Icebreakers

Credits CC Last Updated 2014-03

As the name implies, Icebreakers are meant to 'break the ice' and are usually fun 'getting to know you' games and activities. They also help participants get to know their commonalities and differences in a fun way.

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Example Icebreakers for Your Events

As the name implies, Icebreakers are meant to “break the ice” and are usually fun “getting to know you” games and activities - they also help participants get to know their commonalities and differences in a fun way. Participants who are relaxed with each other and their trainer(s) learn better. When you have participants who are less inhibited and more comfortable in the training space, you can expect to have a training that has maximum participation and interactivity.

Often, the co-trainers and co-facilitators will illustrate the first steps of the game - or, if training solo, you may choose to work with a willing participant to demonstrate for the rest of the group.

Two Truths and a Lie

The object of this game is for participants to get to know each other by guessing whether or not “facts” about other participants are “truths” or “lies”.

Instructions

Have participants pair up with someone they don’t know or have everyone face each other in a circle.

  • Ask participants to say 2 true things about themselves and 1 false thing.
  • Give them a few minutes to think about it.
  • Once they are ready, everyone takes turns saying two true things and one lie about themselves.

Those who are not speaking must guess which are the truths and which one is the lie.

Trainer’s Note

*The group version of this works best with a smaller number of participants (10 participants maximum) - there also may be some language issues. If you have a mixed group of participants who are not versed in one language, you could have them pair up with a fellow participant who speaks the same language - but you don’t want them to pair up with someone they already know. This activity also works for participants who have problems with mobility as this won’t require them to move.

What’s in the Bag?

The object of this game is for participants to introduce themselves to the rest of the group by using a personal item they feel is “representative” of who they are as an individual.

Instructions

Ask everyone to go look in their bag/backpack, and find one thing that they feel “represents” them (leave it at that so they are free to interpret this as they please).

  • Give them time to think about the items in their bags, and what they will say.
  • Each participant will take a turn in describing themselves through the item they chose.
  • Set a description limit of 3 - 5 sentences per person, to keep time.
Trainer’s Note

*This is good for participants who have problems with mobility as this won’t require them to move. Also, the assumption here is that everyone has brought a bag or pack of some kind to the training space - check first before choosing this Icebreaker!

Line-up According To…

The object of this game is to have participants arrange themselves in the provided space according to certain facts about themselves.

Instructions

Have everyone stand in a line or in a “U”-shape, so they can see each other - it can be against a wall if you choose. (See comment about mobility under “Things to Consider Above.”)

  • Put some thought into what you’re asking participants to reveal about themselves.
  • Do not ask participants to reveal facts about themselves that they would consider too personal, private, or otherwise more than they would choose to reveal.
  • Examples of basic facts you can use: shirt color, shoe size, how long it took them to arrive at the training, how many pets they’ve lived with, or participant heights.

Participants can speak with each other as they go about the exercise. Keep in mind that what you might consider an acceptably public fact is not always necessarily the same for an at-risk participant, particularly if they do not know and trust everyone in the room.

Trainer’s Note

*This may not be appropriate if you have participants who have problems with mobility; also, make sure that you have enough space for this activity.

Over-Reactions!

The object of this game is to have each participant over-react to a situation, and have the rest of the group guess what scenario the participant is reacting to.

Instructions

You should prepare scenarios on slips of paper ahead of time. Think of situations that would work for your participants. Scenarios can include:

  • You’ve just won the lottery!
  • You see someone cute and you want to meet them!
  • You just got your dream job!
  • You’re arguing with someone on the phone!
  • You’re about to give birth!
  • Your friends just threw you a surprise birthday party!

Randomly give a scenario slip to each participant:

  • One good way to this is to put them in a box and ask everyone to select one and then pass the box on.
  • Give everyone time to plan their over-reactions.
  • Here, you need to determine if the participants will be allowed to speak, or for an added challenge, if they will just have to mime their reactions without making any sound.

Each participant takes their turn over-reacting to their scenario, and everyone tries guessing.

Trainer’s Note

Here you will have to be careful about cultural references - your description of the scenario will have to fit your participants’ realities. If you feel like you don’t yet know enough about your participants to conduct this Icebreaker, *save it for a second day activity.

The Wind Blows

The object of this game is to get people who have things in common identify each other by moving to each others’ seats.

Instructions

This needs a big space and chairs in a circle. There should be one chair per participant, but no chair for the starter (most of the time, the starter is you, the trainer!).

  • You, as the starter, will stand in the middle of the circle and say: “The wind blows for people who…”
  • Think about something that you like or something that is true of you - end the sentence with this.
  • For example, if you like strawberry ice cream, you could say “The wind blows for people who…like strawberry ice cream!”
  • Everyone who likes the same thing (including yourself) or shares the same quality will have to stand and transfer seats.

By the end of one round, one person will be left standing. That person will be the one to start the next round by saying “The wind blows for people who…”.

Trainer’s Note

*This may not be appropriate if you have participants who have problems with mobility; also, make sure that you have enough space for this activity. Ensure that your training space doesn’t have hard floors that can cause chairs or participants to slip, as this may cause some participants to fall getting to a vacant chair.

The Question Web

The object of this game is for participants to ask each other questions while keeping track of a physical object that, overtime, creates a web of connection between the individuals in the group.

Instructions

Have everyone standing (or sitting) around in a circle - you will need a ball of yarn for this exercise.

  • The starter will direct a question to specific person.
  • To do so, they must throw the ball of yarn to the person they want to whom the question is directed; but, the asker must keep holding the end of the yarn.
  • Once the first person has asked the question and has thrown the ball of yarn to the person the question is for, the responder must answer the question while holding onto the yarn ball.
  • Then, they must ask another person a question by throwing the yarn ball to that person, while holding onto their portion of the yarn.

The steps above repeat until either a certain period of time has elapsed, or until everyone has had at least one turn to both answer and ask a question. At the end of this game, you will have a web of questions and answers!

Trainer’s Note

*This would work for participants who have mobility issues. In order to set an example of the questions to ask (particularly to avoid asking questions that would be considered too “prying,”) co-trainers or the trainer and a willing participant can ask the first two questions, to illustrate the type of questions to ask. Keep in mind too that this exercise might require basic literacy in a common language among participants.

Animal Names and Sounds

The object of this game is to give participants a chance to safely step outside of themselves and become more at ease around others in the group.

Instructions

Have everyone in a circle (standing or sitting up). Each person takes turns saying their first name, a name of an animal that has the first letter of their name, and a sound associated with that animal. (For example, “I’m Dana, a dog, woof woof!”).

  • After the first person starts, the person next to them will need to start with the previous person’s name, animal and sound before saying their own name, animal and sound.
  • For example, if the next person is named Charlie, they would say “Dana, a dog, woof woof! I’m Charlie, a cat, meow…”.
  • The third person after the second person will have to start with the first person’s name, animal and sound, and the second person’s name, animal and sound before stating their own name animal and sound.
  • For example, if the third person is named Barbara, they would say “Dana, a dog, woof woof! Charlie, a cat, meow… I’m Barbara, a bird, chirp chirp”.

The steps above repeat until the game once again reaches the first person, who now has to do everyone’s names, animals and sounds!

Trainer’s Note

This is particularly good for a group of people who really don’t know each other: it’s a great way to get everyone to remember each other’s names. This game is also useful for *trainers who want to build in an easy way to remember participant names from the beginning. If you have participants who have issues with mobility, this is a good exercise as this will not require much movement.