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Activities Home | Index of Activities

Social Activities for Small Groups

"Social interaction is a major aspect of leisure lifestyle. This is particularly true of adult leisure involvement. In many situations, the social interaction is more significant and important to the participants than the activity itself." (Gunn & Peterson, Therapeutic Recreation Program Design: Principles and Procedures. 1984).


bulletTable Ball

Submitted by Cindy Laverty of Nursing Home

Size of Group: 1-10

Equipment/Supplies Needed:  Punch Balloon (Large) Take the elastic off

Activity/Treatment Objective or Expected Outcome:  Socialization, Laughter, Hand/eye coordination

Description of the Activity: Using 3 to 4 tables have resident around the table.  Then throw the balloon on table and tell them the object is to not let the balloon go off the table. 

I played this game as a warm up, but it they ended up having so much fun that we played it for 1 hour.

bullet Map Plotting
Submitted by Caroline smith of abbotsleigh care centre

Size of Group: any

Equipment/Supplies Needed:  large map or projector

Activity/Treatment Objective or Expected Outcome:  lots of enjoyable memories

Description of the Activity: have large map of world or country on table or as we do project a large world map on wall. Then you go around your group and ask them what countries they have visited and which they liked the best then with some wool or string you plot from your place of origin to that country we use white tack to stick wool to wall or map we have had some wonderful stories doing this and at the end you could give a prize to who ever has been the furthest away from home.


submitted by Patricia Wilcox of Friend of the Arc on January 16, 2009

Size of Group: 2 or more

Equipment: chalkboard, dry erase board, chalk, dry erase markers

Objective: social skills, letter recognition, personal care awareness, health awareness, safety awareness and many others

Description: Choose a word from the a chosen hangman theme such as personal care items, survival signs or food items. Write the blank spaces and draw the hangman sign. Ask each person to choose a letter. If they are unable to verbally say the letter, have them choose from flashcards or a pre made alphabet sheet. Play Hangman!!!! and once they have identified the word, ask them what they would use it for, how they would sign it, how they would wear, etc. This Game can be played using many different themes as well. Themes such as, Christmas words, holiday words, movies, song and etc. Be creative...its a lot of fun.



bullet Sunshine Milk bar and Pelican Cafe
submitted by Joanne McAulay of Edgewood Park Nursing Facility, Batemans Bay, NSW, Australia on January 26, 2009

Size of Group: 15

Equipment: Coffee/tea making equipment, sandwich maker, milkshake maker, blender, cappuccino machine, cups, saucers, plates,etc

Objective: Socialization and reminiscing

Description: Tables are set as in a milk bar with flowers and menu. I charge $2 for smoothies, milkshakes, toasted sandwiches, cappuccino, coffee and tea. The residents order as in a real milk bar...I serve and wait on them. The residents enjoy it as it's a change from the nursing home snacks. It also gives them a chance to socialize and reminisce ...bringing back the memories of the ol' days of the the milk bar. I decorate the tables in yellow ...hence the name Sunshine Milk bar. It's a lot of effort, but well worth it. The staff sometimes come and join the residents which they enjoy...we do this in the low care section. In the high care section we do the same and we call it the Pelican Cafe..this time it's purple aprons and table cloths. They too enjoy the experience.


bullet Tea cup table centers
submitted by Nicolla Moran of Oakbridge retirement village on December 19, 2009

Size of Group: 1-15

Equipment: Tea cups and saucers ( very cheap from a charity shop) Floristry foam Flowers (chrysanthemum and carnations)

Objective: This really helps build the self esteem of people with dementia. It produces beautiful table centers that get lots of praise and is easy and stimulating to do. It also bonds the group or can be done 1-1, and people at all stages can do this.

Description: At a table cut the floristry foam into small squares that fit snugly in the teacups. Once the foam is in the teacup, water until wet through. Put a tea cup in front of each chair at the table. Cut the heads from all the flowers at an angle. Cut them at short but various lengths. A resident with higher skills could help you do all this.

Once you have enlisted people for the activity sit them down around the table with a teacup.

Hand out an equal amount of flowers then ask the residents to push the flowers into the floristry foam while you demonstrate.

Go round the table giving help and praise, and have a big round of applause once done. Then ask the residents to find a table to display their arrangements. Place them on saucers and you have fabulous table arrangement that residents can enjoy for days.

bulletCrossword Puzzle with Slam Game
submitted by Anne-Marie Cram of Maine Veterans Homes on February 13, 2010

Size of Group: 4

Equipment: Scrabble Slam Card Game

Objective: To maintain letter and word cognition, eye hand coordination and socialization.

