The first few days of school can be anxiety-inducing for many children. Even as fully functioning adults, a good chunk of us can experience fear or stress in new social situations. The great thing about kids, however, is that with a little time and creativity, they almost always become comfortable quite quickly. These first day of school icebreakers for kids can be an excellent way to, well, break the ice.
First Day of School Icebreakers for Kids
These first day of school icebreakers for kids are perfect to have on hand for the fall. Whether it’s a first day at a public school or an after-school daycare program, playing a round or two of these games will help young children feel more comfortable and allow them to show some personality.
1) Ball Tossing
This fun game is simple. Choose a topic, then toss a ball to a child. The child will then have to answer a question, then either throw you the ball or pick a different child to throw the ball to. Topics can include their favorite food, favorite movie, things they like to do, places they like to visit, or favorite color, just to name a few.
2) Animal Association
This is a fun way to learn everyone’s names while also playing a somewhat challenging memory game. Sit everyone in a circle, then have each child choose an animal that begins with the first letter of their name. For example, Allan could choose alligator and Mary might choose moose or mouse.
The first child will say their name and their animal. The second child will say the name and animal of the first child, and then their name and animal. The third will say the name and animal of the first and second, and then their own. Keep following this pattern until the last child is done. If a child is having a hard time remembering a name, the other kid can give a hint by saying the animal associated with his or her name.
3) Silent Line Up
This is one of those rare first day of school icebreakers for kids that is actually quiet. Have the children line up according to their birthday but without speaking. This can be done with only fingers or with notecards. To make this a bit easier for younger children, you can start with the month, and then do the day.
4) Introduce Someone Else
Put the students in pairs of two or three. Instruct each child to learn three facts about the other, plus their name. Then, each child will introduce the other student(s) to the class. Some facts they can learn include number of siblings, pets they have, or what they want to be when they grow up.
5) Rhyme Toss
Say a word, then pass the ball. The child should then call out a word that rhymes with your word, then toss the ball to another student who has to rhyme with the word as well. Once it’s clear students are running out of rhyming words, call out a new word to rhyme with.
A few variations can make this into additional first day of school icebreakers for kids. Instead of a rhyming word, choose to play by saying words that start with the same letter, end in the same letter, or have any other commonalities you can think of.
6) What Do We Have in Common?
Have each child go around the room and talk to other children. The goal is to determine at least one thing they have in common with at least 5 other children. This can include topics like favorite foods, types of pets, sports teams, etc.
7) Human Knot
Have the children get into a circle, as big or small as you like. Then, have each child grab the hand of someone who is not next to them, such as someone who is across from them or two people down. Once everyone is holding hands, try to untangle the human knot without them letting go of anyone’s hands. It’s pretty challenging!
8) Hula hoop Around the World
Have the children circle up, then hold the hand of the person next to them. Choose a pair of hands to place a hula hoop hanging through. The children will then have to duck under and step over the hula hoop to move it around the circle without unclasping their hands. For a twist, set a time limit!
This is one of the most simple first day of school icebreakers for kids, but it’s fun just the same. Have each child stand up and introduce themselves and then say one of their favorite facts, quotes, jokes, or colors.
10) Color Switch
With all the children sitting, call out a color, then instruct all the children that are wearing that color or item to stand up and switch places with someone else wearing the same shade. This helps students stay engaged by walking and moving, without getting too crazy.
11) Candy Center
Choose a student, then have the rest of the children circle around him or her. The student in the center must cover their eyes (no peeking!). The other children will then pass around a wrapped piece of candy for a certain amount of time. Once time is up, all the students should put their hands behind their back, then the child in the center will open their eyes.
Whoever has the piece of candy will try to unwrap it as quietly as possible behind their back. The child in the middle must guess who has the candy. If they guess correctly, they get to eat the candy. However, if they guess wrong, the one unwrapping the candy gets to keep it. Make sure to switch the child in the center often so that everyone gets candy in the end.
12) Spaghetti Tower
Split students into groups of 3 or 4, then pass out materials. Each team will receive the same supplies: dry spaghetti noodles and marshmallows. The goal is to build the tallest possible tower using only those two supplies. Set a timer and let everyone get to work.
Write out or find a small passage that contains a lot of the words “right” and “left”. For example:
“Mr. Right took Mrs. Right to the hospital because there was no time left, the baby was coming. They left the dog at home and took a left turn out of their driveway. Turning left again to get on the highway, they found that the right way was to turn left, and then another left, and then one right.”
Once you have your passage, have the children circle up. Give one child a piece of candy. Each time they hear the words “left” or “right” as you repeat the passage out loud, have the children pass the candy left or right accordingly. They will keep passing to the right or left until they hear the word to switch the direction. In the end, one child is left with the candy and “wins”.
14) Character Identification
Pin an index card with different names of a food, or popular cartoon or movie characters to the back of each child’s shirt. Each child will then get to ask one question to each of the other students to figure out what they are.
15) This or That
Have students gather at opposite ends of the room based on questions you ask, such as “which is a better pet: cats or dogs?”, “pizza vs tacos”, “reading vs math”, etc. For younger kids, you can leave the activity at that, but older children can take it a bit further while also building public speaking confidence. Have the students in each group then defend their position, explaining why they chose it. Just make sure everyone keeps it respectful and fun.
Have each child draw out a self-portrait with crayons. Shuffle the portraits and then hold them up one by one. Have the class help you decide who’s portrait it is. Of course, the person whose picture it is should not say anything. Once identified, the student can grab the self-portrait and introduce themselves to the class.
More First Day of School Icebreakers for Kids
17) Circle Up | Blog Hoppin
Create two circles, one inside facing out, and one outside facing in. Each student will chat with the person across from them, introducing themselves and saying something fun about themselves. Then, the inner circle will stay still, the outer circle will rotate one spot, and the cycle will repeat.
18) Shoe Match Up | Kinder Art
At the start of the day, have each child write about the color and style of their shoes. They can also draw a picture of them. Let every student take turns explaining to the rest of the class what they wrote or drew. At the end of the day, give the slips of paper out, one to each student (make sure no one gets their own!), and then have them find the child that has shoes that match the written description.
19) Lines or Blobs| Cult of Pedagogy
A great way for kids to learn about each other is to have them either line up by an attribute such as birthday or name (alphabetically) or to have them group themselves by similar items they are wearing, eye color, or things they like.
20) Back to Back | Blog Hoppin
This one is an especially good first day of school icebreaker for kids in math class. Have the students pair up and face the same direction, so they are lined up one in front of the other. Call out questions that can only be answered with numbers and have the student that is at the back of each pair write the number on the back of their partner with their finger. The student in front will then tell them what they think the number is, and then the person who wrote the number will confirm or deny it. Have them face the other direction and repeat.
I hope this collection of first day of school icebreakers for kids helps make the transition back to school as fun and comfortable as possible!
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