Ice Breakers

Ever feel like a once great activity is now old and stale?  Well this area has just the fix for you.  We will be continuing to add new activities that will connect your group, build your team and generate a ton of fun.  Feel free to add one of your own as well, it would be great to see the larger learning community contributing, proven activities to use with our groups.

  1. These are such great energizers! Thank you for listing so many.

  2. Scott Mautte says:

    Grandma’s Kitchen

    NOTE: This activity needs to be played in a large room, gym or field.

    Supplies: Bag of flour, pair of thigh-high nylon stockings with feet. Props to dress someone up as a Grandma cooking in a kitchen.

    Directions: Pour flour into nylon stocking (only fill up foot area) and tie off.

    Story: Grandma is cooking up a storm in her kitchen and she does not like to be disturbed!!! Yet the only way for all of you to get outside and enjoy yourself is to run through her kitchen without her catching you. Armed with her flour bomb, grandma will stop at nothing to send you back into the living room. But remember, before you go, if she gets you with her flour bomb, she is going to make you help her get your friends.

    Here are the rules:
    1. When instructed, “run from one end of grandma’s kitchen to the other. If you get hit with her flour bomb or run out of bounds, you have to come to the middle and help slow others down on the return trip.
    2. Repeat this until one youth is left.
    3. Youth helping in the middle are not allowed to “hold others from crossing, They can only block or slow down progress and allow Grandma extra time to tag them with the flour.

    Things to remember: Safety is important!!!
    –Grandma should swing flour bomb slowly and should never hit above the stomach area.

  3. Scott Mautte says:

    Gotcha (Name Game)

    The purpose of this activity is to help participants learn each other’s names in a fun and engaging way.

    This activity works best with groups of at least 15 people. Groups that are 30 or over should be split into two different groups for this activity.

    1. Have the group stand next to each other in a circle facing the center.
    2. One person (usually the facilitator) should stand in the center of the group.
    3. The facilitator spins around and points at an individual in the circle.
    4. The person being pointed at, immediately crouches down and the two individuals on each side of the crouched person must say each other’s name.
    5. The first person to do so wins the round. The other person goes to the middle of the circle and becomes the facilitator and the cycle is repeated. This is done until there are only two people left.

  4. Scott Mautte says:

    Alphabet Scavenger Hunt

    This is a really quick and easy team builder that you could use on a moment’s notice to re-energize a group and get them re-focused.

    Supplies needed: Piece of paper & pen for each group.

    This activity works best with groups of 4-8 people.

    Have groups list the letters of the alphabet down the left side of the sheet of paper. Then give them 5 minutes to find at one item in the room that begins with each of the letters. Each item can only be used once.

    For example, a red coffee cup could be used for either R-for Red Cup or C for Cup but it can’t be used for both.

    The team that either finishes first or has identified the most items for the most letters wins.

  5. Scott Mautte says:

    Blind Square

    This is a quick, but effective teambuilding activity.

    1.) As many blindfolds as you have team members
    2.) 1 large rope, at least 40 feet in length

    Simply blindfold all your team members and throw a rope on the ground next to them. Tell them to make a square, using the full length of the rope lying on the ground next to them. Give them no further instructions.

    You can move on to having them form other shapes as well (triangle, Hexagon etc.)

    There is no trick. It’s just great to see who takes charge, how they organize the corners, if one person facilitates from the middle, etc.

  6. Scott Mautte says:

    Human Machine

    Supplies: None.

    This can be done with large or small groups.

    If you have less than 10 people you’ll create one machine. If you have more than 10, you’ll want to divide into teams of 10 to 20 people and have each team create a machine.

    Give them the following instructions: You are to make a human machine using all of your team members. Choose an appliance, machine or contraption of any kind, and act out all of its parts with all the members of your team. For example: if you were to choose an electric toothbrush, several people could lay down to be the handle, others would be vibrating bristles. The sky is the limit.

    It’s best to let them come up with their own ideas. But here’s a few great ones:
    • A pinball machine (with a kid rolling around as the ball)
    • A ski lift (with kids being scooped up by kids with locked arms)
    • A washing machine
    • A car wash

  7. Scott Mautte says:

    Quarter Telephone Chain

    This is a great “back pocket energizer” when you need to get the group up and moving and only requires a coin to play.

    1. Split the group in half, having them stand in a line holding hands.
    2. Tell the group that one squeeze of the hand is “heads” and two squeezes of the hand is “tails”
    3. Have only the person from each group closest to you looking at the coin. As you flip and show them, they need to squeeze the hand of the person next to them appropriately trying to get the message to the other end of the line first.
    4. When it reaches the last person, they are to shout out either “heads” or “tails”. The team that calls out the correct response first, wins.

