Breaking the Ice
Using Ice Breakers at the beginning of a session is a great way to get your group comfortable with one another. A good ice breaker is fun and encourages people to share a bit about themselves. Here are a few we suggest.
Challenge your participants to line up in order according to their birthdays, without speaking, within two minutes. This first section challenges people to get creative with one another. At the end of two minutes, go down the line asking for birthdays to see if your group got the right order. There might be some funny mistakes! Next, quickly split people up by birthday (so, depending on who’s in attendance, Jan/Feb birthdays are in a group, March–May might be in a group, etc.) and ask them to discuss their favorite and least favorite things about their birthdays.
Print out several photos of random things–astronauts, flowers, cars, buildings, landscapes, kitchen utensils, famous people, anything–and give everyone two minutes to pick a photo. Then, go from person to person and ask them to speak briefly about the photo: what about the photo caused them to pick it?
Candy bar groups:
Bring in a selection of mini candy bars, mix them up, and have people draw them randomly from a bag to create groups. For example, everyone who draws a Snickers will be in a group, everyone who draws a Payday will be in a group, etc. Bring enough to get group numbers you want—so if you want 5 groups of 5, bring in 5 candy bars of 5 different types. Once people are sorted into groups, they can eat the candy bars and ask each other ice breaker questions. Questions are included below and can be used for many ice breakers. This sorting method can be used in any of these icebreakers that require groups.
10 Things in Common:
Split people into groups of four to five (or if it’s small enough, have everyone do this together). Have each assign one person as a note-taker/reporter, and then give the groups a task to find 10 things they have in common with each other. Very obvious things—we all have two arms, we all work for the same company—do not count.
At the end of 7-10 minutes, the note-takers/reporters should share their lists of the 10 things a group had in common. Allow/facilitate conversation for 5-8 minutes for a total of 15 minutes.
Bring M&M’s and napkins, small cups, or something else on which participants can store M&M’s to the icebreaker. Have each participant take a handful of M&M’s, and then pick out 3 M&Ms randomly from their initial stash of M&M’s.
Tell the audience that each M&M color is attached to a particular question; include these questions and colors on a slide or a poster, and then go around and have participants answer the 3 questions that coincide with the 3 M&M’s they picked randomly out of their stashes.
This can be done in groups or in plenary session.
Before the icebreaker, write out the beginnings of sentences on slips of paper, and put these into a hat or similar item. Pass the hat around and have each person draw a slip of paper. Then, have each participant read the sentence start aloud, and have them finish the sentence.
This can be done in plenary, or in groups. If in groups, each person in the group should finish a few sentences. Then, groups can share their funniest or most interesting answers with each other. Sample sentence starters include:
- Although most people don’t find…
- I have never…
- I love it when…
- I love to…
- I think I have the best…
- I would never…
- My idea of beauty is…
- The best thing I ever did for my child is…
- The best way for me to relax is…
- The best way to save…
- The biggest and best…
- The funniest thing that ever happened to me was…
- The greatest thing I ever did was…
- The lowest…
- The most important decision I ever made in my life was…
- The most unbelievable thing…
- The thing that makes me laugh is…
- There is nothing I enjoy more than…
- When I think of prunes…
Have each person in the ice breaker write down something interesting they’ve done on a note card (e.g. skydiving, have lived in ten different states, drank a gallon of milk in five minutes — the sillier the better).
Put the note cards into a hat or bag and have each person drawn a note card they will then read aloud to the group. The group should try to guess “whodunit” and give their reasons for why they think so—and then the person whose experience it was can confirm the guess or claim the experience, give a little detail about the story.
This can be done in small groups (determined by a count-off, the candy method, or other ways) or in a plenary session; if done in small groups, groups should report out at the end to the other groups.
General Ice Breaker Questions:
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
- When you die, what do you want to be remembered for?
- What is your favorite item you’ve bought this year?
- What would be the most surprising scientific discovery imaginable?
- What is your absolute dream job?
- What would your talent be if you were Miss or Mister World?
- What would the title of your autobiography be?
- Say you’re independently wealthy and don’t have to work, what would you do with your time?
- What is your favorite magical or mythological animal?
- What does your favorite shirt look like?
- Who is your favorite movie hero or heroine? Would you trade places with them?
- What would your dream house be like?
- If you could add anyone to Mount Rushmore who would it be; why?
- You’re going sail around the world, what’s the name of your boat?
- What fictional family would you be a member of?
- What was the worst job you ever had?
- You can have anyone fictional as your imaginary friend, who do you choose and why?
- What would your superpower be and why?
- Which band / artist – dead or alive would play at your funeral?
- As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
- What’s your favorite tradition or holiday?
- What fictional world or place would you like to visit?
- What’s the most out-of-character thing you’ve ever done?
- What is your cellphone wallpaper?
- You can have an unlimited supply of one thing for the rest of your life, what is it?
- What’s your best scar story?
- Would you go with aliens if they beamed down to Earth?
- Are you sunrise, daylight, twilight, or nighttime? Why?
- What season would you be?
- What fruit or vegetable would you most want to be?
For more Icebreaker ideas, check out these sites:
“23 Best Icebreaker Games for Adults.” Icebreaker Ideas, July 29, 2015. https://icebreakerideas.com/best-icebreaker-games-adults/#Sentence_Starters
Heathfield, Susan M. “A Favorite Team Building Icebreaker.” The Balance Careers, July 1, 2018. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/my-favorite-team-building-icebreaker-1918415
Heathfield, Susan M. “Meet-and-Greet Meeting Ice Breakers” The Balance Careers, July 1, 2018. https://www.thebalancecareers.com/meet-and-greet-meeting-ice-breakers-1918416
Roy, Stephanie. “20 Icebreakers to Make Your Next Meeting Fun.” Project Manager, January 24, 2018. https://www.projectmanager.com/blog/20-icebreakers-make-next-meeting-fun
Son, Sabrina. “6 ICEBREAKER GAMES FOR WORK THAT YOUR TEAM WILL LOVE” TINYCon, 15 June 2017. https://www.tinypulse.com/blog/sk-work-icebreaker-games
“The Only List Of Icebreaker Questions You’ll Ever Need.” Museum Hack, October 24, 2016 https://museumhack.com/list-icebreakers-questions/