Helping children get to know each other is a massive deal! There are lots of issues when there is a group of kids together – what are everyone’s names, what are everyone’s likes and dislikes, and just generally how can we all be friends?
Supporting the process of getting everyone to know each other helps children relax and therefore learn much better.
Having been a teacher for the last ten years, I have seen the huge impact every year of playing lots of ‘getting to know me activities’. These are a huge priority throughout the whole year (not just the start).
The best 15 ‘get to know me’ activities are:
- Copy Cat
- 1, 2, 3, Look!
- Storytelling Pictures
- Get To Know Me Jar
- Name Memory Game
- Funny Voice Names
- Name Dance Boogie
- Get To Know Me Basket
- Roll The Ball (Thank You)
- Roll The Ball (Question)
- Emotions Round The Circle
- Whack The Balloon
- Pass The Puppet
- Hello Songs
- Hit The Names
I’m going to be taking a look at all of these in this article.
These activities are fantastic for any of the following:
-Children in school aged between 3 to 7
-Kids in youth camps (of about the same age)
-Older children with social skill issues
-Special needs children of all ages
-Children in sports groups, teams, or outer-school activities
Many could be potentially used with adults.
What are the benefits of ‘getting to know me’ activities? Some of the biggest are:
- Children are more at ease in their surroundings. They relax and so will learn more
- They learn the simple social skills of life
- They understand that other people have different lives and feelings
- They help everyone have more fun and feel better
So, all in all, a pretty important list of benefits.
OK, it’s time to dive into the best ‘getting to know me’ activities themselves. Here we go…
1. Copy Cat (Favorite Animal)
Some of the games I will look at are more ‘sit down’ games, but I’ve opened up with a really active one to start with.
Many children find sitting in circles a bit intense, and this ‘copy cat’ game is really good for ‘letting go’ as well as finding out about a few likes of your friends.
Have a reasonably large space to move about in, either indoors or outside.
It’s probably best for the adult to be ‘it’ first. They are going to model how to play the game.
The basic idea is that the person that is ‘it’ is going to say their favorite animal, and then pretend to act like it. So, if it was a ‘monkey’, they will beat their chest, run round on all fours, go ‘oo oo oo’ and all that kind of thing.
Everyone else is going to copy.
Then someone else has a go. Pick a child to say their animal, and then have a go of moving like it. Help them out if they are a bit shy or not sure how the animal moves.
Hopefully, the more you play it, the more free and relaxed the children will become.
2. 1,2,3, Look!
This is a fun circle game. It is probably best done with about 12 children in the circle as a maximum.
If you have more children than that, then just split them into 2 or 3 circles.
The children sit in a circle and everyone closes their eyes.
Then, all at the same time, teach the children to go, ‘1, 2, 3, Look!’ And at that moment everyone opens their eyes.
If you are looking at someone, and they are looking at you then you are ‘out’ (in a good way!). You have basically won, and get to sit back from the circle.
Everyone tries again, until most people (or everyone) has matched up with a partner.
This is a great game for teaching eye contact.
3. Storytelling Pictures
You need a few simple resources for this game.
You just require some simple story pictures, and also some pictures of all the children that are going to take part.
You could do this with a small group, and everyone could take part in the story.
If you did it with a whole class of 30 (or more), then just pick 4 or 5 pictures of some children in the class. (You can’t do it with everyone each time).
The story pictures I have are just printed off the internet. I have some good characters, bad characters, settings, problems and solutions.
The basic idea now, is to tell a story.
To do it randomly (which is probably best), put all the pictures into some kind of feely bag, and then pull one out at a time.
For example, it might go something like this:
1st picture – A witch
‘One day there was a witch. She went on an adventure.’
2n picture – a castle
‘She went to the haunted castle.’
3rd picture – A girl in the class, Yasmin
‘Yasmin was trapped in the tower.’
Just keep going a bit like this. The more random the story is the better.
If the children can get involved in taking out the pictures, and even making up the story, then that is exactly what you want.
If they can’t, don’t worry. You just make it up and they can listen.
Bringing real people to life in storytelling is really exciting, and fires up their curiosity and creativity.
4. Get To Know Me Jar
This is a classic ‘get to know me’ game, and can be played with children of all ages, and potentially even adults as well.
Have some kind of glass jar with a lid. You also need some very simple questions that are written on cards to put into the jar.
The questions could be things like:
- What is your favourite colour?
- What food do you like?
- What toys do you like to play with?
Just any kind of simple questions like that.
If the children are going to be reading them, then try to use words that they can recognise. If the adult is going to be reading them (for younger children) then this is not really an issue.
It’s a simple process to play. Simply take out a question, and ask some children for their answers.
This could be played as:
- A circle game
- A game at a group time, like Snack Break
- Throughout the day
The jar really helps to add a bit of intrigue and drama to proceedings.
5. Name Memory Game
This is a fun memory game.
It works best when children have already become reasonably well acquainted with each other’s names (so I wouldn’t play it on the first day, or anything like that).
Sit in a circle. The first child, that has the easiest job, will say their name.
For example, they might say ‘Anna.’
Then the next child, ‘Yusuf’, will have to say the first name and then their own. So Yusuf will say, ‘Anna, Yusuf.’
Then the next child, Tim, will say, ‘Anna, Yusuf, Tim.’ And just keep going like this around the circle.
I would say the maximum for this is something like about ten children.
If you have more, then split them into two or three circles.
