When you're facilitating a leadership retreat or coaching a sports team, icebreakers are excellent for getting people better acquainted and working together to achieve a common goal. However, when you're working with a group of teens, some members of the group may consider themselves "too cool" for icebreakers. With teens, be creative and choose icebreakers that are relatable and challenging for the age group, and that get participants to loosen up around their peers.
Introduction icebreakers encourage teens to meet new people and warm up to the group as a whole. Have the kids stand in a circle and, holding a ball in your hands, state an adjective that best describes your personality, followed by your name, such as "Fierce Anna!" Toss the ball to a teen across the circle who must do the same thing. Tell the teens they only can hold the ball for five seconds, so they have to think off the top of their heads. To make it harder, you can tell the teens to repeat the adjective and name of each person who went before them.
Partner icebreakers can help teens get to know other individuals in the group a little better. For the "Find Your Pair" icebreaker, choose any type of category as long as it's something teens would be into, such as music, sports or pop culture. Write a word on one index card and its related word on the other. For example, if your category is pop culture, you might write "Simon Cowell" on one card and "X Factor" on the other. Make enough pairs for everyone in the group and give each teen a card. The teens must figure out who their match is, interview their partner, then introduce him or her to the rest of the group. Another idea is to have the teens interview each other silently, using only hand gestures. When they introduce each other, the teens will see how well they were able to silently communicate.
Break the teens up into teams for friendly but competitive games that emphasize the importance of teamwork. You can do a variety of relay races, in which each teen has to run, crawl or scoot to a cone and back, then tag the next teammate. The first team to have all their members complete a race wins. Make the relays easier or more difficult based on the age of the teens you are working with. Another type of relay race that especially relies on teamwork is the caterpillar race. For this race, teammates must line up and hold the shoulders of the person in front of them. The lead person takes one hop forward, followed by the person behind him, and so forth, until the whole team has hopped forward. The last person to hop must yell out the team name, so that the lead person knows to hop again. No one can jump at the same time, and it must be done in order. The first team to make it to the other end of the room without messing up wins.
Get the whole group of teens to work together to complete challenging icebreakers. For one activity, make a square on the floor using masking tape. The square should only be able to hold half of the kids. The goal is to see if the teens can figure out how to get all of them in the square without anyone touching the tape or anywhere outside of it. They must figure out that some kids will have to go piggyback or on shoulders for it to work. For another strategy activity, known as "Magic Shoes," mark off a big area with masking tape and call it a pond. The only way the kids can get across the pond is with one pair of magical walking shoes. However, everyone must wear them only once, and the shoes cannot be thrown back across the pond. The teens must figure out that the first person wearing the magic shoes will have to carry someone across on his back. That person then wears the shoes back to the other side and gives it to the next person who carries him back to the other side, and so on until everyone is across.