan for the wind!

A great thing to do as you are planning for Week 1 is to create a space and culture for creativity with your campers and staff. Have them invent the game. Set it up where they can (DEVELOP, PRESENT, and PLAY). You may find your next big game for Summer 2021 from inside your own camp. I hope some of these will help you. Until next time!

The Fire Keeps Going in 2021!

Cheers to 2021! Thanks for reading and following for another year. In 2020, my website reached record page views and visitors. In 2020, I received 19,831 official page views and 13,900 visitors. This has opened up new doors to work with S&S Worldwide who is one of the top youth programs supply companies in the US. I was also able to be a speaker at Campfire Conference prior to COVID-19 and share this with YMCA’s all over the East Coast and in the Midwest. I did a post last week thanking many of the wonderful companies and people that had awesome ideas/products. Thank you again! I do this project on the side as a fun hobby, and I am proud that I have stuck with it during the slow times where I didn’t have many visitors or page views. I stayed with it because I know if I just help one person that’s worth it. Many of these ideas helped my career/program, and I want to help you.

I say all of this to let you know that the mission and vision of this website hasn’t changed. I am here to share ideas to make your youth program the best it can be. It is not just YMCA’s where I currently work, it is for PE classes, Parks and Recreation departments, Youth Groups/Young Life Clubs, and Birthday parties. If you are needing devotions, ice breakers, contests, songs, and just about anything else I have you covered. Check out my Resource Zone, I continue to add files for you to pull straight off your phone inside your program or for you to print off to add to your game notebook or to post for your staff.

Please reach out to me if you have an idea or product you want me to highlight! You can email me at and learn more in the About section on my page. As you can see, you will get some great exposure by posting it on my website. The website is viewed by over 120 countries and is not just in the United States. I have had messages recently from Hong Kong, New York, and Ireland! I am happy to help you. Have a great day!

A Leadership Devotion Heading Into 2021!

As we go into 2021, I came across this old quote that I saved from a few years ago that I wanted to share. I love to reflect on this and I encourage you to keep a saved folder in your inbox or a place to go back to quotes that can motivate or challenge you. This quote always hits me right in the stomach. I often move from week to week or program to program, but we don’t always reflect on how we got there or who helped us along the way. It is just the nature of the beast of work sometimes, but you should never ignore your impact. It is also important to stop making excuses and saying “this is how this work goes, there is no time to pause.” If you supervise people, please remember to never underestimate the influence you have on your people and those watching you. Your decision making is important, and like I mentioned we sometimes don’t take into consideration the impact even a small decision, email, or recommendation can have. If 2020 taught us anything, it is to pause and slow down. It taught me to collaborate even more, think differently, and most importantly lead differently. The people/staff make the programs. It’s not the nicest equipment, facilities, and things that make the program, it’s the people you are leading. It is also the community you are serving, they may be your staff, volunteer or even donor one day. Hopefully like a mentor once told me, you are training and preparing the staff for your job or their next career one day. Hold high expectations, be blunt, and don’t try and be best friends with the people you supervise. Just listen, love on them, and help them in their job. We all want to be happy, and if you can check those boxes you will be a great leader. This is my opinion, and not everyone you will lead will understand in the moment, but hopefully one day they will. I often tell my staff I love the teachers that challenged me. I didn’t like them in the moment, but I will always remember them. It shaped me, and helped me understand that in life everything isn’t easy. Anything you really want or love, you have to work for it.

Share this devotion with your teams! Ask them these 3 questions…

1.What does this quote mean to you?

2.How will you lead differently in 2021?

3.Who has made an impact on your life and why?

Christmas Toys That Work In Youth Programs!

As we wrap up the 2020 holiday season, I thought it would be a good idea to feature a few Christmas toys that I came across. Instead of playing Connect Four or Mancala, these toys can work in your youth programs, and maybe give your participants and staff a new spark. I know budgets can be tight right now, so modify or make your plan based off your enrollment. Being mindful of your budget, and having a plan is key to program quality. I have seen programs with tons of kids, and using the same equipment from three years ago. The participants deserve nice things and not stale programming. You may not be able to buy anything, so save this and get it for Summer Day Camp which will be here in less than six months! The bright side about COVID-19 is that we have an even bigger appreciation for sharing things and ideas with in our own programs. It is OK to not spend money, some of the best games are sold by you the staff member and the enthusiasm you bring to that activity. Don’t forget your creative kids and staff, they may have an idea or activity they want to create or invent. For those looking to buy in 2021 or need ideas for Summer, here are some toys that could be fun for your program….

  1. Plinko – If you have seen the “Price Is Right”, you have heard of “Plinko”. If you haven’t heard of the “Price Is Right”, please get your life together and go to YouTube fast. This is sold at Target and other places. It is $31.99 right now at Target. Great game for Rides In/Out aka when kids are dropped off or waiting to get picked up. You can also build this yourself, will take some time, but I have had staff do this before and the kids love it too!
  2. Skee Ball – Too bad most arcades are still not around. I grew up on this game. It is $27.99 right now at Target. Another great game for Rides In/Out. You could modify this or create a fun contest if you didn’t have the money right now. Many fun contest ideas in the Resource Zone on my website too!
  3. Monopoly – Kids love this game. I mention many times on the website, that simple and basic wins too. There are tons of versions of this game, some for younger and some for older. We have used double dice before, and a great way to sneak in some Math, check this link.. I also like the rules and gameplay in “Monopoly Cheater’s Edition”. Check that one out Most games range from $13 to $25 or so. You can also do this yourself, and make a life sized monopoly game. I will talk about these in a fun post in January if you want more clarity or how to!
  4. Air Hogs, Zero Gravity Racer – A great car that you can have the kids race and keep social distance at the same time. Setup an indoor or outdoor track and have a contest to see who is the best racer at your program. The cars are on sale at Amazon at $18.73 and free shipping for over $25. Check the link out to learn more...
  5. Nerf Halo Motorized Blaster – Any Nerf gun can work, this one is just really cool! It is sold out on but something to keep an eye on when it comes back in stock. Kids can wear gloves and have target practice, setup an obstacle course and time them on how fast they can hit targets, etc…Nerf wars are very popular! This one is $49,99, but can find Nerf guns from around $19.99.
  6. Botley The Coding Robot – A great STEM project and also features “Screen Free” playing. No phone, tablet, to use. This is for 5 and up. You can find on Amazon for $50.50 and free shipping.[artid|10055.g.31132135[src|[ch|[lt|sale
  7. Outside – This isn’t sold in stores. If you can get your participants outside, please do it! Have them be creative, explore, pretend play, just do what we did when we were kids. Relay races, kite flying, lay in a field and look at clouds, etc…Time to get off the screens, and breathe the fresh air.

This is just my top 6 toys that I either saw on my timeline or found during my own hunt for cool things for my kiddos. I hope this list helps bring in some new creative programming for you in 2021. Nerf Wars/Contests is something I want to research some more. Many YMCA’s, Parks and Recreation, and Youth Group’s have hosted or held these recently. Not sure of the success, but I remember having fun with these back in the day. Remember ask your participants what they want to do. They may say “I don’t know, and walk away” or they may give you the next BIG game for your program. If you hear of something, share with me and I will post in 2021!