Teens love to express their opinions, but most of us have had a TAB, book group, or other program where teens are just not talking. Like everyone else most teens are more willing to express themselves when they are comfortable with the people around them. If your group is made up of teens who don’ know each other or who know each other from school but don’t otherwise socialize you might try some ice breakers to warm them up.
There are lots of icebreakers online and in books, but in my experience good icebreakers for programs:
- Need little introduction
- Require few materials
- Do not require too much personal information
- Do not involve touching more than hand to hand
- Do not have a single winner, or preferably a winner at all
Once a group is comfortable with each other you might move on to more complex team-building activities that sometimes go beyond these rules, but that’s a different post for a different time.
Running icebreakers successfully
- Know your audience. For example, if you have a lot of teens from conservative and/or homeschool families you might pass on games that require pop culture knowledge.
- Be flexible. Yes, this is the number one key to youth services in general but it goes twice for activities with no import like icebreakers. If it’s not working well cut it off and try something else.
- Participate! You want them to be comfortable with you as well as each other. If it’s something you don’t want to do chances are they don’t either.
- Start slow. If you have a really quiet or shy group don’t jump into the high activity list right away.
- Unless you know and trust the group “I Never” is a very, very bad idea.
This book is in my own personal resource collection and it has a lot of ideas from simple ice breakers to more complex team building games. Each activity lists the time it takes, supplies, set-up, and how to play. They also include questions if you are looking for deeper lessons in the activities. There is now a kid’s edition that looks like a good choice as well.
A few favorites:
Split the group in two and pick a word that appears in a lot of songs like love, happy, or baby. The teams take turns singing a song with the chosen word in it until one team can’t think of a song that hasn’t been used. Alternatively you can do this Pitch Perfect style where each team has to sing a song with a word taken from the song sung before it.
Without talking the group has to line up from youngest to oldest.
Have each person in the group write down three questions for everyone to answer. Things like their favorite book, farthest they’ve traveled, favorite meal etc. If needed warn the group that you are reading the questions and you’ll skip any that aren’t appropriate. Put all the questions in a bowl and draw them out giving everyone in the group a chance to answer.
The Wind Blows
Place the chairs in a circle. There is one less chair than persons. The person without a chair stands in the middle and says “The wind blows everyone who…” and finishes with something simple and not too personal. “Is wearing blue”, “Had cereal this morning”, “Is in 9th grade” etc. Anyone who fits the description has to get up and find a new chair. The person left without a chair is now in the middle and has to come up with something. I’ve never had it happen but it is possible the question could go somewhere unfortunate, a simple “try again” should get the point across.
Pass around M&Ms and tell each teen to take a few. Once everyone has their candy tell them they need to share one thing about themselves for each candy they have. This is extra fun because being greedy totally backfires.
The group sits in a circle and everyone says their name. One person is in the middle with a pool noodle or pillow. A name is called and the person in the middle has to whomp the person whose name was called on the leg before that person can say their name and someone else’s. If the middle person manages to whomp the person they switch places, if the person says two names first the person in the middle stays and the person whose name was said second calls out the next name.
If you don’t have time to search for more on your own you can buy 21 mixers/icebreakers complete with graphics from Youth Leader Stash.