Decision-Making Activities

Making decisions is a big part of everyday life. Regardless of your age, the chances are that you must make choices and live with the consequences dozens of times a day. This fact makes decision-making skills one of the most necessary and crucial skills to develop at a young age. Furthermore, like a knife, you need to keep these skills well-honed in adulthood as well.

In the following article, we’ll discuss many different fun, innovative, or challenging decision-making activities that you can use to sharpen your mind. To keep the information comprehensive, we’ve divided up the article into two categories: decision-making activities for kids and decision-making activities for adults.

Whether you’re attempting to appeal to a team of seasoned businessmen or a group of grade-schoolers, the basic goal of these activities remains the same: get them to think about why they do what they do.

Decision-Making Activities for Kids

For young children, developing strong decision-making skills is about preparing them for life and teaching them the nature of consequences. There are many different theories on how and when this process takes place, but most experts agree that you should take every opportunity you can to empower children to make choices and help them comprehend the results.

As you read on, you’ll notice that the designers have geared many of the activities on this list toward helping young children understand their decisions. This includes asking them why they made the choice they did, and whether or not they know how that decision affected the outcome. Some of these activities are fun, while others are a bit more overtly challenging.


Role-playing exercises ask kids to imagine themselves as a particular person in a specific type of situation. Not only does this help the child develop a more active and dynamic imagination, but it can also be used as a leverage point to encourage the development of crucial decision-making skills. Like many of the items on this list, it requires strong interaction from a parent, teacher, or tutor.

In this role-playing activity, you will ask your child to assume a role or assign them one that you’ve come up with before. Present them with choices that they need to make as that character. As they make each choice, explain a result to them, and ask if they see how their choice led to that consequence. After that, ask how they feel about the choice from their point of view.

It’s vital that they truly feel like a Doctor, Superhero, Chef, Parent, or Firefighter, as this will allow them to empathize with the character when they later comment as themselves. Doing this will teach them that everybody makes decisions, not just them.

The Game of Choices

Here is a fun decision-making activity that both the adults and the kids will love. It is based on you asking your child simple “this” or “that” questions, and then following up their decisions with examples of consequences they might encounter. They can then justify their initial choice or change it, resulting in a completely new situation.

For example:

Would you rather live on Mars, or would you prefer to live on the Moon?

If they say the Moon, you could mention how there’s no water there, so they couldn’t go swimming. If they say, Mars, you could mention how there’s a lot of sand there, so they’d have to take a lot of baths. Depending on their follow-up, you could ask them to make another decision, and so on, and so on.

Other questions include:

Would you rather be a dog or a cat?

Would you rather go without TV or junk food for the rest of your life?

Would you rather be good at sports or be super smart?

The more creative you are with the questions you present, the more creative the kids will be with their answers. While this activity can be endlessly entertaining for both parties, the goal is to get them to understand the consequences of each choice they make as well as the relationship between choices A, B, C, and D.

Interactive Reading

Most kids love to have stories read to them. However, many parents and teachers ignore the learning opportunities that come along with reading a story. For instance, interactive reading can allow children to get a deeper understanding of the choices the characters make, help them empathize with why those choices were made and will enable them to see how those choices relate to their lives.

As you read your children a story, ask them questions to keep them involved in what the characters are doing and why. You might ask:

Why did the princess decide to do that?

What do you think will happen now that the character has made that decision?

Does this remind you of a decision you’ve had to make?

The best part about this activity is that it can accomplish it with virtually any book and that you can perform with a child of almost any age. At the end of the day, the depth of the book’s plot and the age of the child are secondary to the process of helping them understand decisions.

You are the Author

Like the last entry on this list, this activity requires you to do some reading (or some detailed imagining). Also, like the last entry, the complexity of the story takes a back seat to your ability to involve the child in the proceedings and encourage them to use their imagination. No matter how you wish to approach this exercise, you start by asking them questions.

For instance:

Take a pivotal moment in a story and ask them to imagine what’s going to happen next. After the child answers, suggest a few potential consequences to that action and see how long you can keep the story going. You could also approach this from an “if you were the character” standpoint, asking them to imagine what choice they’d make to solve the problem.

Activities like this rely on your parental ingenuity and your ability to help your kids empathize with a character’s situation. Still, participating in this sort of activity is an excellent way for kids to hone their decision-making skills and develop a better understanding of how decisions affect outcomes.

Youth Debate

No matter the age of the child, it’s vital for them to understand that they have a right to disagree. While it may seem contrary to the “because I said so” style of parenting many of us grew up with, having a spirited debate with your kids or allowing them to have one with each other build confidence, encourages critical thinking, and aids in decision-making.

Now, if you have more than one child, the opportunity to have a debate will present itself quite often. When your children disagree about anything, be it philosophical or simply what to have for lunch, you can easily encourage them to present logic-based arguments to support their side or detract from their opponent’s argument.

If you have one child, or you want to have a bit more control over the style of the debate, you could read magazine or newspaper articles and ask your child’s opinion on them. Ask them to explain why they like or dislike something, and ask them to provide evidence to support their feelings. Many children will be surprised to see the difference between logical and emotional choices.