Description: Activity: Crossword Puzzle with Slam Game

Time: 30 minutes

Residents: Dementia

Retain letter and word recognition, eye and hand coordination, socialization.

Table, deck of Scrabble Slam Cards (commercially purchased)

Procedure: Explain to residents that the cards will be passed out to each of them. Cards are to be placed on the table in front of them.

Cards have letters on both side, and there are blank cards that can be used as wild card.
Have residents pick a word to start with, start with one resident and ask if they have the first letter of the word. Have resident’s place card in the middle of the table. Go around to each resident until the word is spelled out. Pick a letter from that word to start another word. Then work your way up or down. Repeat the process having residents thinking and spelling words along with you. If residents are able to place the cards allow them the time to do so. Words are set up as you would a crossword puzzle. Play until all the card are used or there are no other words that can be made.

I played this game with residents who are in the middle stages of dementia and they had a great time.


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bullet What is it?
submitted by Sharon Lewis of Keyhealthcare on March 23, 2009

Size of Group: 1 - 20

Equipment: items that residents can guess what they are

Objective: To get residents to communicate with each other

Description: I have several modern day items in a box ie. tea bag squeezer, jar opener, toothpaste squeezer, egg yoke divider ( I have now got about 20 items in my box )I get each item out individually the residents have got to guess what they are, they have great fun doing this, the one they talk about the most is the tongue cleaner.

Angel Club
submitted by Jennifer Vancho  on October 9, 2008

Size of Group: any

Equipment: Greeting Cards,construction paper, pens maybe scissors,

Objective: Increased Self esteem and self worth,

Description: In my LTC facility I gather residents and discuss how we can give back to the staff that do so much for them.  We usually end up constructing a large card and decorating it.  We have the residents sign and write a message if possible.  Each month we thank a different department.  Sometimes we send a card for a specific staff member that is battling a hard time. 

I love everybody except....
Submitted by Rachel Seltzer of Peachford Behavioral Hospital on May 09, 2003

Size: 10 to 20

Equipment: chairs

Objective: Humor therapy. participating in a silly activity to learn to find humor in life situations and learn to have fun and laugh. And by standing in front of a crowd can help people who are shy to come out of their shell.

Description: Everyone sits in a circle with one less chair and a volunteer in the middle. the volunteer begins by saying I love everybody except those with brown hair...or those with black shoes. If you have brown hair you get up and switch seats including the volunteer. You can't go to the chair next to you. It must be away from your initial seat. For children I reword it and tell them to say I like everybody who.... They run around trying not to get stuck in the middle. Adults and children love this activity. They learn to be silly and laugh and also get some exercise from running to the best seat.

Tell A Story
submitted by Anna Evans of Longwood University on January 04, 2004

Equipment: Yarn of various colors and scissors

Objective: 1. To enhance socialization skills. 2. To share memories with others.

Description: Cut different colored yarn into varying lengths. Tie yarn together end to end, alternating the colors. Roll the yarn into a ball. Sit in a circle. Decide who will go first and hand the person the ball of yarn. As the person begins telling a story, he or she slowly unravels the ball of yarn. When the color changes, it is time to pass the ball of yarn to the next person so he or she can take over telling the story. Keep passing the ball of yarn around as the colors change, until the ball of yarn is completely unraveled. The last person ends the story. For a variation, make up a rule to follow when the color changes. For example, each time the color changes you need to change the setting or introduce another character in your story.

water play
submitted by Winton Barrow of Dept. of Human Resources on May 25, 2002

Size: 8-10

Equipment: All types of sprinklers, wade pools, water balloons, water fun kits.

Objective: to be socially interactive with others. This activity really works.

Description: Activate all of the sprinklers and just let the students just have fun in the water. They will love this activity and will not want to stop.

Fun with Balloons
submitted by Rosa Mariona on September 29, 2002

Size: 6-12

Equipment: large piece of light colored material or joined scarfs, 6 balloons, music.

Objective: Social gathering,upper body exercise,eye coordination,reminisce with music.

Description: Have people seating in a circle holding the material, with the balloons in the middle, moving the material up and down while the music is playing. The aim is not to let the balloons fall off.

Cooking Club
submitted by Jane Shelton on March 22, 2003

Size: 20-25

Equipment: Table, Chairs, Cookie Sheet Pan, Pre-Made Dough, Small Bowls, Knife, Sprinkles, Icing, Small plate (Plastic) and Gloves.

