When school is starting, it’s the perfect time to pull out all your fun, new “getting to know you” classroom activities or icebreakers for kids. Back-to-school icebreakers can go a long way in the early weeks of school to help your students feel more comfortable in the classroom, get to know you, and help them get to know their classmates!
Whether your school shuffles students around from year to year, you’ve got a batch of pre-K or kindergarten students who are brand-new to attending school, or you’ve got some new kids who just moved into the district, using first day of school and first week of school icebreakers can make a big difference in creating a team atmosphere and maybe even help your students forge new friendships.
What Is an Icebreaker?
If you’re not familiar with the idea of “getting to know you” icebreakers, maybe it’s simply because you haven’t used that term before.
Icebreakers are activities that are fun and built around loosening students up, helping them “break the ice” so to speak with you and other classmates who they might not know very well.
Maybe you’ve done your own fair share of icebreaker activities in staff meetings or during an orientation, but they were called openers or challenges that just so happened to kick things off? Then you know they can help give people something to talk about and help them quickly build up a rapport.
Best of all … we’ve got plenty of fun icebreaker games and activities for kids from pre-school on up to middle school!
See our favorite teacher-created first day of school resources!
Icebreaker Games and Activities for Kids
It’s important that any icebreakers you use to help your students in the getting to know you phase aren’t requiring young kids to take social risks they aren’t ready for. This can do the opposite of what you’re hoping to do — forcing shy students back into their shells, rather than creating familiarity and comfort in the learning environment.
You’ll also want to steer clear of icebreakers for kids that are just too cheesy. Primary students may give you a pass, but those older kids — especially fourth grade on up — will let you know they’re just not into it!
One final note, before we share out favorite fun icebreaker games and activities? Focus on points of commonality that don’t leave students out. Asking students to share information about their family, for example, can be rife with sensitive spots. Make sure students can all be on equal playing fields.
Getting to Know You Fortune Tellers
Whether you call them cootie catchers or fortune tellers, the popular paper flap games are a big hit in the classroom. But did you ever think to use them as an icebreaker? Print out the fortune teller template (it’s free!), and fill it in with getting to know you questions such as “what day is your birthday?” and “how many siblings do you have?”
Photocopy, and distribute to your students, splitting them into groups of two to play “fortune teller” together. They’ll have fun seeing if the fortune teller can guess the correct answers!
Find Four Icebreaker for Kids
Find Four is a great icebreaker for helping kids get up and get those wiggles out while introducing themselves to their new classmates. The premise is simple:
- Students are given a card broken out into different squares with instructions in each square (You can print a pre-filled Find Four card here!).
- Each instruction tells them to “find four” classmates who meet different criteria such as “find four classmates who have a dog.”
- It’s up to your students to wander the room and ask their peers questions about themselves to see if they can “find four!”
- Students can write the names of their “our” in the boxes — a great way to help kids commit new names to memory.
Best for grades: 2 through 5
Remember ‘Duck, Duck, Goose’? This fun icebreaker activity is a twist on the classic playground game and a great one to help new students remember each other’s names.
- Students sit in a circle with one person, “it”, standing on the outside.
- The person who is “it” walks around the circle, gently tapping each person on the head, saying that person’s name as they do (instead of saying “duck”).
- If the person who is “it” taps someone and says the class name instead (e.g. “Ms. Green’s class” instead of saying “goose”), the tapped person has to stand up and chase “it” around the circle trying to tag them before “it” takes their spot.
Best for grades: Pre-K and up
Classmate Scavenger Hunt
Send your students on a scavenger hunt to break the ice with their new classmates … only they don’t need to find something. They need to find someone, or rather several someones! Very similar to Find Four, this icebreaker for kids may be more appropriate for smaller classes where “finding four” might be tough or for younger students.
From someone who has a pet to someone who has blue eyes, this activity gets kids up and moving, as well as meeting and greeting their classmates.
Best for grades: 1 through 3
Two Truths and a Lie
This game is a classic (and fairly addictive) icebreaker for kids that can be played as a whole class or in small groups.
- Each person in the class comes up with three statements about themselves. Two should be true statements, and one should be false. Depending on the age of your students, you might allow them to think up the statements and keep them in mind or to practice writing them down.
- Working your way down the class list, call on students one by one.
- When called on, each student should announce their 3 statements for the rest of the class to determine which statement they think is false.
Some different ways to play this game are:
- Have the entire class vote by a show of hands, guessing which statement they think is false.
- Have each student write down which statement they think is false, and see who gets the most correct.
Best for grades: 2 and up
Beach Ball Icebreaker Game
Image credit: 4 the Love of Teaching
The Beach Ball Icebreaker game is another classic and fun way for you to get to know your students and for your students to get to know each other!
- Use a permanent marker to write a question on each panel of a blow-up beach ball.
- Standing or sitting in a circle, students throw or roll the ball to someone else in the circle.
- When students receive the ball, they answer the question that is facing them. Then they pass or roll the ball to someone else.
This game can be so easily tailored to suit the context of your classroom or the time of year. You could prepare a variety of beach balls to bring out for brain breaks too (check out six of the Teach Starter teachers’ favorite ways to use balls in the classroom)!
For example, with a new class, you may write some more basic “getting to know you” questions such as “What is your favorite thing to do on the weekend?” Returning from a break with a class you already know you may write different questions like “If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?”
Your students have come back from summer break brimming with stories and updates about their lives. Harness that energy with Pentagonal Me, an icebreaker activity that doubles as a fun way to introduce geometric shapes.