Play Board Games

Board games aren’t just about passing the time with the family – many of them can be genuine learning experiences that help hone your child’s decision-making skills. This fact is true because most games involve actions and consequences. While some are better than others, virtually any game that involves strategy, planning, and reaction will suit our purposes. For instance:

  • Checkers: Checkers is easy enough to be understood by even young children, and there are clear, easy-to-observe actions and reactions in every turn. For many small kids, this is the first game that genuinely asks them to develop a strategy to beat their opponent.
  • Chess: Chess is practically synonymous with the term “strategy games” and is the natural next step after a child has mastered Checkers. Not only is Chess considered an excellent game for developing a child’s brain and decision-making skills, but it is also a certified sport and celebrated “art.”
  • Settlers of Catan Junior: When looking for board games that encourage the development of decision-making skills, you’ll want to look for games of skill, not games of luck. One of the most popular games of this type in the world is Settlers of Catan. Unfortunately, this game of civilization building and resource harvesting will be over the heads of most young kids. Luckily, there is a less complicated Junior version that children can play.

Try the Bag Game

One of the best ways to teach kids that every action has a consequence is with the Bag Trading Game. To set up this activity, you need to get a group of kids together and count them. However, many children you have, you’ll need that number of paper bags plus an extra one to keep in the middle.

Fill each bag with different goodies like candy and small toys. Seal the bags with tape and then have the children sit in the circle. One by one, each child chooses a bag until there is only one remaining in the center. The kids can’t open the bags, but they can feel them and try to guess what’s inside. Now, allow each child to take a turn. They can trade bags, keep their original one, or grab the one from the center.

Once everyone has had a turn, allow the children to open the bag. Now that everyone can see each bag’s contents, ask each child what they think about their choice. Are they happy?

Take the Sports Approach

While it may seem like a no-brainer, many parents overlook the effect that common sports can have on their child’s decision-making abilities. From one-person activities like golf to widely-popular team sports like football, baseball, and basketball, games like these encourage kids to take a more organizational approach to their thinking, and display a direct correlation between decisions and outcomes.

In retrospect, those of us who were forced into sports by our parents probably learned a lot about independence and decision-making. For every practice, we skipped or opportunity we took, we could see a clear benefit or disadvantage. So, if you want to see some more confident decision-making in your child, getting them into sports is always a good idea.

Decision-Making Activities for Adults

Just because we’re adults doesn’t mean that our ability to hone our decision-making skills has passed. Indeed, as we navigate the business world, relationships, and friendships, our interactions with other adults become increasingly more complex. If we didn’t have particularly solid decision experience as a youth or teen, now would be the best time to participate in some decision-making activities.

The Sinking Ship

Being able to solve problems often requires a skill called adaptability. While many of us prefer (and have the most experience) making our decisions alone, adaptability is most commonly associated with cognitive diversity. In short, being able to adapt to situations in times of stress requires the brains of multiple people.

This fact is particularly evident in activities like The Sinking Ship. In this scenario, a team stands inside of a rope on the ground. Over fifteen or so minutes, constantly pull the rope tighter to reduce the amount of total space. The team must then figure out how to keep everyone in the area without running out of time.

These team building scenarios are often at the forefront of adult decision-making activities. The assumption is that most adults will have had enough decision-making experience to contribute to solving the situation. In some cases, there are consequences to failing, but most scenarios end with a discussion on better decision-making under pressure.

Escape Rooms

Escape rooms have become so popular that you can hardly find a medium-sized city that doesn’t have at least one company operating. Since they often require teams to work toward a common goal, solve puzzles, or discover clues, escape rooms have become extremely popular as team building exercises. From businesses to bridal parties, thousands of teams take on these challenges every day.

As far as decision-making activities go, escape rooms are among the most fun and – depending on the nature of the game itself – among the most exciting. No matter where you live or what sort of group you’ve assembled, you can likely find a nearby escape room to help sharpen your decision-making skills. If you can’t find one, you can also find instructions on how to make your own online.

The Egg Drop

The Egg Drop is an exercise that helps reinforce the idea that, while making decisions is not necessarily easy, it is crucial to maintaining the health of your team. To perform the Egg Drop exercise correctly, you’ll need a carton of eggs (more if there are more than a few team members), and some standard construction implements like popsicle sticks, plastic wrap, rubber bands, etc. Be creative!

The goal of the Egg Drop is to divide everyone up into small teams, allowing each side to get a single egg. Using the various construction implements you’ve included, teams must construct an egg carrier to keep the egg from breaking. After everyone’s carrier is complete, drop the eggs off of a ledge. The surviving eggs move on to the next round, in which the drop will be even higher.

The point of this exercise is to reinforce teamwork. It also encourages adults to make decisions both by themselves and as a group and to solve a practical problem with ingenuity. All of these are excellent skills to have when increasing one’s decision-making confidence.