Objective: Socialization/Reminisce

Description: Place a bowl in front of each participant. Place a knife (Plastic preferably) in front of each person. Place a good size portion of the Pre-made dough into each participants bowl. Have the participant place gloves on and work with the dough until it is soft enough to create into a round flat cookie shape. Have each participant place the cookie into the flat cookie sheet. Once placed into the sheet place into the oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown. While the cookies are baking have each participant pick an icing color. After the icing color has them pick the topping of sprinkles are next. By the time each participant chooses a topping decoration the cookies will be ready. Finally it is time to decorate. Each participant receives a small plate and is encouraged to be as creative as possible. The neatest thing about this event is the smell of the cookies. It is not only a sensory event but brings people together. After decorating the cookie we usually have a contest on who's cookie is most creative, cute, and original. This event is simple and yet fun for Reminisce Groups, Socials, and Rainy Days.

Getting to know you
submitted by Kathy Brigham of Little Flower Manor on May 27, 2003

Size: unlimited, though 4 to 10 seems to work the best

Equipment: Tablet, pen

Objective: Socialization, interaction, reminiscing

Description: In a tablet write statements such as " I know how to knit", " My birthday is in the summer" imaginative without being too personal. Number statements, as many as you can think of. Have each participant in turn pick a number. Read statement. Each member in the group has to guess if the statement about the person who picked the number is true or not. When all have guessed the person who picked the Number answers. Participants find things they may have in common, also this game is often a good "opener" for reminiscing.

Antique Home Show
submitted by Theresa Zaffini of Pine Knoll Convalescent Center on January 7, 2002

Size: 5-20

Equipment: Antiques, information about the antiques (which you can obtain from the internet)

Objective: Promote open discussion, reminiscing, and interaction

Description: We have the residents sit around a table, we have about 10 antiques for each scheduled Antique Home Show. We show the antique and usually the residents know what is it and they can us more about the item than we know. This activity is usually for the higher functioning resident, but it has had success with our lower functioning as well.

submitted by Shoe Schuler of HCF: Warren Manoron Thursday, August 9, 2001

Size: at least 3; the more the merrier

Equipment: (1) Each person receives a sheet of paper onto which has been copied 9 dollar bills (copy Monopoly or other game money), 3 quarters, 2 dimes, 1 nickel. (2) A
varied selection of items to be auctioned off.

Objective: Socialization, competition, reality orientation, just plain fun!

Description: Each of the items is held up and described, then walked around the room by a helper so everyone can get a good look. The auctioneer keeps up a lively pace to create excitement. After a bidder wins an object, the amount he bid is crossed off the sheet of paper. Bidders may continue to bid on new items until all their money is "spent."

Since our auctions take place in a skilled nursing facility with two beds in each rather compact room, we find the most popular items are body lotions, tissues, and food items such as candy bars, boxes of crackers, bags of hard candy, etc. A local church group donates very popular, quilted lap robes. A box of tissues usually goes for $9 or $10 ; while a charming lamp, figurine, picture frame, writing supplies, or stuffed animal will go for as little as $.50!

Ball Magic
submitted by judith kautz on March 25, 2001

Size: from 4 to 12 people

Equipment: a small ball, large piece of bright colored material (or parachute for larger groups)

Objective: hand and eye co-ordination, team building, fun arm and hand exercise.

Description: Have people sitting or standing hold material tight, with ball in the middle. The object of the exercise is to not let the ball fall off when raising and lowering the cloth.

Get to know your neighbor
submitted by Amanda on May 16, 2000

Size of Group: 3-4

Objective: To help the residents interact with other residents

Description: First you start by having them sit in a circle. You may start the activity or have someone else do it. Now, say something that you like to do, and if someone else likes the same thing, they are supposed to raise their hand. Whoever raises their hand first is going to ask the next question. Each person should record how many matches they have and after the game ends whoever has the most matches wins.

Pool Tournament
submitted by mel of Atria on February 18, 2000

Size of Group: 6-?

Equipment: Pool Table, cue stick, billiard balls, adaptive pool equipment as needed

Objective: To facilitate socialization

Description: We invited a neighbor facility to join us in a pool tournament. The beginning bought mostly men however 50% of the entries are now women. We treat them to refreshments and the winner receives a trophy donated by our local trophy shop.

Bogus Adventure Stories
submitted by Robert Montague of Anchorage Pioneers' Home on January 28, 2000

Size of Group: 4-12

Equipment: A room without distractions

Objective: Creative thought, socialization, communication skills, diversion, team work, humor, fun.