- Print a Pentagon Template that’s been broken into 5 separate sections.
- Each section directs students to share 5 facts about themselves in different subject areas.
- After the kids have written out their 25 facts, set your students up in groups of 5 (if possible), and have each student choose one section of their pentagon to read out loud to their group.
- When the group is done, send students back to their seats, and ask students to share 5 things they’ve learned about their classmates.
The filled-out templates also make a great display for a Back-To-School Night or Meet the Teacher Night. Parents will love spotting their child’s pentagon on the wall.
Best for grades: 3 and up, but this could be extra fun for 5th graders!
All About Me Cube Games
This hands-on activity can be used in different ways. Download and print enough copies of the All About Me Cube Template for every student in your class (and a few spares to go into any “new student packs” you may have prepared for kids to join your class later in the year!). You may decide to enlarge these to tabloid size for extra creative space and to make a fun display.
Here are a few different ways you could use the cubes to turn this craft activity into a group-sharing, icebreaker activity:
#1 Cube Clumps
- The teacher calls out one of the topics on the cube (e.g. birthday months, hair color, special places, favorite hobby).
- Students find all of the other people in the class who share that same month, characteristic, or interest and stand in a “clump.”
- For topics that leave students standing alone (e.g. they are the only person in their class with that birthday month, characteristic, or interest) use this as a way to highlight the amazing diversity and individuality in your class!
#2 Cube Mix
- Students complete all sides of the cube except for the name and self-portrait sides.
- Collect the cubes, and mix them up in a bag or box.
- Hand a cube out to each student making sure they don’t get their own cube.
- Students look at the cube they received, and see if they can figure out who it belongs to.
#3 Cube Stack
In groups, students use the complete cubes to create 3-D sculptures or displays in your classroom by stacking cubes with the same face out.
- The name and birthday side can be used to create a birthday display by stacking all of the cubes from each month together.
- Stack the cubes with the portrait side facing out to make a 3-D sculpture.
- Use the “special people” or “special places” sides to create a display, or even to use as writing prompts throughout the year.
Best for grades: 2 through 5
Wipe That Smile Off Your Face
Hey, we promised these icebreaker games were fun, right? Well, this one is FUN, and for fans of the YouTube “try not to laugh” challenges, it will be a big hit!
- Students sit in a circle and the teacher chooses one person to start the game.
- That person smiles their widest, biggest, cheesiest smile at everyone else in the circle, trying to make them laugh. However, they must be silent, and cannot pull faces or be silly, all they can do is smile.
- For every person in the group who laughs at their smile, they receive one point.
- After they have smiled at everyone in the group, they ‘wipe’ the smile off their face with their hand and ‘pass’ the smile to the next person in the circle.
Best for grades: Pre-k through 3
Heads or Tails
This is an easy icebreaker game to play in the classroom that requires almost no set-up. All you need is a pile of pennies and your whiteboard markers!
- On your whiteboard, create two separate lists with the word “Heads” on top of one and “Tails” on top of the other.
- List One should be a list of favorites such as animal, color, book, etc.
- List Two should be “would you rather” questions — would you rather have a dog or cat, eat cereal for breakfast or dinner, etc.
- Have your students pair off, and give each pair a penny.
- Students in each pair then trade off flipping the coin.
- If they get a “heads,” they have to share an answer from list one with their partner, working down the list in order.
- If they get a “tails,” they have to tell their partner their answer to a “would you rather” question from the list, working down the list in order.
Alternate ways to play:
Instead of writing it all out, choose one of the Would You Rather question sets below that are available in Google Slides!
"Would You Rather" use a set of 29 task cards as a fun end-of-year activity or...?
Would You Rather use this set of 31 question cards or eat a can of worms?
Best for grades: 2 and up
My Memory Matching Game
Another twist on a familiar classic, this is a great icebreaker game for older students. In this game, students create their own cards to play a game of memory with a partner.
- Provide students with an even number of blank cardboard squares or rectangles that are all the same color and size. They will create two memory cards for every fact about themselves (i.e. To create 3 facts every student needs 6 cards. To create 5 facts, each student needs 10 cards.).
- On each pair of cards, students write or draw a fact about themselves. You may like to provide students with a list of prompts to help.
- When they have finished creating their ‘My Memory’ cards, students shuffle their cards with a partner and play a game of memory.
- Students can rotate to play with other new partners too.
This Is Me Task Card Game
This icebreaker game is great for the lower grades, and it makes for a great movement break during those early days of school. Download the task cards, and tell your students to stand up near their desks or in a circle. If the weather is nice, you may even want to take the class outside to get some of their wiggles out while the kids get to know one another.
As each card is read aloud to the students, they respond appropriately if the information applies to them, e.g., jump up and down if you have an older brother. Students will find that there will be many cards that do apply to them, and many that do not. They simply stand still for those cards that are not applicable and get to know their classmates!
Best for grades: Pre-K and up
STEM Icebreaker Activities
STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) activities make fantastic icebreakers as they encourage kids to work together and start building a team mentality. It can also take some of the pressure off shy students who may feel uncomfortable with activities that focus on aspects of themselves and their own lives.
STEM tasks help you to assess where your new students are at in terms of general knowledge and higher-order thinking skill development. Additionally, you will be able to see how students work in groups which will help with classroom and behavior management planning.
Here are some great open-ended STEM tasks that your students can work on in small groups.
This set of STEM task cards for early grade students contains 22 different challenges that students can complete with commonly found and easily sourced materials. From creating the tallest button tower to racing cars without using their hands, these activities are a super fun way to get kids engaging with their new peers.