Pen in cup

The children work together to place a pen in a cup using strings.

A classic teamwork exercise that highlights the fact that there are tasks you cannot solve on your own. That people are mutually dependant on each other in a community if things are to succeed.

Educational purpose

Use this activity to strengthen teamwork, improve concentration and build trust among the children. These are important elements in working with children’s communities, and typically tie in with learning goals in the national curriculum.

Carry out the activity with

The oldest children in preschool or children in the early years of primary school.

What you need

  • For each group, you will need:
  • Pen, pencil or other similar item that you can tie a string around and lower into a cup
  • A cup, glass or other container into which a pen can be lowered.
  • 6–8 pieces of about 100 cm long string, giving you a bit extra to tie them on with.

Here is how

  1. Divide the children into groups of 6–8.
  2. Each group is given a cup and a pen with strings tied around it – one string for every child in the group. The strings must be approximately 80 cm long from the pen to the child’s hand.
  3. The group places the cup on the floor and forms a circle around it
  4. Each child holds on to one of the strings attached to the pen.
  5. You hold the pen over the cup and gauge what the right distance should be for the group you are working with.
  6. Participants of each group then work together to get the pen into the cup by pulling their strings in different directions.


You can make the activity more challenging by replacing the cup with a bottle or by having all but one of the children close their eyes, so that they must guide each other both with their words and by pulling the strings. This activity can also be done at home.

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