The Power of Play: How We Build Trust

A group sitting in a circle discussing a team building exercise.

It’s a pretty well-known fact that play is an important aspect in childhood learning. It helps make the material relatable and presents information in an easy-to-digest way. Play also helps children remember what they’ve learned. Just think about the ABC song. How many of us learned the letters of the alphabet by singing them?

Now, did you know that play is also an important component for adult learners? It’s what we at Terrapin Adventures like to call The Power of Play, and it is an important component of our team building programs.

Play is a Powerful Tool for Adult Learners

“Play has been found to speed up learning, enhance productivity and increase job satisfaction,” says Lynn Barnett, a professor of recreation, sports and tourism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Play can also “enhance bonding and communication.”

Fun Increases Retention & Breaks the Ice

“Fun is more memorable,” says Matt Baker, Chief Adventure Officer at Terrapin Adventures. “Learning is retained longer when it comes through fun.”

To help illustrate this point, researcher R. L. Garner studied 117 undergraduate students at a four-year university who volunteered to review three one-hour statistics lectures. The students were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The first saw a standard statistics lecture, while the second saw a lecture that used humour stories to help illustrate the lessons.

“Subjects in the humor group significantly recalled and retained more information,” writes Garner.

This is just one of the reasons why we use humor in our team building programs programs. A fun exercise we use to help large groups get to know each other is “My Name is ___ and I like ___ (something that begins with the letter of their first name).” This mnemonic exercise is a fun way to go around the room and learn everyone’s name. It also breaks the ice, builds a foundation of trust and — because it incorporates a bit of humor — participants are more likely to remember their colleagues’ names!

Three women and one man standing in a semi-circle and participating in a team building exercise.

My Name Is _____

Making Learning Fun Promotes Trust

“When we are at play, we are more relaxed and receptive to learning,” says Baker. “We lower our guard and try new things.”

The idea is pretty simple: Gamification. People are open to trying new things or taking new risks when fun is involved. To illustrate this, Volkswagen turned a staircase into a giant fully-functioning piano keyboard. As a result, 66% more people chose the stairs over the escalator.


Using this same principle in team building, we can more easily get people out of their comfort zones and trying new things if we make a game out of the lesson. One way we do this at Terrapin Adventures is through an exercise we call Dance Machine. Everyone takes turns saying their name and revealing something about themselves before doing a dance move that everyone must copy. Dance Machine is a simple, fun exercise that gets people laughing, engaged and trusting one another.

Fun Helps Make Us Okay Being Uncomfortable

“Being willing to try new, uncomfortable things helps bring teams closer together and creates stronger work relationships,” says Baker.

However, not everyone is willing to get out of their comfort zone. This is why we infuse a bit of fun into everything we do! Two of our favorite trust-building exercises are Blindfold Walk — where one person must help their blindfolded partner negotiate a path using only verbal instructions — and Mousetrap — where participants use real mouse traps and learn to trust partner as they set off trap while blindfolded. Both exercises break down barriers, build trust, and push people out of their comfort zones — without sacrificing the fun!

One woman instructing a blindfolded woman how to deactivate a mousetrap.



A woman instructing a blindfolded woman how to navigate obstacles.

Blindfold Walk

Serious Team Building Partnered with Serious Fun!

Conveniently located between Baltimore and Washington DC, Terrapin Adventures can accommodate up to 200 people in a comfortable indoor setting or we can come to you! Indoor or outdoor, on-site or off, Terrapin Adventures is able to create a customized program to help improve several aspects of your team:

  • Foster connections between participants to know each other better
  • Create solid trust and confidence between all individuals
  • Communicate more effectively
  • Creatively problem solve and manage change & conflict
  • Collaborate well under pressure and new situations

After each exercise, your group will sit down with their facilitator to discuss the lessons behind each activity and how they translate to the business world. This discussion is designed to reinforce these lessons and ensures that the progress made during your team building outing lasts long after you leave us.

Schedule Your Custom Team Building Program!

Team building can be done year round as Terrapin Adventures has team building suites where we use our portable equipment and creativity to engage with teams on fun and meaningful exercises.

If you have any questions, please call Terrapin Adventure at 301.725.1313, or email us at to learn more.


  1. “Fun in Learning: Why Entertainment Is Essential for Adult Education.” Growth Engineering, 21 Dec. 2018,
  2. Garner, R. L. “Humor in Pedagogy: How Ha-Ha Can Lead to Aha!” Taylor & Francis,
This entry was posted on Friday, April 5th, 2019 at 8:24 am. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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