Icebreaker Activities (Quick)

My Name

People introduce themselves and tell what they know about why they have their name (their mother wanted to name me after my great aunt Helen who once climbed Pike’s Peak in heels, etc.). It could be their first, middle, or nick name.

Zip Zap Zop

Have the group stand in a circle. Explain that you are holding an invisible ball of energy and that it can’t stop for too long but needs to keep moving around the circle. To direct the energy to someone across the circle, point towards them and say “Zip.” That person must then redirect the energy to someone else, by pointing at them and saying “Zip.” There are a couple of complicating factors, however. When moving the energy to someone who is to your immediate left or right, you must say “Zap” instead of “Zip.” And to send it back to the person who is sending it to you, you need to hold up both hands to deflect it and say “Zop.” The goal is to keep the energy moving as quickly as possible without making mistakes.

Alternate Option: Once everyone learns the basic game, group members can learn each other’s names by adding the name of the person they are pointing to after saying Zip, Zap, or Zop.

Best/Worst

Have each person share their best and/or worst moments from the previous week (or “highlight of the week”). You might want to use this one periodically, either as an icebreaker or as a way to reflect on the volunteer experience that day.

Additional Option: The contrasting questions can be worded in various ways, such as:

  • What was one thing you really enjoyed today, and one thing you did not like?
  • For what moment am I most / least grateful?
  • When did I feel most alive / life draining out of me?
  • When did I give and receive the most / least love?
  • When did I have the greatest / least sense of belonging (to myself, others, the Divine, the universe)?

(questions adapted from Sleeping with Bread by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, Matthew Linn)

Most Unique

Have each person share one thing that makes them different from anyone else in the group.

Mood

Ask each person to state the style of music (or type of animal, etc.) which best describes their mood (or the past week, etc.). Probe to find out why they made this choice.

Hometown

Post a world map or a large outline of Canada on the wall (leave border space for those born outside of Canada). Have participants put their hometown and name on the map. Then ask them to share about their hometown and how they ended up here (e.g., how they chose McMaster).

Comic Strip Scramble

Take several comic strips and cut them into individual frames. Have each person take a frame and then find everyone who has a frame from the same comic strip sequence. After finding everyone from their group they must correctly arrange the comic strip in chronological sequence. Encourage people to introduce themselves and get to know each other once they’ve found their group.

Hum That Tune

Each person in the group is given a small piece of paper with the name of a nursery rhyme or other song written on the paper (ie. Row, row, row your boat,” “Rock-a-bye baby,” etc). All of the people who are given the song must hum that tune and find everyone else singing the song.

Find Someone

Each person writes on a small blank card one to three statements, such as favourite colour, interest, hobby, or vacations. Shuffle and pass out cards so everyone gets someone else’s. Have each person find the other person with their card and introduce themselves.

Character Descriptions

Have everyone write down one or two adjectives describing themselves. Put these on a stick-on badge. Have each person find someone with similar or opposite adjectives and talk for 5 minutes with the other person.

Do as I Say, Not as I Do

Have the group sit in a circle. The first person says their name and one thing they like (“I like to smile”), but does something else (starts waving). The second person does what the first person said (smiles), but says their name and something that they like (“I like to sit cross-legged”). This pattern continues around the circle until everyone has had a turn. For an added challenge, the activity can be repeated with everyone repeating the things that everyone before them liked.

Ball Toss

Throw a ball around the circle of volunteers. Whoever catches it says their name and why they are volunteering (or something else about themselves such as one highlight or low point from a holiday, where they were born, etc.). If time allows, after everyone has responded one time, continue throwing ball and this time the person who catches it says one thing they are looking forward to about their volunteer placement this term.

Standing Up

Two people sit back to back linking arms. They must then attempt to stand up from this position without letting go of the other person.

Scars

Each person takes a turn and tells the story of a scar they have and how they got it. For those without scars they can talk about a significant experience of their choice.

“Wanted” Posters

Participants create a “wanted” poster, without their name on it that describes likes, dislikes, hobbies, height, eye color, and more. Hang on the wall and let everyone guess who’s who.

Baby Pictures

Invite everyone to bring in or draw a picture of themselves as a child or baby. Have everyone guess which picture belongs to which person.

Interpretation

Give each person a piece of paper and a pen. Explain that you will read through a list of words, and for each word you will give them a few seconds to write down the first word or phrase that comes to mind (there is no right or wrong answers here). Use words that have a degree of abstraction, such as duty, faith, education, service, trust, honesty, compassion, responsibility, attitude, honour, love, etc. Depending on the size of your group, divide into subgroups to discuss the differences between individual’s answers. This is a good activity for demonstrating how each person reacts differently to the same thing.

Never Got to H

The object of the game is to get through the entire alphabet. The group must take turns saying each letter in order from A to Z. Only one person can say a letter at a time; if two people shout out a letter at the same time than the group must start over. There is no order to who speaks so that is where it gets tricky.

Bumpity Bump

One player stands in the middle of the circle. They point to a particular player and say “Left,” “Right,” “You,” or “Me,” followed by “Bumpity Bump.” The selected player must say the name of the player to the left/right/themselves/or middle players’ name before the middle player finishes the phrase; if they do not say the name in time than they are “bumped” or eliminated from the game (alternatively, they can switch with the person in the middle).

Five Changes

Have players pair-up. Once they’ve found a partner, have them sit or stand back-to-back. While back-to-back, have each person change five things about their appearance. Once the changes have been made, the players turn around and each try to identify the changes made by their partner.

Personal Scavenger Hunt

Describe some items and have each person find them in their wallet or backpack. Some possible descriptions you might like to use are: something that…

  • You’ve had a long time
  • Means a lot to you
  • Reveals something about you
  • Reminds you of a fun time
  • Concerns or worries you

Deserted Island

Suppose you were told that you won an amazing vacation to a restful and relaxing island, with no one else but you and one other person. But there is a catch: besides the essentials, which they provide, you can only bring 3 items. They are: 1 piece of music (as in one song or album), 1 book, and 1 luxury item. What would you bring, and who would you bring? Give your group members some time to think it through and then share your answers and why.