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Youth Icebreakers Knowing the Ice Learn some key principles for making your ice breaker the highlight of your next party, team event, and classroom discussion!

When planning ice breakers, think about the “ice” that needs to be broken. 1. If you are bringing together liked-minded people, the “ice” may simply reflect the fact that people have not yet met. 2. If you are bringing together people of different grades and levels in your organization for an open discussion, the “ice” may come from the difference in status between participants.


If you are bringing together people of different backgrounds, cultures and outlooks for work within your community, then the “ice” may come from people’s perceptions of each other.

You’ll need to handle these differences with sensitivity. Only focus on what’s important to your event. Remember, you want to break some ice for your event, not uncover the whole iceberg! And as you move on to design and facilitate the event, it’s always best to focus on similarities (rather than differences), such as a shared interest in the event’s outcome.

A simple way to figure out what kind of “ice” you’re facing is to consider the following factors: 1. Size of the Crew Some icebreakers work best in large groups of 20 or more, some are better for small groups of 5 or so. If you have too many people for the icebreaker, split into smaller groups of the right size and run the icebreakers concurrently. Another often overlooked consideration is the size of the premises you will be conducting your activities. It’s always advisable to have twice as much free room as participants if there is to be any running or moving around.

2. Knowing Your Crew (Participants) One obvious point to consider is the audience. You will want to consider: A) Age (which affects the physical energy level and mental ability) B) Backgrounds (Familiarity between participants, culture, personality types, etc.)

3. Plotting Your Course (Purpose) The tone for the remainder of the event is set by the icebreaker. What are you doing after the ice breaker? • Are you brainstorming new ideas? • Discussing year end results? • Kicking off a new project? • Teaching an important lesson? • Team building?

Match the mood of the ice breaker to the mood for the meeting. The participants may immediately come to a conclusion about how the rest of the session will go based on the tone of the opening ice breaker.

Ask yourself: Is the icebreaker there to: • ease introductions • increase understanding of others • improve communication • build group cohesion • build trust • get mental juices flowing • just be downright silly • increase the energy level of the group in the MIDDLE of a meeting

In any case, the group members should be able to take something away from the activity that will be beneficial to the remainder of the session.

4. Preparing for the Journey (Preparation) • Try out your explanation of how to play in advance and carefully choose your words and instructions. • Run through it with other leaders and facilitators in advance. • Take note of any materials you might need before leading the icebreaker. • Consider the safety of participants. (Dangerous activities, furniture, etc)

5. ETA (Time) Be realistic about the time you have for the meeting ice breaker and stick to it. • Choose a short punchy icebreaker to get energy levels up. • Choose longer icebreakers when more disclosure is desired. • Remember icebreakers always take a bit longer than we think they will take.

6. Full Speed Ahead (Take It to the Next Level) An important part of choosing an icebreaker is deciding whether or not a serious message will be incorporated into the activity. One must remember that regardless of whether or not learning is a focus of the activity, icebreakers inherently contain hidden messages. We always prefer to use icebreakers that contain significant learning points because they can create powerful teaching opportunities without appearing like we are lecturing the students.

7. Disembarking (Debrief) When finished with an icebreaker, it is important to take a few minutes to help the participants find meaning in the activity. If the time is not taken to bring it all together, the participants may feel as if they were simply playing a game. Discuss the purpose of the activity, what was learned from it, and how it can be related to their lives. Be sure to make the discussion interactive. The participants will take more away from the debriefing if they are a part of it, rather than being lectured to.

A standard debrief that we use following our icebreakers or activities has this basic structure: • “What happened?” What actually happened in the activity? What did you do? • “Why?” What factors limited your success? What factors contributed to your success?

“What changed?” What did you do it differently? What changes did you make in your strategy? What made it more successful the second time around? “So what?” How does this apply to us? What lessons can we learn from this? “Now what?” What is one thing you would change in your life because of this? What would you do differently as a result of this activity?

Be sure to give participants the opportunity to ask questions throughout the activity. Nothing promotes learning like dialog. We encourage participants to discuss among themselves what they have learned and what the activity means to them. You may be surprised at the level of depth and insight your participants will have!

A well chosen icebreaker is worth it’s weight in… ice! Choose your icebreakers wisely and you can impact many lives.

Icebreakers Ahead: Take it to the next Level This EBook not only provides 52 of the world’s most popular group icebreaker activities, but also includes lesson ideas and questions to smoothly transition into discussions about issues common to most groups.

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Youth Icebreakers - Knowing the Ice  

Learn some key principles for making your ice breaker the highlight of your next party, team event, and classroom discussion!

Youth Icebreakers - Knowing the Ice  

Learn some key principles for making your ice breaker the highlight of your next party, team event, and classroom discussion!