Do you remember the first day of school? My last first day of school was 19 years ago and I still remember that knot in the pit of my stomach as I was walking into a new class. (It should also be noted that it was a seminary class and I was a grown adult). I had the same thoughts that go through the minds of kids… What will the teacher be like? What will we do in this class? Will I have any friends in this class? Will people like me? Etc.
We all know that first day of school dread happens at school, but it also happens every September (or January for those of you in the Southern hemisphere) in our churches as kids move into new Sunday School classes and more visitors are present in our services.
There are two things that we can do as children’s ministry teachers and leaders can do to help eliminate some of that stress. (1) We can be ready for the kids on day one and excited about having them in our classes. And (2) We can provide some games and activities at the start of class to help build relationships between kids and tear down some of those fears.
Here are some simple ice breaker activities to use with your class:
A suggestion would be to use one per week for the first month or so, dedicating 5 minutes at the start of class time for these activities.
- Have each kid say their name, what school they go to and their favorite food.
- Have everyone in the group form a line alphabetically by first names and then introduce themselves to the rest of the group….be sure to join the line yourself.
- Ask all of the kids to tell you their name and what they did over the summer.
- Play a quick name game where kids say their name and the name of someone else in the group. Then the person whose name they say will say their name and someone else’s name, etc. Continue playing until all kid’s names have been said.
- Have everyone say their name and a place they have visited or would like to visit that starts with either the first or last letter of their name.
* For younger kids you can either help them think of some places, or just let them name a place they would like to go.
- Have all the kids say their name and what superpower they would like to have.
- Have kids mingle around the room and call out a number. They should race to get into groups of that number and sit down as a group. Encourage them to introduce themselves to others in their group.
- Play a round of “I’ve Never.” For this game you’ll name something that only some of the kids in the group will have done and say (for example) I’ve never eaten fish. Anyone who has done what you said should stand up. With older kids they can help you think of ‘I’ve Never’ statements, just be careful with preteen boys as it can get out of hand.
- Have kids mingle around and call out a topic (favorite food, school, age, favorite color, etc.) and kids should race to find a partner who matches them on that topic. EX: they both go to the same school.
- Play a round of “Hidden Skills.” For this game ask if any of the kids have a secret skill – like the fastest shoe tying, or an ability to hop on one foot for a minute, etc. Have kids share their skill and let others challenge them if they think they can do it faster. This game is best left until a few weeks into the year as it could be intimidating on the first day.
Some other tips for getting to know the new children in your class / ministry this year:
- 100 Conversation Starter Questions for Talking with Kids
- Tips for Parents Sending Kids Back to School
- 10 Ways to Make a New Kid Welcome at Church
- The Encouragement Game for Children