12 Small Group Icebreaker Ideas (With Examples)

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 11, 2021
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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You’ve got a small group of people who have a common goal. The problem is, how do you get these people to work together to build synergy, encourage brainstorming, and strengthen relationships?

The answer is through some icebreakers. The trick is to find the right one – one that doesn’t make people feel uncomfortable or silly playing it. It needs to have a strong teamwork element.

And, if you do it right, you’ll begin to see leaders emerge, and others will be encouraged to share their talents. When everything goes well, then the team is more comfortable together, and collaboration becomes a regular part of the work or group atmosphere.

Some corporate teams do quick and easy ice breakers every week to get people talking. Other groups only do them the first time they meet, or they do it as a way to introduce someone new to the group. It’s key to know more about the group and what the ultimate goals are. This can help you decide on the right icebreaker for your situation.

  1. Scavenger hunt. Who doesn’t love a great scavenger hunt? You know the game rules. There’s a list of items to collect, and the first person or team to find them wins.

    This is a fun way to bring big groups together or create breakout groups if you have a lot of time together. It encourages a lot of interaction and collaboration, which can make it a productive team building activity.

  2. Human knot. Because this game involves holding hands, it can be uncomfortable for adults. If you have a group of children and are looking for a game that encourages cooperation and acceptance, this one works really well.

    Have everyone stand in a circle; then they have to hold the hands of two different people. The key is there must be someone immediately on their right or left, then, without letting go of hands, see if they can untangle themselves.

  3. Two truths and a lie. This is a perfect game for adults, and it’s an individual game that goes quickly. In fact, it can go even more rapidly if you tell people beforehand that this is the game they’ll be playing so they can prepare.

    Each person comes up with two facts about themselves and one lie. Then, the rest of the people have to guess the lie. This ice breaker works well as an opener to a weekly meeting or a quick game that reconnects a group. It can also be a way to introduce a new team member.

  4. Whodunit. What’s better than solving a mystery? How about solving several of them. This is another quick and individual game that people just love. Perfect for that weekly meeting or as a refresh when at a day-long event.

    Each person writes on a notecard one thing they’ve done that they think no one else in the group has done. All of the index cards go in a box. Then the moderator pulls out one and reads it, and everyone tries to guess who that notecard/activity belongs to.

  5. Ten things in common. The title is pretty self-explanatory here, but you can add a little twist. Typically, this game is played with two people. When you add more, it gets more challenging. Then, give them a time limit to make it even more interesting. Just imagine all you’ll learn about each other as you quickly throw out facts, searching for a commonality.

  6. People bingo. This is a fun game for any person, adult or child, but it does require a group that’s a little bit bigger – at least nine players. It encourages people to get up and move around to talk to others and learn just a little about them. Create bingo cards and fill each square with a trait. Some options include:

    Job type you want
    Full Time
    Part Time
    Internship
    Temporary
    • Has blue eyes

    • Has traveled to another country

    • Speaks a foreign language

    • Has the most siblings

    • Ate pizza most recently

    • Has a pet that’s not a dog or a cat

    • Plays the guitar

    • Plays golf

    Each person gets a bingo card, and then they rush around talking to others. Once they find someone who matches a square, they write their name in that spot.

    Another tip to get people bingo to work best is to create a few different cards with different squares prompts. Then you don’t have everyone writing down the same answers.

  7. Supermarket memory game. This is a popular card game and kids’ game, which makes it suitable for adults in an awkward setting. They’re all familiar with the game and comfortable with it. It involves an imaginary trip to the grocery store and the alphabet.

    The first person says, “I went to the grocery store and bought _______.” The thing they bought has to begin with the letter A, so let’s pick Apple. The second person then says, “I went to the grocery store and bought and Apple and a ___________.” They need to pick an item that begins with the letter B. So, we’ll pretend they picked the word banana.

    The next person would add on something that starts with the letter C and so on. Round and round, until the alphabet is done.

    You can make it a bit more personal and challenging by not using the alphabet and having people say they bought an item that begins with the first letter of their name. This means the alphabet isn’t a clue anymore. You need to know what someone’s name is to get that hint.

  8. Lego playtime. Legos can be an excellent prop for team building games. Everyone knows how to use them, and they’ve got that nostalgia element that puts a smile on people’s faces. There are a couple of different activities you can do with Legos, and you can always come up with your own ideas.

    • Tower time. Give each group the same Legos and see who can build the tallest tower (and have it stand for 60 seconds). You can make it more challenging by selecting the same small piece or a piece with wheels for each team’s base.

    • Conflict identification. Legos come with little people, which adds a new level of sophistication. In this team-building exercise, you give each group or even individual a work conflict if you have a very small group.

      Then they have a few minutes to try to create a diorama that portrays the situation. Once the time is up, other teams would guess what each scene is depicting. Some conflict possibilities include:

  9. The stick challenge. This is an easy group challenge that requires working together. Divide the group in two and have them stand across from each other, facing each other. Have each person stick out one hand with their index finger extended, then lay a yardstick or any long stick across all of the fingers’ tops.

    Now, without losing contact with their finger and without dropping the stick, have them complete a few tasks. Walk the stick around the room, lower it to the ground, raise it high, etc. It’s an easy game that gets people in close proximity and cooperation.

  10. One word. This game can be done as a group, but we’ll describe it as an individual game for explanation purposes. Each person gets a stack of notecards or a sheet of paper and a pen. They are then asked to use one word to answer a prompt. You can do one prompt only, let’s say company culture. And then, each person shares what their one-word response is.

    If you want to extend the game, you can have several different prompts or questions and ask for multiple one-word answers. Some possible prompts include:

    • Describe the company culture?

    • Why do you work?

    • What do you think when you see your desk?

    • First thought at 5:00 pm on Friday?

    • A person at work who makes you smile?

    • Favorite room in the company?

    • One-word description about feelings for the last project you worked on?

    • A vacation to anywhere – where would it be?

    • What’s one thing you’d like to improve about yourself?

    • One thing you’d improve about your work?

  11. Getting to know you. This icebreaker is very easy and can be done in a few different ways. You can pair people up and have them ask questions of each other and then share them later.

    You can also ask them aloud and have each person write down their answer and then share them later, or write them down yourself on a chalkboard or dry erase board.

    Try the following questions or come up with your own idea.

    • What city were you born in?

    • How many pets do you have?

    • What is your pet peeve?

    • Sports – team or individual?

    • What do people like best about you?

    • When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

    • Where was your last vacation? Would you go back?

    • Where would you go for a dream vacation?

    • You have to pick one movie to watch right now. What would it be?

    • The food you could eat every day and still be happy?

    • If money, talent, age, etc., doesn’t matter, what profession would you choose?

    • If you could have any animal as a pet, what would you pick?

  12. Suddenly storytime. This is a twist on a comedic improv game. One person starts a story, tells a sentence or two, and then says, “suddenly,” it’s someone else’s turn, and they have to add to the story.

    The idea is to create the craziest and funniest story. You can make it even more personal by telling the group that they need to incorporate the name of at least one person from the team into the story. This makes the story and each person’s turn a little longer, but it adds camaraderie.

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Chris Kolmar

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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