7 Fun & Easy Icebreakers to Grow Team Dynamics
Icebreakers are awkward, but they’re a necessary evil. Despite their initial uncomfortability, icebreakers lighten the mood and remove barriers between people. They act as easy introductions, encourage interactions, and (at their best) grow team dynamics.
Check out these tips on how to use icebreakers effectively and encourage involvement through different stages of team development:
Stage 1: Learning Names
Knowing, recalling, and affirming each other by name will lay a foundation of trust. By focusing on this step first, team members will feel more comfortable to open up with each other later on. Here’s some simple icebreakers that can improve name retention:
1. Name Aerobics
As each person shares their name with the group, have them create a motion for each syllable of their name. After the individual shares their name and gesture, have everyone in the group mirror the improv “name dance”. Reinforcing the name with an action, especially if exaggerated and funny, can help recalling the name. (This activity may even spawn inside jokes among the team.)
2. Behind the Name
Each person has a name–obviously. However, people rarely know the story behind another’s name. Ask everyone to share the story of how they got their name. Maybe they’re named after a great uncle, or their name was a compromise between parents. Knowing these stories can aid retention and provide a little insight into each team member’s background.
Bonus: Ask about the origin or meaning behind each person’s name for a longer discussion.
Stage 2: Knowing the Individual
Once names are established, it’s easier to get to know each team member on an individual basis. Try these icebreakers to get to know each member on a more personal level–without diving too deep too quickly.
3. Year of the Coin
For this activity, you’ll need a pile of coins. Each person should pick a coin from the pile, note the year it was made, and tell a story of something they did that year. This icebreaker works better with a team of older members. If working with younger people, you can modify the game by using newer coins (or have the kids make up fanatical answers if they weren’t born yet!).
4. Beach Ball Questions
Grab a beach ball and a sharpie. Scribble open-ended questions around the ball, and you’re ready for this icebreaker. Have team members toss the ball. Whoever catches it should see what question their right thumb lands on. (You can pick whichever finger you want.) Have them answer the question before tossing it to another person. This is an easy, stress-free way to get to know each other without the pressure of coming up with questions on-the-spot.
5. The Four Cs
Consider using the four Cs: cartoon character, color, car, and cuisine. Have each person name something in each category that best describes themselves and explain why. You’ll learn a lot about everyone and how each person perceives themselves by asking for self-descriptors.
Stage 3: Forging Team Dynamics
Working as a unit should be the aim when building a team. Pay attention how each person interacts with others and note who will thrive in leadership roles. Recognizing the strengths and struggles in others will help you designate tasks in the field. Try these activities to discover this and more:
6. Build With Blocks
For this activity, you’ll need colored blocks (i.e. Legos) and separate the team into smaller groups of three or four, if necessary. Provide an image or a second model of what each group needs to work together to build. The caveat: only one person can view the completed object at a time. Whoever’s viewing the constructed object must communicate directions to the others on how to construct the completed object. Make them rotate every 30 seconds for who is giving directions. Involving an overarching time limit will really amp the pressure!
This activity will facilitate:
- Communication skills
- Listening abilities
- Direction following
7. Antiques of the Future
Sift through your junk drawer to provide a pile of random knick-knacks to groups of three or four. Explain it’s 5,000 years in the future. Each group needs to describe the use for each object as if it were found at an antique shop centuries from now. Let each group brainstorm together for several minutes before sharing their deep revelations with the rest of the team. Out-of-the-box responses are highly encouraged!
This activity will facilitate:
- Decision making
- Presentation skills
Icebreakers are uncomfortable, but they don’t have to be. If used strategically, they can bring any team together while highlighting the strengths of the individuals involved.