On the first day of Sunday school I always like to spend a few minutes playing a getting-to-know-you game with the kids. Here are two of my favorites:
The Blanket Drop This game includes an element of suspense and commotion that makes it especially fun for middle or upper elementary school kids. All you’ll need is a blanket and a room that can get relatively loud without disturbing other classes.
Begin by having everyone introduce themselves by name, and share one other memorable details, like their favorite ice cream flavor, color, or game. Then, you’ll count off to split the group into two teams. You’ll hold up the blanket and ask each team to line up single file behind the blanket, so that the teams are hidden from view of each other. Everyone in line should be facing away from the blanket except for the person on each team that is closest to the blanket. (If you have an odd number of kids and don’t have an assistant you may need to ask kids to take turns helping you hold the blanket during the game, or you can secure it to a wall and hold the other side yourself). On the count of three you’ll drop the blanket and the two kids standing on either side of it will scramble to be the first to say the name of the person across from them. Whoever says the name first gets to stay on their team and goes to the end of the line. The person whose name has been called switches teams and goes to the end of that line. The team members are free to trade places with each other in line (so long as everyone keeps taking turns) to throw off the order so that the other team has a harder time guessing.
Find Someone Who… This game involves sharing a characteristics or facts and challenging kids to find the person who fits that description. For example,
- Find someone who ate a hot dog this summer.
- Find someone who has a coin in their pocket.
- Find someone who likes the taste of coffee.
- Find someone who is wearing blue.
- Find someone who talks in their sleep.
- Find someone who has a cat.
- Find someone who played soccer this summer.
Depending on the space you have, and the whether you choose questions that are obvious or require conversation. you may have kids running around the room to one another or discussing the questions around table groups. For example, with younger children you may want to call out, “find someone who is wearing blue!” and allow the kids to find and flock to the person or people wearing blue. Then you can announce the names of those who were found: “both Micah and Dezirae are wearing blue today!” before moving on to the next description. For older kids you may want to make a list in advance that includes space for those who are found to sign their name on the paper. Then give them a short amount of time to work through their list and a rule about not allowing the same person to sign more than a couple times (depending on the size of your group). When creating questions, keep them inclusive. Not everyone has the opportunity to do something exotic during the summer like scuba dive or travel for vacation.
End with sharing all that you’ve learned about each other!
One thing I often forget to do the first couple week of class, or when I'm subbing, is to help the kids get to know MY name! Writing it on the board, associating it with something memorable, and joining in the name games are helpful ways to make that happen.
What are your favorite get to know you games or strategies for building community right from the start? Share them here! For a good source for games and mixers visit www.thesource4ym.com.