My name is Matt, and I run the blog at Team Building Activities For Kids Central. Ashley was kind enough to let me share some of our activities, and I’m thrilled to present them to you—especially as the new school year begins!
The first few weeks of class can be a lot of fun, but they can also be a little intimidating: the students may not know each other yet, and when the children are a bit nervous, it can be difficult to move forward as a group. Here are some fun icebreaking activities to use at the beginning of the year—and anytime thereafter!
Activity #1: Snowball Fight!
How To Play: This game is an excellent way to get students to interact and to learn a little bit about each other. To prepare for the activity, get a piece of white paper and draw two lines on it, so that the page is divided into thirds, and then Xerox it. Give each participant a piece of paper, and have them add their name to each section. Then, in the first section, have each student list something he or she is excited about; in the second section, have the student write something he or she is nervous about; and in the third section, have each student add something that he or she would like to learn about during the year.
After all the students have scribbled some answers, have the students tear the paper into thirds along the lines they’ve drawn (you can have them use scissors if you’ve got them around). Then have all the children crumple the paper into snowballs, and at the count three, throw them in the air (the kids LOVE this step!). Each of the students finds a snowball, un-crumples it, and then finds the person who wrote on the paper so that they can discuss the answers.
Quick Tip: You can change the questions to your liking—if you sense that the kids might be shy or not know what they want to learn about, you can ask them to list a favorite animal or a favorite TV show. Also, as the year goes on and kids learn more about each other, the questions can become more in-depth (such as, “What was your favorite vacation?” or “What’s your favorite memory?”).
Why the Game Works: Everyone loves a snowball fight! The game is a great way to let students who may not know each other loosen up a bit and find out some things about their classmates. When all works well, you’ll have students bonding over their answers.
Activity #2: The Trust-Building Obstacle Course
How To Play: Have students pair off into groups of two. The goal is to have the first student verbally instruct the second student how to get across the room and pick up an object—while the second student is blindfolded! Students set up a very basic obstacle course in the classroom, and can arrange chairs, or put out bean bags, or set up small castle made of building blocks—or whatever comes to mind. Making an obstacle course can be a game in itself!
Quick Tip: To add a competitive element to the game, organize the students into teams and see which team can cross the room and pick up their item the quickest.
Why the Game Works: The activity is GREAT for trust-building, and it’s an opportunity for classmates to interact in a totally new way. Plus, it’s a lot of fun for spectators! One word to the wise, though: be careful of any rascals who might lead the blindfolded participant astray!
Activity #3: The “What Is This?” Sensory Table
How To Play: This is a great indoor activity, and it takes a little bit of prep, but the students usually bond over the experience. The game is pretty simple, and it’s mostly about the experience. Instructors arrange bowls holding items that have very particular tactile qualities, such as Cheerios, dried beans, rubber bands, rice, paper clips, or feathers. Kids close their eyes and are brought to each bowl, and have to use their sense of touch to figure out each object. To make sure that students don’t ruin the surprise, you can set a piece of paper or cloth over the bowl before each student arrives at the table.
Quick Tip: To mix it up a little, you can create a “Smells Table,” and include items that have particular smells. Cut bananas, coconuts, mint, fresh-baked bread, and cut grass are all good options—but just be careful if you’ve got any students with allergies!
Bonus Tip: Most of the time, the kids guess which item is in each bowl. For a neat reversal, allow the students to choose the items that are put into bowls, and have the instructor guess. Kids usually have a great time trying to stump the teacher!
Why the Game Works: The activity provides a bonding experience that kids can discuss. Most will have never had to use their other senses to determine an object, and the riddle can be a ton of fun.
Finally… Have Fun!
The most important ingredient in any activity is enthusiasm—so enjoy them, and enjoy the school year! Thank you, Ashley!