  8. Scott Mautte says:

    Baby Food Hot Potato

    You could play this game with your audience, or play this game just like hot potato, with everyone sitting in a circle. The twist is you use jars of baby food. When the music starts, you begin passing the jar of baby food around the audience or circle. When the music stops, whoever is left holding the jar has to take a spoonful. We use this game for special occasions, such as Thanksgiving, and use flavors such as turkey and gravy, sweet potato, green beans, etc.

  9. Scott Mautte says:

    Egg Tower

    This is a great team builder for any group, because athleticism isn’t a requirement. Absolutely everybody in your group can participate! Here’s what you do.

    Divide the group into equal teams, no more than 4 people big. Give each team the exact same amount of newspaper, the exact same amount of tape, and 1 egg.

    The object is simple: teams must work together to build a tower that will support the weight of their egg. The team with the tallest tower (that can stand on its own power) is the winner.

    NOTE TO LEADER: It’s best to give the team about 4 minutes at the beginning to brainstorm their plan, and then give them about 10 minutes to pull it off.

    OPTIONAL: You can also award points for “most unique tower” and “tower with the coolest name.”

  10. Scott Mautte says:

    12 Days of Christmas

    Note: It is great to have a live band for this game, but it is not completely necessary. A CD and CD player will work.

    Tell the audience to huddle together in 12 different groups. The groups can be of any size, as long as they are relatively the same size. Each group is assigned one gift from the song. For instance, a partridge in a pear tree, 9 lords a leaping, etc. As we played and sang the song “12 days of Christmas” the kids in each group had to act out what was sung in that verse as the leader pointed to them. The group needs to come up with their own actions or routines, etc. The game lasts as long as the music does, of course. The leader acts as the conductor and moves from group to group.

    You may want to give a prize to the group that comes up with the funniest, best, most original gesture for the “gift” that they are assigned.

  11. Scott Mautte says:

    Alphabet Pockets
    Divide into teams of 4 or 5. Everyone on the team searches through their own pockets, wallets, pocketbooks, etc. The group tries to come up with one possession which begins with each letter of the alphabet. The winning team is the one to have objects representing the most letters.

  12. Scott Mautte says:

    Helium Stick

    Tent Pole (or similar Long, Thin, Light Rod)

    Line up team in two rows which face each other. Introduce the Helium Stick – a long, thin, light rod. Ask participants to point their index fingers and hold their arms out. Lay the Helium Stick down on their fingers. Before you let go, get the group to adjust their finger heights until the Helium Stick is horizontal and everyone’s index fingers are touching the stick. Explain that the challenge is to lower the Helium Stick to the ground. The catch: Each person’s fingers must be in contact with the Helium Stick at all times. Pinching or grabbing the pole in not allowed – it must rest on top of fingers.
    Reiterate to the group that if anyone’s finger is caught not touching the Helium Stick, the task will be restarted. Let the task begin….
    Warning: Particularly in the early stages, the Helium Stick has a habit of mysteriously float up rather than coming down, causing much laughter. A bit of clever humoring can help – e.g., act surprised and ask what are they doing raising the Helium Stick instead of lowering it!

    Often times the Helium Stick rises first
    For added drama, jump up and pull it down! Participants may be confused initially about the paradoxical behavior of the Helium Stick. The secret (keep it to yourself) is that the collective upwards pressure tends to be greater than the weight of the stick. Often the more a group tries, the more it floats. Some groups or individuals (most often larger size groups) after 5 to 10 minutes of trying may be inclined to give up, believing it not to be possible or that it is too hard. The facilitator can offer direct suggestions or suggest the group stops the task, discusses their strategy, and then has another go.

    Less often, a group may appear to be succeeding too fast. In response, be particularly vigilant about fingers not touching the pole. Also make sure participants lower the pole all the way onto the ground. You can add further difficulty by adding a large washer to each end of the stick and explain that the washers should not fall off during the exercise, otherwise its a restart. Eventually the group needs to calm down, concentrate, and very slowly, patiently lower the Helium Stick – easier said than done.

    Use Hula-hoop instead of stick

    Debrief Questions:
    What was challenging about this activity?
    What led to the eventual success?

  13. Scott Mautte says:

    Two Truths & A Lie

    Purpose: Teambuilding/Icebreaker

    Groups of: 4-20 (can do this with larger groups if you split them up into smaller groups)
    Time 10-25 minutes

    Everyone is given a card or piece of paper on which they are instructed to write two truths and a lie about themselves. After they have done this, each participant takes their turn reading aloud their three statements about themselves and the group0 must guess which they think is the lie.

