Thinking On Your Feet With Instant Challenges

In a world with growing cultural connections, increased types of communication, and a need for teamwork and problem solving, the ability to solve problems quickly as a group is becoming increasingly important.  Destination Imagination Instant Challenges are designed to help give children the confidence that they can approach any problem with creativity and tenacity.


Wow! That sounds great but how are you supposed to teach these kids? The key is to teach the team teamwork and problem solving skills while having FUN! FUN is key! If your team isn’t having fun they won’t master the skills! Be enthusiastic and crazy, help your team relax. You are their Cheerleader. Promote a sense of comradery, and collaboration. Praise the kids when they take risks even if it doesn’t work. Teach them to learn from failure, embrace it and improve. Enjoy the time you spend with your team. It really is time well spent and will be life changing for you all!


What is IC?


General Information


See a real IC in action. – Apollo 13 movie –(watch this Apollo 13 video clip! A real IC in action! )


Watch a Team perform an Instant Challenge


What is Instant Challenge?

The Instant Challenge portion of the DI competition is a chance for your team to show off its creative problem solving skills as they work together and “think on their feet” in a very short time frame to solve a problem. ICs are usually 5-10 minutes long.


  • There are 3 types of IC
  • The best part about Instant Challenge is that non-team members may teach IC skills to the team throughout the season.
  • There is NO INTERFERENCE in Instant Challenge practice.



Why practice Instant Challenge (IC)?

  • IC teaches kids important skills for life!
  • Instant Challenges are FUN! FUN! FUN!
  • Instant challenges are intended to give students opportunities to develop collaboration skills in an engaging way.
  • Shy or timid students will often participate and engage in Instant Challenge even when they don’t in other areas.
  • Instant Challenges help students to improve their mental agility, intuition, and communication and apply what they know to solve a problem.
  • Instant Challenges spark a student’s creativity and ability to use available materials in creative ways.
  • ICs improve time management skills.
  • ICs can be used to understand problems they are experiencing in their central challenge. This is really important! Ex. If the kids are having trouble figuring out how to make a prop stand up, create an IC to make something (not prop related) stand up. You can teach them ways to do it in the IC debrief. Beware you don’t make it so Obvious! It is up to the team to realize what they just figured out and translate it to their prop problem.
  • ICs are worth a 100 points at a tournament, or 25% of the team’s total score.



When do you Practice Instant Challenge? – When you can. People will tell you as many as you can at each meeting, instead make ICs a teaching opportunity. 

  • Every team meeting, especially for new teams.
  • At the beginning of team meetings – IC is a great warm up to get the kids to focus on their solutions for the main challenge
  • At the end of meetings – ICs are a great way to end a meeting and cool down.
  • In the middle of a meeting – ICs are useful when the kids need to take a break from working on the central challenge
  • When the team is stuck – ICs can be used as a means to try out hypotheses the team has brainstormed as possible solutions to the central challenge.

TM Preparation

Get help

How to teach IC to a new team?

No one starts off as an Instant Challenge genius. For many, the ability to think critically as a team in very short period takes a lot of practice.


Depending on the Team dynamics you may need to spend more time in some areas then others and repeat several sections until the kids get it. New teams usually have an average of 16-22 meetings in which to practice IC. As the tournament nears try and fit IC practice in even when the team is in panic building mode. (Don’t worry whatever they get done and bring to the TOURNAMENT WILL BE GREAT!)

IC practice will help the kids FOCUS, have FUN and relieve some of the pretournament stress.  Don’t be discouraged! The team will eventually get it and learn to work together! You will be amazed at what they will accomplish at the Tournament!


Create an IC box of materials

it is a good idea to have a bunch of the common Instant Challenge materials in one place. This will make it much faster and less frustrating when preparing for the next team meeting.

The most basic materials are:

  • Mailing Labels                                ° Plain White Paper
  • Chenille Sticks ° Pencils
  • Straws ° Craft Sticks
  • Rubber Bands ° Styrofoam Cups
  • String ° Foil (Pre-cut sheets from Smart & Final)
  • Paper Clips ° Blue Painter’s Tape (for boundaries)
  • Index Cards ° Toothpicks
  • Paper Envelopes ° Wire hangers
  • Clay ° Spaghetti
  • Twist ties ° Markers



Bag up some challenges

Find a Parent to help

How to Deal with CONFLICT

Your team will encounter conflict as it works toward a solution. Conflict is often a necessary step toward progress. Therefore, it is important for your team to learn how to deal with conflict as it arises. As a Team Manager, remember to play the role of facilitator. You should help the team process conflict as it happens, but you should avoid making decisions and judgments for the team. In other words, stay out of the conflict as much as possible; your team will thank you later.


Sometimes there is one kid that only wants to use his ideas! Sometimes it is the Team Manager’s kid sometimes it is the loudest kid. The best way to address this is to play games where everyone has to build upon the others ideas. Have the bossy person go last. Encourage the bossy one to try and round up everyone else ideas and tie them all together creatively. The best way for the bossy kid to become a Team player is to limit the brainstorming to the first 3 ideas and then have the rest of the team build upon one of those ideas into an AMAZING TEAM idea.

Team Roles

Understand and identify team roles

The Instant Challenge room can be intense and high-pressured because of how quickly everything happens. Walking in and having a general idea of what each team member will be focused on can have a profoundly positive effect.  If your team is clear on team roles, the majority of the time can be spent solving the Challenge instead of negotiating who is doing what. Team roles are also fluid and, during practice, your team should switch them up to make sure everyone is practicing outside their comfort zone.

Watch the video of an experienced Team doing IC:

Look for

Teamwork, procedures and how they speak to each other. How do they use their time?