Ten all-new icebreaker games to warm your children’s ministry environment and forge friendships between kids.
Relationships are the cornerstone of a child’s experience in your ministry— and they can make or break whether families decide to stay at your church. But friendships need more than just small-group discussions to bloom. Sometimes friendships need plain old fun to get kids to let down their guard and get to know each other. One big factor in the formation of friendships among kids is shared positive experiences. When that happens, kids begin to feel like they’re a part of your community and they want to come back and bump into others who know and trust Jesus. So—study that Bible, yes! But also make time to intentionally forge friendships among kids with these fabulously fun icebreaker games.
10 All-New Icebreaker Games for Your Children’s Ministry
Icebreaker Game 1: Shoe Hunt
This high-energy game encourages unlikely friendships.
Have each child place one shoe in the center of the room and then move to the outer walls of the room. Quickly mix the shoes, and then say: When I say “go,” choose one shoe from the pile that’s not yours and find the person with the matching shoe. Learn that friend’s favorite food, and then sit down until the person with your shoe finds you. Line up next to me after your shoe and the shoe you chose have both been returned to their owners. Go!
When everyone’s lined up, have kids share about their shoe friends’ favorite foods. Repeat the game several times, having kids choose a new shoe each time and having them seek new information about one another.
Afterward, invite kids to talk about things they had in common with others as well as the surprising things they learned. Say: Sometimes mixing it up and getting to know kids we don’t normally hang out with surprises us with new friends.
Icebreaker Game 2: Back Me Up
Encourage inclusiveness with this medium-energy game.
Have kids stand in a circle facing out. Choose one child to stand in the center of the circle and another to stand outside the circle. Have kids in the circle hold hands; there should be about 1 foot between each child.
Explain that without touching anyone in the circle, the child on the outside of the circle can do whatever he or she wants to help the child in the center get out. The kids making the circle can’t move their feet, but they can move the rest of their bodies.
After the child in the center gets out, he or she joins the person on the outside to help. Have another child from the circle move into the center while the kids making the circle readjust so they’re still about 1 foot apart. Continue until only one child is left in the circle.
- How is this game like times you’ve felt left out?
- What does this game show you about being a friend to everyone?
Icebreaker Game 3: Rapid Roll
Encourage kids to be good listeners to their friends with this low-energy game.
- a pair of dice,
- paper, and
Have kids sit around a table. Choose one child to start rolling the dice, attempting to get a pair. At the same time, the person to the left must share as many things about himself or herself as quickly as possible. When the Roller gets a pair, the child sharing becomes the Roller while the child to his or her left begins sharing. Continue until all the kids have shared and the last child in the group has rolled a pair.
Then, have kids individually write as many things as they can remember that the others shared. Have kids count the facts they shared, and then find out who remembered the most.
- What helped you remember what others shared?
- Why do you think listening to our friends matters?
- Explain what it means to you when others listen to you and remember what you say.
Icebreaker Game 4: Hulapalooza
Help kids recognize the benefits of working together with this high-energy game.
- one hula hoop for every six kids.
Have kids play a version of tag with one Tagger per hula hoop to begin. The Taggers hold their hula hoops around their waists and when they tag someone, that person joins the inside of the hula hoop. Play continues until all kids are inside a hula hoop. Hula-hoop groups can tag only one player at a time.
Play again as time allows, having new kids start as the Taggers.
- What was easy or difficult about being in a hula-hoop group?
- How well did you work together?
- Describe something you liked about being in a hula hoop.
- How was our game-like or unlike what can happen when we need to work with others?
Icebreaker Game 5: Choo-Choo Change
This medium-energy game helps you talk about leading and following.
Have kids make a train, holding the shoulders of the child in front of them. The first child will say an action he or she wants to lead, such as “I like to hop,” and then leads the whole train weaving around the room for about five seconds. After the five seconds, he or she becomes the caboose and the second child takes a turn. However, this time the child repeats the first person’s action and adds an action, such as “[Child’s name] likes to hop, and I like to slide my feet.” He or she leads the kids in hopping for about five seconds and then sliding feet for about five seconds. Then he or she becomes the caboose. Play continues with kids adding new actions until all the kids have had a turn and the train is performing all the actions.
- What was most challenging for you as the leader? as a follower?
- Explain whether you prefer to lead or follow, and why.
- When have you needed to be a leader?
