Icebreakers, used wisely, can create a great atmosphere and provide momentum for further participation and learning. Icebreakers adapt and evolve through each generation of youth leaders. Most have come to me by word of mouth from friends, colleagues or just seeing them in action.
The icebreakers below include simple ‘getting-to-know-you’ activities, active and more physical games and some word games.
Give a pen and paper to each young person in your group. Ask them to write their first name in capitals, in the middle of the paper. Each person then moves around the room, inviting others (including leaders) to attach their name, where the first letter matches a letter on the paper. The names are then added like a branching crossword puzzle. The person who is able to attach the most names in the given time is the winner. This activity works well in larger groups or summer camps / holidays where people are meeting for the first time.
Give everyone a piece of paper and a pencil. Allow 5 minutes to draw a picture that conveys who they are without writing any words or numbers. At the end of 5 minutes the leader collects the pictures. Show the pictures to the group, one at a time, and have them try to guess who drew it. Each artist can then explain how their work expresses who they are.
Based on the party game of musical statues. Invite the young people to quietly move around the room and await your instructions. As they are walking the leader calls out the name of a sport, for example, golf, soccer, rugby, swimming, parachuting, polo, basketball, horse racing etc. When they hear the name they must stop immediately and hold a still ‘freeze frame’ illustrating or acting out the sport.
Take a photo of the most life-like or descriptive ‘freeze frame’ in each round for future display :-) You can play variations to the game by shouting out emotions, job titles or even animals.
Invite the young people to sit (facing inwards) in a circle. You will need a small foam or tennis ball to be the ‘bomb’. A young person is selected to start with the ‘bomb’. He then has to call out someone’s name and throw the ‘bomb’ to them. That person has 2 seconds only to say someone else’s name and throw the ‘bomb’ to them.
You leave the game if you hold the ball for too long, don’t say someone’s name before you throw, or do such a poor throw it cannot be caught by the next person. A very simple game but it can get very fast and furious. Try it with 2 ‘bombs’!
TAKE THE TREASURE
Invite the young people to sit in a large circle. Place a chair in the middle. On the chair place the treasure. A set of keys works really well. Ask for a volunteer to guard the treasure from thieves and give them a rolled up newspaper. Unfortunately, they have to do this while being blindfolded!
Once the guard is in place beside the chair, a thief is quietly chosen from the circle. They must attempt to sneak up to the chair and without alerting the guard, snatch the treasure.
Meanwhile, the guard listens for the thief and trys to swat him with the newspaper baton. If the thief is swatted, he must return to the circle. If he succeeds in stealing the treasure and returning to the circle, his prize is to become the new guard.
For more icebreakers download the free eBook '40 icebreakers for small groups'
Another old party game, but still lots of fun. Ask everyone to sit in a circle on the floor. In the middle of the circle place a large bar of chocolate on a plate, a knife, a fork and three items of clothing – gloves, scarf and a cap. (Don't forget to remove the wrapper from the chocolate!)
Each person in the circle takes a turn at rolling a dice. On throwing a six they run to the middle of the circle, put on the items of clothing and try to eat as much chocolate as possible. However, they can only cut it with the knife and pick it up with the fork. As soon as someone else throws a six, they run to the middle, put on the gloves, hat and cap, and take over. Continue until all the chocolate is eaten. Prepare for mayhem!
For more food icebreakers take a look at Fantastic food night.
Select three couples. Have the male member of each couple sit down on a chair with the neck of an inflated and knotted balloon between his teeth. A towel draped over his front is also a good idea! The balloon is then covered with shaving cream and his female partner then attempts to shave it off with a razor blade (take care!).
This is a game of suspense and tension - and that’s just the audience! The game can end without a balloon burst and you can give the girls the option to burst the shaved balloon with a pin. They always think the explosion will mess up the guy, but... play the game to see what happens.
For more balloon icebreakers take a look at Balloon bonanza.
Give each young person a felt tip marker and tell them they have two minutes to get as many signatures on one (bare) foot as possible. When the time is up, go around and count them, to find the winner. Remember not to emphasise the winning but the fun. Laughs are guaranteed!
For more icebreakers with feet take a look at Foot party.
This is a word association game. Ask the group to sit in a circle. The first person starts with any word they wish i.e. red. The next person repeats the first word and adds another word which links to the first i.e. tomato. The next person repeats the previous word and add another word link i.e. soup, and so on. To keep this moving, only allow five seconds for each word link. See how many linking words your group can get.
Collect together a number of objects and place in a canvas or dark coloured plastic bag. The objects can include everyday items i.e. a pencil, key-ring, mobile phone, but also include some more unusual ones i.e. a fossil, holiday photograph, wig!
Pass the bag around the group and invite each young person to dip their hand into the bag (without looking) and pull out one of the objects. The leader begins a story which includes his object. After 20 seconds, the next person takes up the story and adds another 20 seconds, incorporating the object they are holding. And so on, until everyone has made a contribution to your epic literary tale. Let imaginations run wild!
Perhaps more of a brain-teaser than an icebreaker. Divide the group into teams and display the doodles / graphics on a flipchart or PowerPoint presentation. Each graphic represents a well-known phrase or word. Give a couple of examples to illustrate to the group what they need to do. The team with the most correct answers wins the quiz.
Download the Word Play graphics. If you wish, add your own brain-teasers. You can probably find many more online.
MORE ICEBREAKERS AND GAMES
For more, click on icebreakers and games in the category list on the sidebar.
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