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Giving presents

3 mins
improv-game exercise improv-game spontaneity
Baptiste Coulange
Socially acceptable maths and improv nerd
Table of Contents

Player A offers an imaginary present to player B. Player B defines what is the gift and show his happiness on what he has just been offered! The pair continues the same action back and forth.

This game is straightforward and perfect to show how hard it can be to define what should be the most natural thing: a present we would like.

  • Group size : By pairs
  • Time : 10-15 minutes


  • Put the participants by pairs
  • A presents B with an imaginary gift. A must offer the present so that B can see the shape of the present (is it big? is it squared, etc.).
  • B accepts with joy the present by defining it: “Oh! It’s a …! Thank you!”
  • Then B gives a present to A and so on.


If A is offering the present, it’s essential that it’s B and not A that should define the present.

A can offer exact items or just a shape and let B define what is or what is inside this shape.

The participants should accept the offer enthusiastically; it’s part of this exercise to accept any offer with the most positive attitude. You may advise the participant to start accepting the offer with joy and manipulating it even before they brain decided what it is.

The players should exchange more than three presents each to evacuate the first easy ideas they had in mind and become more spontaneous. You should encourage them to go fast.

Debrief questions

  • How did it feel to receive gifts? And to give them?
  • What did you think of having to identify the gift?
  • How did it feel when the gift was identified as something else than what you offered?
  • How does this relate to your work?


I love this game because we ask a simple task: to define and be happy with a present we pick. Most of the time when we struggle finding ideas we think of a lot of exterior reasons: someone will judge us, we’ll look stupid, etc.

Here the only judge is us, and we realize how many stress we put on ourselves. Why not just accept the delicious beer we are offering and looking for an unexpected present we won’t be enjoying?

Offering a present is also an enjoyable experience since it’s supposed to be an easy task. After all, we need to mime the offering of a gift we don’t need to define. But we struggle the same: we don’t want to offer the same shape, we want to determine what is the present we are offering, etc.

And finally, you can also play this game in full connexion with the other person and make it playful and beautiful. What if this present was not only a good present but a good present that your partner only could imagine?


No / Yes but / Yes / Yes and
2 mins
improv-game exercise improv-game spontaneity

By pairs. Player A tells a story to player B. Player B can only answer No. Then player B can only respond Yes, But…, then Yes and finally Yes, and.

A good exercise to feel how we are affected by others’ reaction to our ideas.

Mind meld
1 min
improv-game warmup improv-game

In a group, a first player says 1 when he thinks of a word. Then when a second player thinks he knows the word of the first player, he says 2. Finally, together they say 1,2,3 and their world. If they have the same word, it’s a Mind Meld!

An excellent warmup to put a group in the same energy.

One sentence at a time
2 mins
improv-game scenework improv-game

Two players do a scene. They must say one sentence at a time: Player A starts with a sentence, Player B answer with another sentence, and so on.

A good setup to do a scene where we concentrate on the listening between players.

Zip, Zap, Zop
2 mins
improv-game warmup improv-game

In a circle, participants pass a Zip! noise to each other. One player can decide to say Zap! to change the direction of the sound or to say Zop! to skip the next player.

This game is perfect to make every member of the group present.

Training: Why don't I have more ideas?
9 mins
Improvisation improvisation training

In front of this computer since hours, I’m looking for how to start this article. How the find the idea that will make it meaningful. I turn the music on and the distraction off and begin to look around me to think “outside the box”. Two hours ago I planned to write this article about the first improvisation training I did with my team. I’ve decided to train us on behavior and creativity topics. This training is about what I’m struggling with right now :

How can I have more ideas?

5 great books about creativity
5 mins
books books creativity improvisation mathematics
Here are five great books about creativity. These are very good books where you can experience different aspect of creativity: How it became a culture in a creative company like Pixar (Creativity Inc), how one person can fight to maintain it in a huge industry (Orbiting the Giant Hairball), the importance of mistakes in the creative process (The Art of Making Mistakes), how an author can make crazy idea with everyday things (H2G2) and finally in the best example of Art&Science I know, magic (Magical Mathematics).