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 ©2018 by TrainMovePlay 

  • Sarah and Martin

Series on Games: Breaking the Ice

At TrainMovePlay we only play games with kids...and teens... and adults; and small, intimate groups of people who know each other well and large groups just meeting; and to break the ice, let off steam, come into contact, and loads of other reasons. Games serve so many purposes that when we sat down to write one blog post about how and why we use them, it quickly became a whole series of posts! So settle in for a series on games and tasks.


In this post we share some of the Ice-Breaker games we use most often. We provide detailed instructions on how to play them, with notes about the groups and situations in which we find them most useful, and tips for leading them effectively. We'll also include variations to make them more versatile, challenging, or appropriate.


A game that sets the tone of being safely in each other's confidence is essential.

photo by: Jørn Christensen:: acroyoga and photography

For us, Breaking the Ice is about getting people in contact. That could mean learning each others' names and it could also mean making eye contact, physical bodily contact, or an energetic connection. Many of the classes we lead ask participants to trust strangers, to touch other people in unfamiliar ways, and to communicate both verbally and non-verbally. So a warm up game that sets a tone of trust, openness, receptivity, and a feeling of being safely in each other's confidence is essential. We generally use these games at the beginning of a class, or if we are leading a multi-session experience or multi-day event, we might play the same game at the beginning of each gathering and watch the comfort level of the group, as well as the proficiency of the game, grow over time.


Over, Under, Around

Instructions for Play:

  • Phase 1 Start in groups of two people. Without speaking, one partner go over, under or around the other. Then both people walk away and find a new partner and repeat the task. Use eye contact or other non-verbal signals to decide who will go over, under or around. Play this way for a few mins.

  • Phase 2 This is fine, but maybe we can be a bit more sociable and actually get to know each other a bit. So this time, when you find a new partner, shake hands, tell each other your names and also *say something about yourself.* Play this way for a few mins.

  • Phase 3 This is nice. Almost too nice. This is a movement class so let's get moving. This time, try to get over, under, and around as many people as possible WITHOUT letting anyone get over, under, or around you. GO! Play this way until people start to tire.

When and With Whom:

  • This game work for groups who don't know each other well and is more fun than a standard introductions circle.

  • The group needs to be big enough that there will be some variety for phase 2, but time can be adjusted accordingly, so smaller groups just use less time.

  • Even people who don't move much or are not highly athletic can play because most people can go around others, or even stay stationary as others go around them.

  • Super fun for groups where adults and kids are mixed because the kids always want to go over, so the adults have to get low.

Variations:

  • For Phase 1, In addition to not speaking, other limitations could be layered on, like no hand gestures, or, if you have a few teaching assistants to act as shepherds, maybe eyes closed.

  • In the "say something about yourself" of Phase 2 think about, What's appropriate for this group. Maybe what department you work in, what your major is, what your favorite color is, etc. Or you can just say, Say something interesting about yourself. Maybe it is appropriate later in the class or the event to ask, Does anyone remember an interesting bit someone else told you in the Over, Under and Around game?


photo by Jørn Christensen:: acroyoga and photography

Body-to-Body

Instructions for Play:

  • Start by walking in a random pattern around the space.

  • I will call out two body parts. As quickly as possible, and without speaking, find a partner and touch those two parts together. For example, if I call, "Ear to Shoulder," one partner's ear will touch the other partner's shoulder.

  • When everyone is matched up, I'll tell you to walk again.

When and With Whom:

  • Good for groups of any size. If you have an odd number of people, the teacher can easily play and cue at the same time.

  • Partners can easily be used again and again, so small groups are fine.

  • Good for groups who are not used to a lot of touch because you can slowly introduce greater and greater levels of intimacy.

Variations:

  • It can be nice to start fairly innocently so that people get comfortable touching each other, and then progress to more sensitive areas, especially if you are going to ask participants to be very physically intimate later on, for example in Acroyoga, partner stretching or conditioning, or thai bodywork. Maybe start with knee to elbow and move toward foot to butt, ear to chest, or nose to nose.

