Icebreakers for 4-H cloverbuds

Age-appropriate variations of introductory activities can be powerful tools for groups to get to know each other and build trust.

Icebreakers can be a great way for groups to get to know each other and build relationships, but many of them are written for teenagers or adults. When working with younger age groups like cloverbuds (5-to-8-year-olds), Michigan State University Extension recommends using age-appropriate variations. Here are some ideas to use with groups that include elementary age children.

Name juggle

There are a variety of ways to do name games, and they're all a fun, easy way to get kids talking and making sure everyone knows everyone's name. One way to do this is to have everyone in a circle and toss around a soft object like a stuffed animal or bean bag. The first person says their own name and maybe something about themselves, such as their favorite vegetable, favorite color, their horse's name, their age, etc. Then, they toss the object across the circle and the person who catches it introduces themselves in the same way. This continues until everyone has gotten it once (the last person throws it back to the leader). On the next round, complete the same pattern, but have each person say the name of the person they're throwing to. 

Sometimes after a group has been together for a while, we just assume everyone knows everyone else's name, but this is a great way to solidify that knowledge or to integrate new members; if the group does well at first, you can add challenges. Extra challenges can include completing several rounds faster and faster, adding in multiple objects in the same pattern, or reversing the pattern.


Asking everyone the same question can help break the ice as well as build relationships. Even adults can continue to learn things about each other. For younger members, the question can be simple and you can always adjust as members become more comfortable with speaking in front of a group.

Practice taking turns by having a talking object, like a stuffed animal, that gets passed around the circle. This can be combined with attendance at the beginning of a meeting or as a wrap-up at the end.

  • Favorites: What's your favorite ice cream? What's your favorite season?
  • Seasonal: What are you going to be for Halloween? What's your favorite thing to do in the summer?
  • Reflective: What did you like about our last activity? (Combine this with a restatement of what the last activity was: What did you like about carving the pumpkin last month?) What new thing would you like to learn?
  • Motivations/managing feelings: What gets you excited? What do you want to be when you grow up? What makes you smile?
  • Relationships: Who's your favorite teacher and why? Who is your best friend and why are you such good friends?

Beach ball

Most beach balls have six sections. Write six questions on a flip chart, one for each color (even better if you can write them in the corresponding color). Toss the beach ball around the circle, giving everyone a chance to introduce themselves and, using the color underneath a certain thumb when they catch the ball, answer a question. A variation on this would be to have six different actions, such as “Walk like a crab,” “Jump like a frog three times,” “Swim like a fish,” “Move like an elephant,” “March in place” and “Do three jumping jacks.”

Would you rather

There are lots of sources of "Would You Rather" questions out there. Cards can be printed off and laminated for durability. Here are some ideas for ways to use these questions with a group.

  • Ask the whole group a would-you-rather question, and have them “vote with their feet” by moving to one side of the room for one answer or the other side of the room for the opposite answer. Try doing several in a row for a fun energizer.
  • Ask the whole group the question, but have them pair up to discuss their answers. Depending on their reading level, pass out a card to each pair for discussion.
  • If the cards have colors on them, use the colors to sort participants into small groups, where they can then discuss their questions.
  • Choose questions that relate to the topic of the day, for example, careers or healthy lifestyle choices. Or, choose questions that are completely off-topic and silly just to get everyone talking.
  • A good set for younger members can be found at 100 Would you rather questions for kids from the Measured Mom.

Using icebreakers during meetings or events can help a group improve their communication skills while having fun and getting to know each other better. This will help them as they work on other projects and increase their life skills. For more ideas on icebreakers, check out MSU Extension’s series on “Icebreakers creating a safe environment – Part 1: Introduction.”

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, civic engagement, citizenship and global/cultural programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways Michigan 4-H positively impacted individuals and communities in 2015, can be downloaded from the Michigan 4-H website.

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