The Stranded Game

Being able to communicate is essential in a team environment, especially when it comes to decision making as a group. One exercise that helps reinforce this truth is the “game” called Stranded. You should note that businessmen and women who run collaborative offices in multiple locations, or who have a lot of remote employees, really love this game.

This exercise places all of your team in an office. The doors are (figuratively) locked, and you can’t break any windows or knock down any walls to escape. You then give the team 30 minutes to find ten items that they need for survival and rank them in order of importance. The goal is to have everyone agree on these items (and their ranking) before the time is up.

This simple exercise becomes particularly useful when remote workers find themselves in the office with their co-workers for the first time, or those team members who don’t regularly communicate a lot find themselves in a timed decision-making situation.


This game begins with some blindfolds, some construction materials (toothpicks, card stock, rubber bands, and other office goodies) and an electric fan. Your team must pretend to be Arctic explorers traversing a remote, icy tundra. Separate your staff into groups of four or five, and have each side select a leader to guide them on their exploration.

Each team must construct a shelter (a model in this case) to protect them from a storm that is coming in 30 minutes. The team leader’s hands, unfortunately, are too frostbitten to help. The rest of the team, however, has snow blindness and is unable to see. After the time is up, turn the fan on to see which shelter or shelters can withstand the storm.

Not only does this seem like a lot of fun, but it is also an activity that puts a lot of stress on proper communication and decision-making. In the end, everyone can take their turn as the team leader, allowing staff members to discover communication skills they never knew they had.

The Idiot Brainstorm

As far as fun team building exercises go, there’s nothing quite like the Idiot Brainstorm. In this exercise, you will task your team with a problem. They will each then try their best to come up with the worst idea possible for solving the problem – the dumber the idea, the better when it comes to this game. After each comes up with their plan, they write it down on a list.

Now, have the manager or observer read from the list and ask the group to brainstorm each idea. Are they really that dumb? Do they manage to solve the problem? If so, what separates a successful foolish idea from a successful smart idea. Thinking about these types of concepts in a group setting can be quite revealing, and have long-lasting effects on each member’s decision-making.

Contrasting Ethical Dilemmas

This exercise requires a manager or observer who will present a team with a series of scenarios. You can find examples scenarios all over the Internet, or come up with your own. The only prerequisite for a successful scenario is that they contain some type of ethical dilemma that will facilitate conversation and impact decision making.

For example:

You are an office manager and receive two resumes. One is from a seasoned veteran in the industry, while another is from a recent graduate. The latter applicant shares some of your hobbies and went to the same university as you did. You must hire one, and you must explain why.

The manufacturing cost of your product suddenly drops by 50%. One of your customers is a friend of one of the company’s managers and discovers this price drop. He wants to place an order and expects a significant discount. You approve of the discount and go about your business. Then, one of your friends and favorite customers (who knows nothing of the price drop) places the same order. What do you do?

There are dozens of these types of business-related dilemmas that you can find online. The goal of this exercise is to have each person choose a solution, and then discuss them as a group. You might be surprised to see just who on your team makes what decision.

Give New Games a Try

Sometimes games can provide a lot of insight into why we make the decisions we make and what processes govern how we choose our fates. Some of these games are fun, while others are a bit more heavy-handed, but all of them can help us learn more about our personal decisions. Below, we’ve listed some of the best.

Settlers of Catan: As we mentioned in the “Decision Making Activities for Kids” section of this article, Settlers of Catan is a resource-gathering and colony-building game that relies quite heavily on strategy and decision-making. Not only is it immensely popular among adults of all ages, but it has also managed to creep into many business recreation rooms as well.

Stratego: A classic game of strategy and high-energy battle, games of Stratego are a great way to get the decision-making juices flowing.

Risk: One of the most successful strategy games of all time, Risk is an excellent metaphor for the modernized, highly-competitive business world. Though you can play it for fun, it becomes a real brain exercise when players announce their decisions (and the intended consequences) aloud.

Game of Thrones: The Board Game: Like Risk, this land domination game relies on cunning strategy, alliances, and skill. It also has the added benefit of being based on one of the most popular television shows (and book series) in history. Players will love forming and breaking alliances and influencing their enemies and will learn quite a bit about how and why they make decisions in the process.

The Decision Tree Exercise

The Decision Tree exercise asks adults to create a chart that details various outcomes associated with a particular task. You would start with the action at the top of the page, then insert subcategories of the decision to do that action below. Try to list as many possible outcomes of the decision as possible, then create a cost-benefit analysis to see which choice is the most logical.

The Decision Tree exercise is an essential activity for adults, as it will demonstrate that there are often hidden reasons for why we make the decisions we make. That is to say, the choice that has the most beneficial or least harmful outcome may not be the decision the subject ends up choosing. Why is this? What ulterior motives could there be? The answers are always telling.

Final Thoughts

Depending on the age of the people involved and the reasons for wanting to increase decision-making abilities, there are endless decision-making activities that you can try. From helping kids grasp the weight of their first few major choices to assisting Fortune 500 employees with their communication and adaptability, there are always opportunities to improve.

No matter which activities you choose, remember to have fun and keep the focus on what you make the choices you do.

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