The first day of camp is often the toughest. You have a room full of children in front of you, some of whom are away from home for their first extended period of time. Some of them may be here because a parent signed them up, and they might not be that enthused about it. Others might be particularly shy and not used to being in big groups like this. And the toughest part is that most of these children aren’t friends — yet.
Icebreakers may sound like nothing more than a little game at the beginning of camp. And sure, they can be fun and a little goofy. But they’re also part of a broader effort that is crucial to your camp’s success: making everyone feel welcome and excited to be at camp. That warm, welcoming atmosphere is important if you want your campers to get the most out of the activities you’ve planned; it makes teamwork and cooperation easier. Investing in some bonding and icebreaking from the get-go can pay off down the line.
That’s why it’s important to think of a few icebreakers so that you can get out of that early camp awkwardness and start having fun. Here are a few summer camp icebreakers that have helped counselors in the past:
- “Where are we all from?” This is a simple question that can open up a world of discussion. Your campers might come from different places around the world — or they might all go to the same middle school. Ask this question to contextualize your campers to each other and find commonalities.
- “What’s your favorite ____?” Have your campers discuss their favorite activities, music, books, or anything else that springs to mind. Watch as campers identify similar preferences and begin to connect around shared interests.
- “What gets you excited in the morning?” This more open-ended type of question lets your campers express what they’re truly passionate about. What gets them ready to tackle the day? It might be a sport, a friend, a family member, anything. And while it may sound cheesy, learning what truly ignites passion is a great way to understand someone on a deeper level.
- Two truths and a lie. This activity is a great way to learn some basics about each camper — and it can also lead to some hilarious lies! You’ll learn basic information and fun facts from the truths and learn quite a bit about each camper’s personality from the lie they end up telling.
- Trust exercises or team-building exercises. Storytelling sessions and blindfold games are just two examples of the many organized exercises that can help put campers who might not know each other in a trusting and cooperative frame of mind.
- Open mic night. Does it sound a little intimidating? Sure it does! But that’s part of the fun of hosting an open mic night where campers get up on stage and perform…anything! And if certain campers aren’t keen on taking the stage, you can have campers perform in teams. They’ll get to face a challenge together and show off their talents. Whether it’s telling a few jokes, singing, or something totally “out there,” having campers perform in front of each other is an exciting chance to break the ice.
- Design name tags. This is a great crafting exercise, especially if you’re running a camp for younger children. Have your campers create a unique artistic expression of their name, then ask them to introduce themselves to the group and describe why the craft they’ve made represents who they are.
To find out if campers are enjoying your icebreakers, collect feedback online with a custom summer camp evaluation form.
Whenever you design an activity for your camp, you want to make sure the end goal and outcome are clear. Each activity should build a certain skill or understanding. With icebreakers, the outcome is very simple: You want your campers to get to know each other. So what are you waiting for? Break the ice with a few of these activities and get ready to watch lasting friendships form.