- When have you needed to follow?
- What can this game teach us about being leaders and followers?
Icebreaker Game 6: Tap & Tell
Let kids get to know each other better through sharing fun facts in this low-energy game.
Have kids stand shoulder to shoulder in a circle facing inward. Choose one child to be the Tapper. The Tapper will walk around the circle once, tapping all the children on the back once, except for one person whom the Tapper taps twice. After tapping each child, the Tapper joins the circle.
Say: After the Tapper has tapped everyone, you’ll each take a turn sharing something special or exciting about yourself that you don’t think anyone else knows. If you were tapped twice, share something that’s untrue. After everyone shares, we’ll try to guess which person shared the untrue thing. Play and repeat with new Tappers as time allows.
- What did you like about learning these neat things about your friends?
- How did you feel when you found out something was untrue?
- Why does it matter that you let your friends know the real you?
Icebreaker Game 7: To Freeze or Unfreeze
This high-energy game explores the dangers of divisiveness.
Play a version of tag where half the kids are Freezers and the other half are Unfreezers. The Freezers tag others to freeze them in place. Unfreezers tag frozen kids to unfreeze them. Play as time allows. Switch roles halfway through your allotted time.
- As an Unfreezer, what was hard about your job, and why?
- How was working against each other in this game like what happens when you and your friends have disagreements?
- How can you “unfreeze” disagreements in your friendships?
Icebreaker Game 8: Body Balloons
Use this medium-game to encourage teamwork.
- six inflated balloons for every pair of kids.
Have kids form pairs and line up at one end of the room. Place half the balloons on one end of the room and the other half on the opposite end of the room. Explain that pairs will race back and forth together between the walls, each time adding a balloon to carry between them until they have all six balloons— in a certain order.
First, they’ll place a balloon between their foreheads.
Second, they’ll add a balloon between one of each of their palms.
Third, they’ll add a balloon between their other palms.
Fourth, they’ll add a balloon between their stomachs.
Fifth, they’ll each add a balloon between their knees for a total of six balloons between them.
- What was hardest about working together?
- What was something good about working together?
- When has working with someone helped you in life?
- What did this experience teach you about working with others?
Icebreaker Game 9: Mallow Pickin’
Kids practice encouraging their friends in this low-energy game.
- a timer,
- marshmallows, and
Have kids wash their hands and then sit at a table. Together they’ll build a structure out of marshmallows and toothpicks. Place one toothpick into a marshmallow, and place it in the center of the table.
Say: Let’s see how fast we can build a strong building that stands up. We’ll want to work quickly, but we also want to work carefully.
Choose one child to start. He or she will connect a marshmallow and toothpick to the original ones, add- ing to the structure. Start the timer. The person to the left will add to the structure. Play continues around the table until everyone has added to it. Ask kids to say positive and encouraging things as kids add to the building.
After everyone has had a turn, stop the timer and allow time for kids to admire their results. Then let them try again and see if they can improve the building and their time.
Say: Building this structure is like how we encourage our friends. When we encourage others, we want it to be real and genuine so we build sturdy friendships. We want to encourage our friends to build them up, not tear them down.
Let kids eat marshmallows. Ask:
- Tell about a time a friend built you up by encouraging you.
- How do you build others up?
- Who’s someone you can encourage this week?
Icebreaker Game 10: Music Connection
Kids look for things they have in common with others in this high-energy game.
- music and
- a music player.
Have kids scatter throughout the room. Explain that when you play music, kids will skip around the room. When the music stops, you’ll call a number and a body part, and kids will find the nearest kids to connect those body parts with that number of kids. For example, if you call “three knees,” kids will touch knees in a group of three and each child will try to name a song they all like. When the music begins again, kids continue skipping around the room. They’ll want to be near other kids to match up with when the music stops. In each match-up, kids try to find a different song they all like. Get creative with the match-ups; you might call: toe, pinky finger, heel, knuckles, elbow, or crown of the head. (Avoid body parts such as nose or chest that will create discomfort.)
Invite kids to describe their experiences in the game—what they liked, didn’t like, and what was hard or easy. Then ask:
- What songs did you have in common with others?
- How can looking for something you have in common help you begin a friendship with someone?
Michael Capps is a longtime Group contributor, self-proclaimed child at heart, poet, author, and consultant who makes his home in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina.
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