Why play Ice-Breaker Games?
Ice breaker games are regarded with a slight air of cynicism by some youth group leaders. They think that kids are likely to be excited enough when they arrive at youth group, and therefore that they don’t need to play games that will take them to fever pitch. However, a well chosen, well run ice breaker can be the difference between a youth group made up of individuals, and a youth group whose members are looking out for each other.
So what is the point of an ice breaker game? Well, the clue’s in the name: the idea is to break the ice between children who possibly haven’t met before, or at least don’t know each other very well. This is a very worthwhile aim, of course, as it is in your interests as a youth group leader to ensure that the kids are getting on well. No one wants to see fights or sniping comments directed from one child to another. But how do ice breaker games help to build relationships between the children?
The simple virtue of putting children into teams with others who they may not know acts as a relationship-building mechanism. They are compelled to acknowledge their peers and to work with them towards a common goal. Whether they achieve that goal or not is something of a moot point; they are bound to share a response to the game together, whether it be disappointment or success. The human ability to commiserate or to exult is a very strong one, even in children whose emotional responses are not yet mature. So through team play, children will be forced to ‘break the ice’ by forming alliances with their peers.
Funny gamesOne excellent type of ice breaker is the funny or amusing game. The power of laughter to bring people together has always been well known, and children are most susceptible to this. One of the effects of communal laughter is to erase the boundaries of reserve that every person has. Think about it: when you really laugh, you are at your most natural; you don’t care about how you look or even what noises you’re making in the process. This openness will often carry on even after the laughter has stopped, meaning that games designed to amuse are an excellent way of starting off a youth group session.
Get-to-know-you gamesThese function well as ice breakers if the group is more mature – perhaps mid to late teens. If the children are younger they may well expect to have a run around first, and the quieter, more cerebral games may be difficult to explain. But for older kids, get-to-know-you games are a great way to play, and at the same time to learn about their peers in a relaxed setting. No one likes small talk – not even adults – so give the youth a chance to have their curiosity satisfied and their questions answered in an informal way. You may even want to participate yourself, so that they can find out a bit about you – though this is a scary proposition to some!
As you can see, ice breaker games offer a plethora of options to the youth leader wishing to sow some seeds of harmony between the children who have come along. Learning to play together is a great first step to learning how to work together. Youth groups are a great way for kids to start to interact with their peers, and ice breaker games are not only useful, but necessary for this purpose. You should start using them today!