    As they are writing them, encourage them to find unique and possibly strange things about themselves that are true, so that it will be harder for people to guess.
    You can also prepare them for this by letting them know a day early what will be asked of them so they can take some time to think up some good stuff.

  14. Scott Mautte says:

    Star Struck

    Star Struck can be played with 10-30 players.

    The first player gives the name of a celebrity. (example: Will Smith)
    The next player must give a name of a celebrity whose first name starts with the first letter of the last name that was just said. (‘S’ for Smith, so example might be ‘Sally Field’)
    The game continues around the circle.

    Note: Any time a name is given that is a single name (like Madonna) or where first and last names starts with the same letter (Susan Sarandon), then the direction reverses.

    Other rules:
    No name can be used twice.
    You only get five seconds to respond.
    If you fail, you are out and the game goes on without you until one winner remains.

  15. Scott Mautte says:

    Split the group into pairs.
    Sit on the ground with your partner, backs together, feet in front of you, and arms linked. Then try to stand up together. After you succeed add another person and try again. Keep adding people until your whole group is trying to stand together.

  16. Scott Mautte says:


    • Everyone stands/sits together in a circle with a piece of paper. Using the pen, divide the piece of paper into four sections/quarters by drawing one vertical line and one horizontal line down the middle of the paper.
    • In the upper left-hand box please write 1) your name and 2) where you were born You have 10 seconds.
    • Now crumple up your piece of paper and toss it into the center of the circle. Everyone run (racing style, “on your mark, get set, go!”) and grab a ball (making sure not to push or bump into anyone). Back to your places in circle. Unfold it.
    • In the lower left-hand box please write 1) your name and 2) the name of someone you consider a hero (fictional or non-fictional, dead or alive).
    • Again, crumple up your piece of paper and toss it into the center of the circle. This time, everyone walk like the floor is made of tacks to the center and grab a ball and go back to the circle. Unfold it.
    • In the upper right-hand box please write 1) your name and 2) a book or a movie that you can recommend to the group.
    • Last time, crumple up your piece of paper and toss it into the center of the circle. This time, everyone walk like you’re really pregnant and grab a ball and go back to the circle. Unfold it.
    • In the lower right-hand box please write 1) your name and 2) Where would you like to go on vacation? (OR What would you do if you had a million dollars?
    • Last throw, walk in slo-mo
    • Go around the circle and have each person read the ONE box they find most interesting to them and why.

    1. What kinds of things did we learn about each other/about ourselves?
    2. Why is it important to learn these things?
    Point: We want to create a positive learning environment where we can play, take risks and truly be ourselves.

    NOTE: Questions can be whatever you want. It’s nice to do some personal questions and fun questions, but then last question or two can lead into your next activity or theme of the day (‘When is a time at program when you felt really really good?’ ‘What is one skill you’d like to develop during your time at program?’ etc.)

  17. Scott Mautte says:

    Appointment Clock

    Pass out paper plates (make markers/pens available)
    1. Make a clock.
    2. Stand up and meet as many different people as you can. For each person, get an appointment on the hour. We both have 2:00 free…let’s make that our appointment. Remember you must be theirs if they are yours. (Remind them that it’s just on the hour. After they have filled up all of their appointments, they can sit.)
    3. Then give them a question. They are to go and find their appointment and talk (Example: Find your 3:00 appointment and respond to this question: “What is the most important experience you had as a young person that shaped you in a positive way?”

  18. Scott Mautte says:

    Radioactive Swamp

    Split your group into two for this team-building activity. You will need a big room inside or an open space outside to play this game.

    Have each team select a captain and give the captain a newspaper. The teams are both on the same side of the room or play area. Tell them that to win, their entire team must be the first to go from one side of the room to the other, but that the space in front of them is a radioactive swamp. If anyone steps in it, they will die.

    In addition, several of their team members have infirmities: being blind, deaf, with a broken leg, being quadriplegic, with missing limbs, etc. Each group must work together to figure out how to get the whole team across the radioactive swamp safely. They realize immediately they will have to carry some team members. Eventually, they figure out that they can tear the newspaper apart and walk across on the pages. The winning team gets candy.

  19. Scott Mautte says:

    iPod Showdown

    –Flip chart with instructions/rules
    –Paper and pens (optional) prize for the winning team

    GROUPS OF 5-8 people (from 3 to 8 groups) Total of 15-64 people

    –Each group needs a team number or name.
    –Each team has a pen and paper.
    –Each team writes down a list of the songs that they all know. In roughly 5 minutes.

