Engaged Supervision Short Activity: Think Fast

Engaged supervision is one of the single most important skills in youth programming. Not only does it keep participants involved in the program activities, but it also minimizes any opportunity for injuries, bullying or peer-to-peer sexual abuse. Mastering it, however, is not simply about learning a specific set of rules or actions. Instead, it is about learning to remain nimble and attentive to what is happening at any given moment. The exercise below is intended to encourage fast-thinking, improvised strategies for keeping youth engaged and entertained.

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Think Fast

Time: 10+ minutes

Materials Needed:

  • Balls (These can be tennis balls, bouncy balls, volleyballs, etc.)

Initial Talking Points:

  • Remind staff that engaged supervision means you are maintaining line-of-sight and line-of-sound to all youth in your care. This includes maintaining proper ratios at all times, including during bathroom breaks and transition times. It also means positioning yourself in a way that prevents blind spots.
  • Engaged supervision means you are actively engaged and present—participating in youth’s activities, conversations and programming.
  • Emphasize the fact that sometimes staff will need to adapt and improvise in the moment and this activity is meant to help them do that.


Break your staff up into groups of five and ask each group to form a circle. Give each group a ball to throw back and forth to each other. (If you don’t have balls, they can do the activity with an “imaginary” ball.) Set the scene for them. Explain that they are in charge of a group of youth and that the program is short-staffed today—so they are going to have to cancel some planned programming.

Ask the groups to now throw the ball to each other. Each time they throw, they should name an activity or strategy they can use to keep the youth engaged. Try to speed up the activity as they get into the swing of things. Once they begin to run out of steam, pause to discuss some of the strategies or activities suggested—and help them to see why they might be helpful to prevent boredom or distraction.

Optional Discussion Questions:
  • What are some of the challenges/barriers that you face in keeping youth actively supervised and engaged?
  • What strategies or activities suggested today might you implement into your everyday work?