  • You can call out more body parts so that groups become bigger, like foot to knee to elbow, or five heads together. The last round might involve every body in the class.

  • Think about body parts that are difficult to bring together, for example something high and something low, like chin to shin, to get people into interesting shapes or challenge balance. Or you can layer on extra directions, like, "Hip to Hip up high," or "Nose to Nose down low."

  • Think about small body parts, too, to practice precision, like eyebrow to pinky finger.

  • If you are working with kids you might keep language simple, but if you are working with college students, maybe introduce the names of bones and muscles and to challenge anatomy awareness, like sternum to sacrum.

  • Once the group gets the idea, we often open it up for others to call out body parts. We might say, Jenny give us a part and Bobby give us another part. This can be a good tool when the teacher's brain is spent and all creativity has run out! It is also a nice way for participants to take some ownership of the class.

  • Music is always nice when walking is involved.

Musical Hula Hoops

Instructions for Play:

  • Round 1 Set out the same number of hula hoops as you have participants, and spread them out laying flat on the floor. When the music plays, cue a locomotor movement, i.e. something that travels, like walk, run, crab walk, etc. to be done throughout the space. When the music stops, everyone get into a hoop.

  • Round 2 Repeat, but as the music plays, sneakily remove one hoop. Now when the music stops everyone should get into a hoop, but some will need to share a hoop.

  • Keep taking away hoops until you have maxed out the people-to-hoop ratio.

When and With Whom:

  • Great game for kids and families.

  • You obviously need to have enough hoops to go around.

  • It is most fun if you can get everyone into one hoop together at the end. They may need to pick each other up, climb onto shoulders, etc.

  • Good for slowly and gradually coming into each other's personal space.

Variations:

  • Other items can be used, like yoga mats, puzzle piece mats, carpet squares, etc.

  • Items of different sizes can be fun, like various sizes of hoops or yoga mats cut into various sizes.

Zoom!

Instructions for Play:

  • Phase 1 All participants stand shoulder to shoulder in a circle and slightly squat down so hands are on knees and faces are close. The leader starts by turning to one person next to him or her and saying, Zoom! That person turns to the next person and says, Zoom! The Zoom travels around the circle as quickly as possible back to the leader, kind of like the game Telephone, but out loud. Try a few times like this, getting faster and faster. This phase is about reaction time, so work together to get the Zoom to go faster. Go both directions.

  • Phase 2 The Zoom can change directions at any time, so anyone in the circle can either pass it on, or throw it back to the previous person.

When and With Whom:

  • This magical game works with everyone! Simple enough for preschool kids and still fun for adults.

  • Small groups or big groups. You can always break bigger groups into smaller circles if it is taking too long for the Zoom to get around. Or see the Variations for bigger groups and more challenge.

  • Really good for bringing the energy in without bringing everyone down.

  • We love this game as a wake up game for early morning sessions because it takes very little instruction, people catch on quickly, and it makes people laugh right away. And also good for midday restarts, like right after a lunch break, because it gets us back together as a group without demanding too much physicality. This game wakes up the mind and the group synergy.

  • A nice game when kids are getting a bit wild, because it has the magical quality of a secret. You can even whisper the word Zoom instead of saying it loud, so that is really draws the focus in and brings people into the intimacy of sharing a secret.

Variations:

  • Throw two Zooms into the circle! Start a Zoom in one direction and a few mins later start another and see if one can catch the other.

  • Or start two Zooms in different directions and watch as they cross paths!

  • For very large groups more Zooms might be possible.


Whether we are leading a yoga, movement, Acroyoga or other type of class, and no matter the size or demographic of the group in front of us, games are useful tools. We would loooooooove to hear some feedback from you about how you use these and other games in your movement classes and experiences.


Which games do you love?

Which ones of your favorites did we leave out?

How have you adapted our ideas?



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