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Break the Ice!
Campers (especially first-timers) will be counting on you to make your group’s “getting to know each other” process fun and meaningful. As the group leader, it’s important for you to be prepared and enthusiastic about the upcoming camp session. Here are a few ice breaker activities to get your group’s friendships growing and dialogue flowing!
A Tangled Web
Gather your campers in a circle sitting around you. Hold a large ball of yarn. Start by telling your group something about yourself. Then roll the ball of yarn to a camper without letting go of the end of the yarn. The student who gets the ball of yarn tells his or her name and something good about himself or herself. Then the student rolls the yarn to somebody else, holding on to the strand of yarn. Soon your group has created a giant web. After everyone has spoken, you and your campers stand up, continuing to hold the yarn. Start a discussion of how this activity relates to the idea of teamwork — for example, your group needs to work together and not let others down. To drive home your point about teamwork, have one camper drop his or her strand of yarn, which will demonstrate how the web weakens if the group isn't working together.
Adapted from Education World
Before your campers arrive, write a series of “getting to know you” questions on slips of paper — one question per slip. Then fold up the slips and tuck each slip inside a different balloon. Blow up the balloons. Give each camper a balloon, and let campers take turns popping their balloons and answering the questions inside.
Adapted from Voxxi
Take As Much As You Want!
For this ice breaker, you need to have a roll of toilet paper on hand. Explain to your campers that they will need it for the next activity. Pass around the roll and invite campers to take as much as they want. After campers have had a good laugh over the amount of paper they took, explain how the game works. For every piece of toilet paper each camper took, he or she must tell the group one thing about him or herself. Some realize they took quite a bit of toilet paper, but with a little prompting and probing from you, they will find things to share. Consider having campers share what they are most looking forward to about camp when they get to their last piece.
Adapted from Education World
Tell your campers to imagine they’ve been exiled to a deserted island for a year. In addition to the essentials, they may take one piece of music, one book, and one luxury item they can carry (i.e. not a boat to leave the island!). Ask them what they would take and why. Give campers a couple minutes to think about their responses and then have them share them with the group.
Adapted from 40 Ice Breakers for Small Groups
All My Campers
Ask campers to form a shoulder-to-shoulder standing circle, and then have each person take a step back. Give each participant a place holder to set at their feet. The leader will begin in the center of the circle, but his or her task is to try and find a place on the outside of the circle and have someone else end up without a place. The leader will make a statement, for example, “All my campers who are wearing tennis shoes” or “All my campers who love to swim,” etc. If that statement applies to any campers in the group, they must come off their places and find another spot in the circle. Campers may not move immediately to their right or left and may not move off their space and return to it in the same round. When everyone has had a turn or two and you think campers have had enough, simply say, “OK, this is the last round.” Give a round of applause to the last camper who ends up in the center.
Watch an example of "All My Campers."
Photo courtesy of Camp Kamaji for Girls, Cass Lake, Minnesota