Creating a safe space through ice-breaking games

Ice-breaking games help create a safe, supportive environment where young people feel confident in sharing their ideas and participating actively.

As an introvert, ice-breaking activities are always daunting to me, but I have come to appreciate the safe environment they create. Being shy means I feel nervous speaking in large groups with people I am not familiar with. Ice-breakers provide a supportive environment for me to contribute to group tasks. This has helped me become one of the more engaged participants in group activities. Ice-breakers also help me feel less vulnerable as I feel that I am participating as much as everyone in a group setting.

I used to take ice-breakers for granted until I learned that they are rarely used in certain countries like Latvia and Poland. This made me reflect on their importance in group activities and youth work. Ice-breaking games are a great tool to help young people relax in a group setting, get to know each other and build rapport amongst one another. They also help create a safe, supportive environment where young people feel confident in sharing their ideas and participating actively.

Our Red:GLOW partner from Latvia comments on how ice-breaking can give young women a platform to feel confident and empowered.

Young women themselves admitted that ice-breaking activities had helped them to feel more comfortable during the leadership programme to focus more on the tasks and goals than the idea, how will I look in the eyes of other young women.

Being a confident young woman in the world we live in today is challenging. They are often faced with the pressures from friends and social media which can make it difficult for them to believe that they are good enough. Ice-breaking activities are especially more important in youth work as it creates a platform for young women to speak without judgement.

It is also useful when participants don’t know each other and where communication is salient in creating a comfortable and safe environment. A well-selected ice-breaker can encourage introverts to come out of their shell and help to facilitate productive and rich conversation. Ice-breakers are even more important when participants feel anxious about the session or have had previous experiences where their voices were not heard.

Ice-breaking games to try

An icebreaker does not always have to be a physical activity. It can be as simple as a small introductory discussion whilst sharing tea and biscuits with all the participants. The most common types of icebreakers are fun games or getting each participant to state an interesting fact about themselves.

These activities create a relaxing and positive atmosphere, break the tension and social barriers and to motivate and encourage participants to be comfortable with one another. Typically icebreakers will last anywhere between 5 to 20 minutes. Below I have suggested both virtual and in-person ice-breaking activities that you can try out.

Get to know each other (No prep time)

Give everyone 3 minutes to think about an interesting fact about themselves. After enough time has passed, go around the circle and ask for what their answer was. If at first participants seem to be too awkward or uncomfortable, you could start off the conversation by sharing your own interesting fact.

Questions in a bowl (5 minute prep time)

Write down a list of conversation starter questions such as ‘if you could be anyone for a day who would you be? on pieces of paper and place into a bowl. Each person can pick a piece of paper out of the bowl and answer the question. We want them to feel as comfortable as possible, so if they are unsure or do not like the question they picked up, let them know that it is okay to pick another one.

Virtual ice-breakers to try

Conducting youth work sessions can be difficult during the pandemic where it is harder for participants to interact with one another online. As youth work becomes more digital, the way that youth work is practised must adapt to these changes.

Online sessions can make participants feel alienated and anxious. The flow of conversation may feel at times inorganic, which can affect the participants’ contributions to conversations. For young women to take advantage of what they gain from a session, it is important to set the tone before beginning youth work. In such cases, ice-breakers are great tools to use to create a great atmosphere

Show and Tell (No prep time)

Ask the participants on call to grab an item within the room that they are in. After a few minutes ask them to share the meaning or story behind the object.

Two truths and one lie (No prep time)

Ask your participants to think of three statements about themselves. Two of the statements must be true and the last one a lie. The other participants must guess which statement is the lie.

Author: Anjana Ahilan, Red:GLOW volunteer, United Kingdom.

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