    –Facilitator will signal and shout the name of one team. They will have 5 seconds to start singing a song. They sing until…
    –Facilitator signals again and shouts the name of a different team. That team will have 5 seconds to start singing a different song.

    Teams will be eliminated if:
    — they don’t start singing a song within five seconds
    — they don’t have more than half of their group singing any song
    — they sing a song that has already been sung

    When all teams but one are eliminated, the game is over and the remaining team has won.
    [Alternately, rather than eliminating, you could give teams a point every time they break a rule. You could play this way for as long as you wanted, and then see who has the LOWEST score at the end.]

  20. Scott Mautte says:

    Hula Hoop Pass

    Items Needed:
    • 3-5 Hula Hoops
    • Blindfolds
    • Prompt questions
    • Chart paper & Markers

    Group forms a circle, joining hands. A Hula Hoop is placed around someone’s arm. The object is to work cooperatively moving the Hula Hoop around the circle without breaking hands. As each member of the group passes through the hoop, s/he shares something about himself/herself. (You can decide what this will be: favorite ice cream, what they want to get out of the training, name and agency, etc.)

    • Do this blindfolded.
    • Race Variation: two lines facing each other (need equal numbers). Each line has a hula hoop starting at one end. The race is to see which group can get their hula hoop all the way down to the other end first.

  21. Scott Mautte says:

    $1000 Bill Exchange

    For this game you need to make your own money on your computer (be sure it’s clearly phony or it might be a federal offense). Give each person 10 of the bills.

    Objective: To try to win as much funny money as possible from their peers by challenging them one on one doing one of three things:

    • Thumb wrestling

    • Rock, paper, scissors

    • Flipping a coin

    • You must accept any challenge
    • Sudden death, no two out of three
    • Challenger has to have a coin and is “heads” on the coin toss
    • After each challenge, each partner needs to find a new partner
    • There is a 5 minute time limit on the game

  22. Scott Mautte says:

    Question Ball

    Purpose: To have each person learn at least one new insight about the others in their group.

    Goal: To have each person answer at least one question from the ball.

    • Each person must answer at least one question.
    • After a person answers, they must pass the ball to another participant that has not yet gone.
    • Each question must be answered at least once before it can be repeated.
    • Play stops when each person has answered one question.
    • If time allows, more rounds can be played.

    Debrief Questions: (5 to 10 minutes with whole group together)
    • What are some new insights that you learned from this activity?
    • How might this be helpful in the workplace?
    • How did you learn something new about today?

  23. Scott Mautte says:

    Bubble Blow Challenge

    Goal: To get as many bubbles from Point “A” to Point “B” in 60 seconds while improving the team score over each of three to five rounds.

    • Bubble Blower must remain behind the Point “A” line.
    • Bubbles must cross the Point “B” line in order to score.
    • Teams will have 1 minute between rounds to discuss ways to improve their score before the start of the next round.

    Debrief Questions: (5 to 10 minutes with whole group together)
    • How did this activity make you feel?
    • What were some of the challenges that your team faced?
    • What was one of those challenges?
    • What did you notice about your teammates?
    • What did you notice about yourself?
    • In what ways were you able to accomplish your goal?
    • What principles did you take away from this activity that you could apply to your work or family life?

  24. Scott Mautte says:

    Ball Toss

    This activity can be high energy, but with a large group ends up being more about focus and group problem-solving.

    1. Ask group to form a circle

    2. Explain that you will toss the ball to one person. They will then toss it to a new person, but everyone must remember who threw it to them and who they threw it to. This will create a pattern which will include everyone in the circle. Everyone must get the ball once (but only once), until the ball ends up with the person who started it.

    3. Rules: If the ball is ever dropped, it immediately starts over. Also, you may not toss to the person immediately next to you.

    4. Note to facilitator: When the ball is dropped, encourage the group by saying it’s okay. Help them support each other. After a few drops, before starting over again, pause the activity and ask the group to problem-solve: ‘What can we do as a group to help us succeed?’

    5. Sometimes, it will take a group very long (10-15 minutes) just to get it around one time. If that’s the case, you may celebrate and be done. If the group is able to complete this in a relatively short period of time (a few minutes), start them over, but let them know that you will be adding a second ball, which will follow the same pattern. Plus, if any ball is dropped, all balls must start over. If the group is expert, you can then add in a third, fourth, or even fifth ball. When you’ve reached a level of high challenge, let them know that if they succeed here they will have finished the task at its highest level of difficulty.

    For other variations, you can vary the item being thrown (various sized balls, stuffed animals, etc.).

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