Summer Staff Icebreakers

As new camp staff members arrive, it’s important to welcome them and incorporate them into the team.

Help your staff break the ice.

Try some of these icebreakers to encourage old and new staff to mingle as they prepare for a summer of non-stop camp activities and responsibilities.

Beach Ball Reveal

Before staff members arrive, cover a beach ball with “conversation starters,” using permanent marker.

Include questions or statements such as:

• If a movie was made about your life, which celebrity would you want to play you?

• Describe your favorite high-school teacher.

• What would be your ideal job? (Besides this summer-camp position!)

Divide members into groups of 10 to 12 people, and have each group form a circle. Toss the beach ball to someone in the circle. The person who catches the ball answers the question closest to his or her right pinkie finger.

That person then tosses the ball to someone else, who answers the question closest to their right pinkie finger.

T-Shirt Memories

Ask members to bring their favorite T-shirt to training. Each person holds up (or wears) the T-shirt and shares why it is special. It’s amazing how much you’ll learn about people as they talk about their shirts.

Creative Categories

Ask the group to slowly walk around the room in a random pattern. Call out a “category,” such as “eye color.” People will then find others with the same eye color and form a group. Take the time to allow each group to introduce themselves.

Other categories may be:

• Favorite flavor of ice cream

• Number of siblings

• Childhood pets

• Favorite sport

• Favorite season

Terrific Tattoos

Ask staff members to pair up with someone they don’t know well and sit back to back. Each pair needs a pencil and blank paper. Person A pretends to be a tattoo artist. Person B describes the type of tattoo he or she wants without saying exactly what it is, for example, a heart with a rose in the middle.

As Person B describes his tattoo, the tattoo artist draws it. After three to four minutes, the tattoo artist shows his or her sketch … which usually looks nothing like the person described. Switch roles for lots of laughs.

Chain Reaction

The entire group sits in a circle. The first person says, “Hi, my name is Jacob.” The entire group greets the person in the style of a self-help group, with an enthusiastic “Hello, Jacob.”

Then the person states an interesting personal fact, such as, “I went to five different high schools.”

Here’s the tricky part–the next person gives his or her name, is greeted by the group, and then has to say something personal that connects to what the previous person said. In this case, one might say, “My high school in Chicago had only 350 students.”

Each person must supply a personal statement that ties in to what the previous person said.

The flow might go like this:

“I went to five different high schools.”

“My high school in Chicago had only 350 students”

“We went to Chicago on vacation, and I got food poisoning.”

“I always use coupons when buying food.”

Frozen T-Shirt Contest

Soak extra-large T-shirts in water, wad each one up in a tight ball, and freeze the shirts overnight. Give one frozen T-shirt to each group of four or five staff members. The goal is to see which group can “thaw” the shirt out and then convince one of the team members to wear it. No liquids allowed!

Groups stomp on the shirts, rub them on their bodies, and try other creative ways to make the shirts “wearable.”

Scream Team

The entire group mingles randomly around the room, with their heads down. As you call out “Heads up!” everyone looks up, straight ahead. If someone makes eye contact with someone else, both people scream and leave the game.

Continue until everyone has “screamed” their way to the sidelines where they can spend a few minutes introducing themselves.

Intensive High-Fives

The entire group greets each other in a progressively enthusiastic style in four stages:

1. Simply look at someone, shake his or her hand, and introduce yourself. Do this with three people.

2. This time, greet the same three people (in any order) with a high-five. Be sure to introduce each other again.

3. Greet the same three people as if they were your best friends in high school whom you haven’t seen in a while.

4. Greet those same three people as if they were your best friends in high school and you just learned they won the Mega Million lottery.

It’s surprising how the energy in the room escalates with each greeting.

While we all know lasting friendships are made among summer staff, those first few days of orientation can be uneasy for newcomers. A few of these icebreakers help everyone laugh and feel comfortable working together.

Silvana Clark has over 20 years experience helping thousands of children create arts and crafts projects. She presents keynotes and workshops on a variety of recreation-related subjects. She can be reached at (615) 662-7432 or via e-mail at