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Most youth groups love the social and fun aspects of ice breaker games. Sometimes reluctant, participants do not wish to appear uncool and are slow to join in, but once the activities start, there's usually no stopping them.
In my time as an activities instructor in Wales, we would get youngsters from all over the UK, most from schools, some from youth work groups and some as individuals on summer holidays. Most would arrive excited but apprehensive about the week ahead. The first night was always a dedicated ice breaker games evening. So we did, not just one or two games to settle people in, but a whole evening of games and by the time we'd finished, the group were well and truly relaxed, having fun and looking forward to the rest of the week.
We'd always start with a name game, usually it would be something along the lines of "introduce yourself and say one thing you're looking forward to is...." "and one thing I'm concerned about is..." What's great about this is you get each person in turn to speak and listen to each other. In itself, this is often a massive ordeal for some people, but with support they are able to succeed. They get the respect and attention of everyone in the room, and you get to hear something about how people are feeling and what their expectations might be. Always start with yourself when introducing. "Hi my name is Sharon and one thing I'm really looking forward to is dinner tonight because I know we're having chocolate pudding. One thing I'm worried about is the weather , because it's not a great forcast" Encourage everyone to be as open and honest as they can be. Thank and reassure people for their contributions. If someone says "I'm scared of heights", you can say "no one will be forced to do anything they don't feel comfortable with"
Another great way to start off a session with teenagers (you will need a large beach/soft ball for this) is to get everyone to stand in a circle (preferably outdoors) and ask everyone to say their names. Ask everyone to remember as many names as possible. Once you have done the round of names, stand in the centre of the circle, throw the ball in the air and shout someone's name. They then run to the centre to catch the ball, whilst you take their place. They repeat the process by throwing the ball in the air and calling someone else to come and catch it. Don't worry if people drop it, just carry on until all names have been called. Every so often, ask the group to check if everyone has had the ball.
Another great game is Rhythm. This was always one of the first games we used at the outdoor centre. You will need some face paints, preferably in stick form. Get everyone to sit in a circle, and number all participants from 1 to however many you have. The leader starts the rhythm by slapping hands on both legs together, followed by a clap of the hands and then a snap of the fingers, first on the right hand and then on the left hand - this is the rhythm. Practise the rhythm together a few times. When you feel the rhythm is established, the leader calls their own number on the first click of the right hand fingers and then calls another number from the group on the click of the left hand fingers. The person whose number is called keeps the rhythm by calling their own number on the next click of the fingers and then another number as before without breaking the rhythm. If the rhythmn is broken they receive a war paint mark on the face! Sooner or later everyone will look like warriors with their face paint marks. It's lots of fun and may sound complicated but it isn't!
You will find hundreds of great ice breaker games and ideas for youth groups and teenagers at ice-breaker-ideas.com