Chapter 2

The 12 Best Ice Breaker Games in Ranking Order

We've put together the ultimate best ice breaker games list. It's even in ranking order. Also includes instructions!

Heather Harper

Written by Heather Harper

Last updated: Mar 30, 2020

There are literally hundreds of ice breaker games that you could play with your team.

We are constantly joining, leaving and then re joining different teams.

Yet, joining a new team may often feel unnatural, daunting and intimidating, regardless of your previous experiences or confidence levels.

Hence, why it is crucial that you get breaking the ice right the very first time.

I've basically written the book on ice breaker games by now (40,000 words and counting).


If your team is working remotely at the moment then you should check out our 7000 word guide on remote team building games and activities for virtual teams. In there you'll find 40 ideas with instructions that you can try with your newly remote team.


So, to save you from going crazy trawling lists all day - here are what we think are the 12 best ice breaker games ever - seriously.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of the page.

Also, remember that we have dedicated other chapters to different ice breakers for different contexts (ie, meetings, large groups, small groups, etc).

Enjoy!

1) Two truths and a lie

Objective: Learn new things about each other in a fun way

Participants: 4 to 25

Duration: 10 to 20 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: None required

two truths and a lie

We love two truths and a lie because it is a classic ice breaker game that can be used to get the conversation flowing and have some fun while you’re at it.

Instructions

  1. Go around the room and get every employee to share two facts about themselves and one lie.
  2. The rest of the group have to discuss which one they think is the lie, and then they vote.
  3. Go around the room until every employee has had the chance to share their two truths and one lie.

A top tip for this game is to ensure that you don’t randomly spring this kind of icebreaker on people as some, especially those who consider themselves introverted or shy, find it distressing to suddenly be in the spotlight.

Sidestep this problem by giving everyone some notice that you’re going to be playing this game.

Besides giving people some time to prepare and be more creative with their answers, this team icebreaker also gives introverts time to mentally prepare for this type of activity.

2) Random fact

Objective: learn new things in a light hearted way

Participants: 5 to 20

Duration: 10 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: None required

random fact

We love this game because it encourages employees to publicly speak, but it doesn't involve speaking about themselves; meaning it is well suited to quieter or more introverted employees.

What would you pick, the fact that the unicorn is the national animal of Scotland (ridiculous, I know) or that a crocodile cannot stick its tongue out?

Instructions

For many people, their aversion about speaking in public isn’t necessarily with talking in public but talking about themselves. A way to break the ice on that is to ask them to share a random piece of trivia that they know.

This is an effective icebreaker because everyone has that one random fact that they somehow know and it takes a lot of the pressure off of trying to think of something interesting about themselves.

It’s an easy way to get everyone involved and gives people a chance to say something without feeling too self-conscious.

To be honest, this icebreaker is the simplest of them all. Just go around the room and get participants to quickly say a random fact. To make it more engaging, you could ask employees to repeat their favourite fact at the end of the game.

3) Repeat Performances

Participants: 60 to 500

Duration: 3 to 5 minutes

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: None

repeat performance

We like this ice breaker activity because essentially it kills two birds with one stone. You get to give a motivating and inspiring speech to your employees, whilst also introducing a fun and exciting ice breaker to the meeting.

Research has found time and time again, that a good speech improves employees empowerment and motivation - which is why this icebreaker is so high up our list.

Instructions

  1. Before starting the game, you should decide on two specific words or phrases that you would like participants to walk away from the speech remembering.
  2. Explain to your employees that you would like them to participate in your speech and they will do this by shouting out certain words when you point with your right hand and certain words when you point with your left hand (e.g., chose the words “yes” or “no” and ask questions periodically throughout the speech for the audience to respond to)
  3. Before starting, do a practise round in which you point your left or right hand and get them to give answers.

4) One Liners

Participants: 8 to 20

Duration: 3 to 4 minutes

Difficulty: Easy

Materials: None

bean bag bungle

We love this game because it requires some mental stimulation; we suggest using it at the start of a meeting to get your employee’s awake and on the ball.

Instructions

  1. Organise participants into pairs
  2. Each pair must come up with a least one famous line from a book, movie or famous person that no one else will think of
  3. After a minute or so, each pair must say their line to the rest of the group and the other pairs have 20 seconds to write down where they think the quote has come from
  4. Once the game is done, determine which pair has the most correct answers. To keep the game exciting, we suggest offering alcoholic or edible prizes to the winning pair!

5) All Aboard

Participants: 20 to 100

Duration: 5 to 8

Difficulty: Medium...requires some physical activity!

Materials: 2 balloons per person of varying colours (one colour for each group) and 1 permanent marker per group

all aboard

We love this activity because it is great for any kind of large-group training session. It encourages team behaviours and creativity. It allows employees to have fun, be active and build trust.

Instructions

  1. Organise participants into groups of six to twenty and ask them to get into train formation
  2. Distribute deflated balloons of varying colours around the room
  3. Explain that each group is a passenger train and that they must pick up passengers (2 passengers per person)
  4. The balloons become passengers when they are inflated and the employee creates a face on them with their permanent marker
  5. The teams must move around the room in a train formation and gather the balloons - they must inflate the balloon and draw a face on it and they carry the balloon with them for the rest of the game. Train must stay still whilst being inflated
  6. Essentially, the groups are competing to fill their trains with passengers (two passengers per person) - whichever train fills first, wins the race.

6) Double Take

Participants: 20 to 500

Duration: 3 to 5 minutes

Difficulty: High

Materials: Upbeat music, an homemade activity sheet

double take

We like double take because it allows participants to mingle, explore their common grounds and get to know each other. This game is a bit like People Bingo and we love it for all the same reasons!

Instructions

  1. Ask participants to stand and move to a location in the room where they can walk around freely and mingle with others
  2. Play some music, and when the music begins, participants should begin shaking hands with each other and introducing themselves
  3. Call out characteristics that employees may have in common with each other (start of simple, with things such as hair colour or number of kids), and then participants must immediately find another person who shares that particular characteristic.
  4. Each time a new characteristic is called out, the employees should do a “double take” with a new person, where by they match with them and get them to the activity sheet.
  • Tip: for the activity sheet, we recommend using the bingo cards suggested in the next chapter, or creating a simple list of characteristics in which your employees can jot down the name of the relevant coworker.

7) Pick Pocket

Participants: 8 to 24

Duration: 3 to 5 minutes

Difficulty: Medium

Materials: a homemade pick pocket activity sheet

pick pocket

This has made it to our top 12 favourite ice breakers because it is the adult version of scavenger hunt, a game we all loved playing as kids. It's great when used at the beginning of a meeting to encourage participants to get to know each other.

Pick pocket is also fantastic when used midway through as an energizer; especially as research has found that when employees are highly energised, the climate in the organisation is of high energy; which leads to high organisational performance.

Effectively, using energisers, such as pickpocket, in the middle of meetings, will encourage better performance.

Instructions

  1. Organise participants into groups of five to ten.
  2. Create a ‘pick pocket activity sheet’. This sheet should include a list of items that typical people will have in their bag. For example, a picture of a close relative, a credit card without a signature, fitness club card, a mirror etc.
  3. Give each group 3 minutes to collect as much stuff as possible and then count which team has the most points.
  4. As a motivator, we recommend giving prizes to the group who has the most points (i.e., they have found the most items).

8) Great Shake

Participants: 20 to 250

Duration: 2 to 4 minutes

Difficulty: High

Materials: Activity sheet

great shake

We love this activity because it gets employees moving around and shaking hands with each other. We would recommend using it with employees who don’t know one another very well as it allows them to get to know each other in a light-hearted and fun way.

Instructions

  1. Get participants to pair up and practice types of handshakes with each other. We suggest trying these ones out, as they are easy and humorous.
  2. After 5 minutes of practising, count to three and say “Great shake”. When you say great shake, the pairs must use one of the hand shakes they have just learnt with their partner.
  3. After they’ve done it, ask how many partners used the same shake.
  4. Do this two or three more times.

9) It's Who You Know

Participants: 8 to 500

Duration: 5 to 7 minutes

Difficulty: Low

Materials: None

it's who you know

We love this game because everyone wants to get involved. People love talking about the one time they met Dame Judy Dench at their cousins wedding, or bumped into the Queen on the streets of London.

Instructions

  1. Start by telling your story of when you met a famous person (if you don’t have one, maybe make it up!) and at the end, ask participants if they have ever experienced meeting a famous person.

  2. Ask participants to form groups of four and explain that they have 8 minutes to take turns telling their stories of meeting famous people in the following manner:

    a) One person, who is called the ‘teller’ begins and describes a scenario in which they ran into a famous person. But, they must not say who the famous person was.

    b) Other group members guess who the famous person was

    c) The person who guesses correctly becomes the teller next

  • After 8 minutes, as the entire group for a show of hands in response to the following questions:

    a) How many people named political figures?

    b) How many people named movie stars?

    c) How many people named religious figures?

    d) How many people named sports figures?

10) Poetry In Motion

Participants: 20 to 60

Duration: 5 to 10 minutes

Difficulty: High

Materials: Three to six poems (one per group) that would lend themselves to movement.

poetry in motion

We love this activity because it gets people up and moving about and incorporates poetry - let's face it, we could all do with a little more appreciation for the art of poetry.

Instructions

  1. Organise participants into groups of 8 to 10
  2. Give a poem to each group and explain that each piece of poetry has its own rhythm
  3. Tell participants they will have 5 minutes to decide and practice movements that correspond to the reading of the poetry.
  4. The employees then have to perform the poem and its movement to the rest of the group

Here is a suggested poem: The charge of the light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

11) Ride Em' Cowboy

Participants: 20 to 200

Duration: 10 to 30 minutes

Difficulty: High

Materials: Lively music, cards… cards will include activities such as bull riding, calf roping, bareback riding, hog tying etc (cowboy activities).

ride em cowboy

We fell in love with this activity because it is high-energy and gives each group a chance to entertain the rest of the participants.

It’s great for bringing everyone out of their shell, but we do recommend using it at the end of a meeting as participants will feel more comfortable performing once they have spent some time together.

Instructions

  1. Participants should be organised into groups of 5 to 20 and each group should be given a card for each person
  2. Each group has 5 minutes to develop and practice the events shown on the cards before performing them to the rest of the cohort
  3. Each group takes it in turn to perform the rest of

12) Beanbag Bungle

Participants: 12 to 24

Duration: 3 to 6 minutes

Difficulty: High

Materials: Three beanbags for each group of 12

bean bag bungle

This game is fantastic for releasing some energy and getting participants moving around.

It's a great energiser and a fun way to get everyone interacting. And we mean, after all, who says throwing things at your colleagues isn’t therapeutic.

Instructions

  1. Make sure all employees are standing apart so that there is space between them.

  2. The rules are:

    a) The objective of the activity is for the group to establish a forward and reverse pattern while throwing one bean-bag around, then repeat the same pattern with two more beanbags added.

    b) The first person passes the bean bag and waits until the fifth person has caught it before passing the second beanbag. Similarly, they wait until the fifth person has caught the second beanbag before passing in the third beanbag.

    c) The last person to get the first beanbag reverses the pattern by throwing it back to the person who threw it to them

    d) The game continues until the beanbags are back in the possession of the person who first started the pattern.

  • A top tip is that if the groups are good at the game, add in a fourth beanbag.

Conclusion

So, there you have it… a list of the 12 best ice breakers that you can use with your own team.

We hope you've liked our list of the best ice breaker games and we hope you try these out with your own team. and let me know how you go.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

Which ones have you tried?

How big is your team?

Did they work?

Heather Harper

About the author

Heather Harper has a Masters in Occupational Psychological from the University of Manchester. She currently works as an editorial writer specialising in organizational psychology - helping teams work better together.

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