A Brilliant Activity to Teach Healthy Relationships

By The Choices Editors
December 15, 2016

Editor’s Note: Su Nottingham is currently an instructor at Central Michigan University, and has taught Family & Consumer Science, Sexuality, and Health & Physical Education at both the secondary and university level. The Choices team took part in her workshop at the 2015 Society for Health & Physical Educators (SHAPE) Conference, and we were floored by the power of this Bip and Bop game, which teaches the tenets of healthy and unhealthy relationships. We’re so excited to share it with you as a support activity complementing our feature on teen dating abuse in the February issue! 


How Can This Help?

Recognizing if a characteristic is healthy or unhealthy  is influenced by perception of social norms and the influence of peers. Bip and Bop are two gender neutral characters that demonstrate both healthy and unhealthy characteristics of a relationship. This small group strategy causes adolescents to determine the impact of behaviors on relationships through discussion, reflection, and a representative demonstration of each action. Bip and Bob highlight a variety of age-appropriate examples of adolescent relationships and how actions can take a toll on the success and stability of any relationship.  To enhance meaning, a symbolic action—based on the severity of the action—is demonstrated by utilizing everyday household items: a sandwich-size container, napkin, rubber band, rocks, water, and pencil. 


What You’ll Need:

Assemble the following materials for each group (3-4 students):

  • One container (sandwich size container with lid)
  • 10 small/medium sized rocks  (or marbles)
  • One paper napkin (to cover container)
  • One rubber band (to hold paper on container)
  • A sharpened pencil
  • A small dish of water and eye dropper, straw, or plastic spoon (or a small spray bottle of water)
  • One set of “Bip and Bop” scenarios on cards (see below)


Prep: Use the rubber band to attach the paper napkin to the container


Key Skills:

Students will be able to recognize healthy and unhealthy relationships characteristics, and:

  • Describe how peers influence healthy and unhealthy behaviors (NHES 2.8.3)
  • Explain how the perceptions of norms influence healthy and unhealthy behaviors (NHES 2.8.7)


The Procedure:

1. Prepare: Divide students into groups of 3-4 and give each group its set of supplies, as listed above in the "What You’ll Need" section.


2. Play: Instruct students to take turns selecting a card and reading it to the group. Readers should:

  • Withhold the answer written on the card as the group discusses if the action is unhealthy/healthy and why
  • Read the correct answer provided on the card
  • Then take the action described on the card for the situation (actions include: add or take away "rocks" to the paper; add drops or sprays of water to the paper; poke a hole in the paper)
  • Keep the card they read for discussion at the end of the activity

The symbolic actions will demonstrate the effects of certain actions/behaviors in a relationship: 

  • poked holes - symbolize permanent damage
  • water - will dry, but may be weaker than before
  • rocks - show a stressor in the relationship, but when removed, show lessened stress


3. Reflect/Discuss: Students can engage in a small group discussion using the cards they kept after reading. Some questions and activities that can guide their reflections:


  • Make a chart of the healthy and unhealthy actions of Bip and Bop
  • Were there actions that help strengthen the relationship or make it less in danger? What were the actions that would have a positive impact on the relationship?
  • What actions caused damage to the relationship? What actions couldn’t be “taken back”?
  • Did the relationship actually break down from the action?
  • Do you think this is a good relationship for these adolescents?
  • Are there skills that could be used to lessen the negative effects?


Teaching Tips:

  1. The size of the rocks will greatly determine how volatile the relationship is.  Using less expensive paper towel or thin paper will as well.
  2. Students can place the paper on the container and attach with the rubber band to save pre-set up time
  3. It is not important to distinguish between the characteristics that Bip demonstrated, or those of Bop.


Original idea: Kirk Putnam III and Kate Lepper, Central Michigan University students,  adapted and modified by Su Nottingham, June 2013.


More Choices Resources for Teaching Teens About Healthy Relationships: