We've put together the ultimate best ice breaker games list. It's even in ranking order. Also includes instructions!
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).
Objective: Learn new things about each other in a fun way
Participants: 4 to 25
Duration: 10 to 20 minutes
Materials: None required
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.
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.
Objective: learn new things in a light hearted way
Participants: 5 to 20
Duration: 10 minutes
Materials: None required
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?
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.
Participants: 60 to 500
Duration: 3 to 5 minutes
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.
Participants: 8 to 20
Duration: 3 to 4 minutes
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.
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
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.
Participants: 20 to 500
Duration: 3 to 5 minutes
Materials: Upbeat music, an homemade activity sheet
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!
Participants: 8 to 24
Duration: 3 to 5 minutes
Materials: a homemade pick pocket activity sheet
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.
Participants: 20 to 250
Duration: 2 to 4 minutes
Materials: Activity sheet
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.
Participants: 8 to 500
Duration: 5 to 7 minutes
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.
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.
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?
Participants: 20 to 60
Duration: 5 to 10 minutes
Materials: Three to six poems (one per group) that would lend themselves to movement.
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.
Here is a suggested poem: The charge of the light Brigade by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Participants: 20 to 200
Duration: 10 to 30 minutes
Materials: Lively music, cards… cards will include activities such as bull riding, calf roping, bareback riding, hog tying etc (cowboy activities).
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.
Participants: 12 to 24
Duration: 3 to 6 minutes
Materials: Three beanbags for each group of 12
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.
Make sure all employees are standing apart so that there is space between them.
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.
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?
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.