Description: 1. In a small group setting you present a scenario or encourage others to present the setting/scenario that will be the beginning of the story. For example: You are on a boat in the South Pacific. It is a beautiful day and.....

2. Then you encourage each resident to take turns in completing the story. Each resident contributes to the story line.

Photo Scavenger Hunt
submitted by Diane Urban of Normandy Farms Estates

Size of Group: 5-10

Equipment: 1 disposable camera with flash

Objective: fun, social, teamwork

Description: This worked well with the Personal Care wing residents. Before I went on vacation I made up a list of photos residents would have to take while I was away. Each photo had a point value depending on difficulty. If they got a certain amount of points they would get a shrimp cocktail and mocktail party when I came back from vacation. Residents really got into it. Some photo suggestions: 3 residents doing exercise, 2 residents with the Executive Director, a resident at the beauty shop, a staff person in the whirlpool tub (not filled with clothes on!)etc... The nursing staff on the wing were into it also. They helped make the phone calls to staff to come have their photo taken and took charge of checking off when they completed certain photos. When I got back from vacation they had gotten enough points and the photos were really funny to put on the bulletin board, and the shrimp were great!

Story Telling
Submitted by Melanie Heffner

Size: up to 12

Equipment: small paper bags, small objects around the house

Description: take the small paper bags and place a small object in them (paperclip, spoon, battery, comb, etc.) everyone picks a bag and go around and tell a story about what's in the bag.

The Name Word Association Game

Target population: any

Skills prerequisite: understand directions

Min/max # of participants: 5 min, but no more than 15

Total number of sessions: can be used as a first meeting warm up

Frequency of sessions:- once within a group

Staff requirements: recreation leader

Facility requirements: room/outdoor space supplies required none

Program objectives: to learn the names of other persons in a group through associating the person first name with a word that also begins with the same letter as the first name


  1. Have participants sit in a circle
  2. Have each person think of a word that might say something about their personality or something that they like to do - this word has to begin with the same letter as their first name
  3. To begin, the first person might say my name is Elizabeth and I like to exercise
  4. Then the next person introduces themselves in a similar manner and then reintroduces all previously introduced people in the same manner until everyone has been introduced

person 1 - my name is Elizabeth and I like to exercise

Person 2 - my name is Heather and I like horses, this is Elizabeth and she likes to exercise

Person 3 - my name is Jim and I like to jump, this is heather and she likes horses, and this is Elizabeth and she likes to exercise

Drawbacks: while everyone in the group may remember names of people that they have heard repeated in this manner, the people who are introduced in the end my not have their name remembered by all as the leader make a special effort to remember their names

Idea submitted during an activity workshop at the 1995 WVTRA Conference

Creative Candid Camera

Size of Group: up to 8

Equipment: video camera, video tape, VCR, past episodes of Candid Camera on tape

Focus: creativity, group interaction and decision-making


  • Day 1- Show participants past episodes of Candid Camera or discuss sequences that you have seen. Have group discuss ideas for candid camera skit and work out details, location, props, equipment, people, etc.
  • Day 2- Have the group work out final details. Setup filming location with props as needed. Film the sequence.
  • Day 3- Show finished product to participants and staff.

Confidentiality- many facilities do not permit filming of clients. You may have to erase or destroy the video tape after showing.

Dictionary Definitions

Group Size: 4 to 10

Equipment: pencil, paper, dictionary

Focus: social interaction, family involvement

Before there was Balderdash, there was Flibbertigibbet. Before there was Flibbertigibbet, there was just a dictionary. What ever the name, a dictionary can be a source of fun for everyone in the group.

Description: Invite one person to look through a dictionary till he finds a word he believes no one else would know its meaning. This person reads the word aloud and spells it out for others.

The other players tries to think of a good definition for that word.

Encourage players to try to make the definition sound as if it really belongs in the dictionary as they are attempting to fool others as if there definition is the real one.

Meanwhile, the player who shared the word from the dictionary writes down the real definition on a sheet of paper.

When everyone is done, the definitions are collected and read aloud one at a time. Everyone listens and tries to guess which is the real definition.

Point distribution:

  • Anyone who guesses the correct definition gets a point.
  • The writer of a false definition that is voted upon gets a point for each vote he receives.
  • The player who shared the word from the dictionary gets a point for every person who guessed a wrong definition.

Continue the game with each person having an opportunity to share a word from the dictionary.

Discussion: What family games do you play within your family? How do you think that games can promote communication within the family? Would a regular family game night help improve communication in your family?

Expected Outcome: participants will learn a new leisure activity and add to their repertoire of leisure interests and skills. Participants will understand the need for family activities.


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