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Ice Breakers: 11 Great Ideas

Submitted by Jennifer Valtos, Assistant Director of Residence Life & Ed Wahesh, Area Coordinator, University of Scranton

Icebreaker: An activity designed to help groups and individuals get to know each other and interact. The purpose of the activities is to engage the group, challenge them to work together, and open their minds to new and creative manners of thinking and engaging with each other. These activities should be challenging, creative, and, often times, rather humorous.

Ideas for Icebreakers:

The Artist
Have one person be the artist and the other be the blob of clay. Give the group some time to create a masterpiece from their blob of clay. The artist can shape their blob in any sort of way. After several minutes the artists stop and tour the “art gallery”. Swap roles and do it all over again.

Bunny, Bunny…
Demonstrate the Bunny “mantra” and see how many individuals are paying attention to detail. The Bunny mantra is the following:

  • Stand in front of the group with your left hand up in front of you with the palm facing you.
  • With your right index finger, begin touching the fingers on your left hand starting with your pinky. Each time you touch a finger, you say “Bunny”.
  • When you get to the “J” between your index finger and thumb you do a slide (just like a ski jumper) and say, “whoops” then touch the thumb and say “Bunny”.
  • Do the same thing in reverse. (Basically it sounds like the following – Bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny, whoops, bunny, whoops, bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny).
  • When you are done stand with your hands on your hips.
  • Have the group repeat the exercise to see who was paying attention to detail.
  • When they have it, have them sit down and be done or have them stand up and demonstrate to the rest of the group.

Mingle, Mingle, Mingle
Just have the group mingle about to find another partner or small group. This works well if you wish to split up a group that knows each other well or if you have a large group. Have the group mingle about and form various groups according to your needs. For example, if you wish to have the group split into smaller groups of 5, tell them to mingle until the music stops and then find a group of five people. While they are mingling they must be doing the “mingle dance” which can really be anything they wish as long as they end with a flourish. You can change this up by making each pair/group end by touching different body parts instead of a flourish. When the music ends, have them touch a knee to an elbow or finger to toe, etc. Obviously, you would want to set ground rules about the body parts in advance… J

Eye Contact
Standing in a circle, have everyone look down. On a certain cue have everyone look up at a specific person not directly to his or her left or right. If you make eye contact with someone you must take a step back from the circle. If you do not make eye contact with the person you are still in the game. When you get down to the last three or four people you can look at whoever you want to. You are no longer limited by the previous rule about the person standing right next to you.

This is one big game of rock, paper, scissors. Everyone starts as an egg, transforms to a chicken second, a dinosaur third, fourth is Elvis, and finally they become Enlightened. If the person loses a game they must revert to the previous symbol. For example, if they are a dinosaur and they lose the game of rock, paper, scissor, they must revert to a chicken. You only play the game with someone who is the same “evolved” level as you are and you only play with one person at a time. While you are at each level, there are accompanying sounds and/or motions. The egg is crouched close to the ground in a ball. The chicken walks around clucking its arms and making a chicken sound - “baaalk” usually works. The dinosaur has outstretched arms with hands formed into claws with a fierce growl. Elvis, of course, walks around strumming a guitar saying, “thank you very much”. Those who become enlightened get to stand on the edges watching the festivities with their hands stretched out to the side, palms up chanting “ooohhhmmm”

Have the group sit in rows with their hands out to either side with their palms up. Have the group place their right index finger in the palm of the person next to them. When the leader says so, have the group try to catch the finger of the person sitting next to them. Do this several times and then switch sides.

The Windmill
Have someone stand in front of the group. The group leader will hold one hand steady and use the other to cross back and forth in front of the steady arm. When the arms cross, the group should clap.

Creative High 5s
With a partner, come up with as many creative ways to give them a high 5 as they can in 60 seconds (or however long you choose). Under the leg, behind the back, etc. Volunteers can then demonstrate them.

Psychic Ten
Sitting in a group, with eyes closed, try to count to 10. Only one person in the group can speak at a time, if more than one speaks, the group must start over again.

Grab Your Partner
This works well for a large group. Have the group pair off. If there is an uneven number, the person without a partner becomes a referee. Have the participants form two circles, one inside the other, facing their partners. When the music begins the groups will begin marching (the inner group marches counter-clockwise and the outer group marches clockwise – or whichever direction you wish, as long as they are marching in different directions!). When the music stops, they must find their partner(s), touch shoulders and squat down. The last partner(s) to find each other become referees. The game continues until there is only one pair/trio left. The referees observe the game and help determine who the last pair/trio is to gather and squat. With a large group, you may want to take out more than one group at a time and you may want more referees. (You can do this with three circles as well, as long as the circles are going in different directions).

Ah So Ko
Start with your group standing in a circle. Using the hand gestures for Ah (hand under the chin palm facing the floor), So (hand above the head with the palm facing the top of the head), and Ko (arm and hand out in front of you pointing at another player) play the game getting progressively faster. [One of the participants in the session suggested that you could vary the game by choosing to play using the Ah or So as the designation for who plays next. Using these, the next person in the game would be the person to whom the hand is pointing.]