6. Funny Voice Names
Using silly voices is a fantastic way of getting children engaged, and also of breaking the ice.
The idea of this simple game, is to pick a funny voice to use to start with.
A good one is a ‘ghost voice.’
I have a simple dice that I have created for games like this. It is made out of a wooden building block, with pictures of some good characters for voices on. The dice has the following on it – a robot, an alien, a princess, a ghost, a tiger and a T-Rex. This dice is not essential, but does add to the excitement!
It’s also good to have some kind of teddy to pass round for this simple game.
The first child holds the teddy, and tries to say their name in a ‘ghost voice.’ E.g. ‘Amelia’ (imagine the best ghost voice ever).
Everyone else uses their best ghost voice to say, ‘Hello, Amelia.’
Then she passes the teddy to someone else.
Do a few children all with the same voice, and then swap to something different – for example, a robot.
7. Name Dance Boogie
This is a great game for learning names, as well as having some simple phonic skills involved as well.
It is an excellent game for understanding the rhythm in words, and how syllables work.
Sit in a circle. One child goes first. They stand up, and try to say their name. The idea is to do one action for each syllable.
For example, ‘Billy’ might go ‘Bill’ (arms up high), ‘-y!’ (Touch your toes).
Everyone tries to copy, probably a couple of times.
The easy way is for the adult to come up with the actions, and the children copy.
The slight harder way (but very doable for most children from about the age of 4 upwards), is to come up with their own ideas.
You can do simple moves, or you could also do dance moves.
Such as, ‘Wasif’ could be ‘Was’ (jive to the left), ‘if’ (jive to the right!).
8. Get To Know You Basket
This is a simpler version of the ‘get to know me jar’ game.
Have a basket full of small pebbles.
The children sit in a circle, and hand out a pebble to each child.
Have some kind of simple question for the whole group. It might be, ‘What would you like to see at the zoo.’
The children pass round the basket, say their answer, and put the pebble into the basket.
The adult could hold the basket if you think they might drop it.
9. Roll The Ball (‘Thank You’)
This is a really simple game, that even very young children can have a go of. It’s good for learning names, and also for basic manners as well (and saying ‘thank you’.)
Sit in a circle. Have one ball between the group.
One child says someone else’s name, and then rolls the ball to them. That child says, ‘Thank you.’
Then that child says someone’s name, and the process repeats. It’s as simple as that!
The hard bit, for many children, is remembering to say ‘thank you.’
You can make it harder for older children by getting them to throw and catch the ball.
10. Roll The Ball (Questions)
Here’s the trickier version.
This time, you say someone’s name, and then ask a question.
So it might be, ‘Lucy, do you have any brothers?’ Then roll the ball to Lucy.
Lucy is going to answer, then pick someone else, and ask them a question.
The easier version is rolling the ball, and the harder one is throwing it.
11. Emotions Round The Circle
This is a good ice-breaker because it doesn’t require any talking – just a bit of drama.
The children sit in a circle, and have three emotion pictures that you simply draw on paper. Have a ‘happy’ face, a ‘sad’ face, and an ‘angry’ face.
The adult could go first to demonstrate how to play. They are going to pretend to be one of these emotions.
For example, they might pick ‘sad’. They are going to walk around the inside of the circle in a sad way. For example, they might have a ‘sad’ face, hunched shoulder, drooping arms, and a slow walk.
The children are going to point to which emotion they think it is that they are acting out.
Then a child will go. You could quickly talk about body language after each go, but the main emphasis is on action without talk.
12. Balloon Whack
This is great for learning names, as well as just team bonding and having fun.
You need groups of about 4 to 6 children for this. If you have loads of children, then split them into lots of teams.
The children stand in a group, facing each other. They need one inflated balloon per team.
One child starts. They say someone’s name and then throw it to them. That child tries to catch it (don’t worry if this bit all goes wrong!)
That child says, ‘Thank you!’ Then they pick another child and throw it to them.
Keep going like this!
13. Pass The Puppet
This is a really simple idea.
Puppets have a very powerful effect on lots of children – almost like magic. They will often open up a lot more to a puppet than another human.
Show the children the puppet, and introduce the theme.
So, for example, it might be a dragon puppet. The puppet is eating apple pie for its lunch. What would we all like to eat.
Pass the puppet round, and the children all tell it what they would like to eat. It’s as simple as that.
Any basic theme or question will work fine.
14. Hello Song
Music is great for routines, and for making everyone feel more at home.
Some kind of ‘hello song’ that incorporates children’s names will work wonders.
For example, to the tune of Frere Jacques, go round the circle, waving at each child and singing:
Hello Freya (everyone copies)
You could very easily make up your own tune and song, but something like this, with lots of waving, smiling and practising names is definitely a great thing to try, especially with younger children.
15. Hit The Names
One last activity, that is great for early phonics and syllables.
I like to play it with ‘rhythm sticks’. These are just two sticks per child, that they hit together as they try different games.
Give out a pair of rhythm sticks to everyone, and then start with the first child in the circle.
That child says their name, and hits the syllables in it as they do so.
So, for example, they might say, ‘Mi-‘ (hit), ‘-chael’ (hit).
Everyone copies, saying ‘Micheal’ and hitting the sticks together twice.
I always get them to copy each word a few times. This really helps the process and gets them into the idea.
Then the next person goes.
If the children get really good at this, then you can make it harder by trying their first and their last names at the same time.