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8 awesome icebreaker activities to help kids warm up to a new nanny or sitter

Oct. 12, 2018

My first day with a new family is always exciting… but I also dread it a little. As a child care provider, you wonder: “What if the kids get bored? What if they have no fun crafts in the house or they don’t like what I dream up? What if the kids won’t even talk to me?”

I remember one of my first days days with a family, when I decided to just see where the day took us. Instead of having a lot of expectations or activities lined up, I planned to just go with the flow. As you can probably guess, this approach took us absolutely nowhere. My new charge sat on the floor playing with her toys while I hovered around asking the same questions and feeling totally incompetent and disconnected.

After that day, I decided to start collecting a “kit” of crafts and activities that I could use with new families and kids of any age. Never again would I go into a new family’s home empty-handed, and I would always have some activities to help break the ice that first day.

If you’re heading into your first day on the job with a new family, you may be feeling this same kind of excitement and anxiety. It can be awkward getting comfortable with new parents, new kids and a new house, which is why we’ve gathered these eight fun, simple icebreaker activities that will help kickstart a great relationship with the kids.

1. Hop to It

“Hop to It” is a great icebreaker game that engages kids physically and mentally, while also helping you get to know them.

Materials:

  • A list of “get to know you” questions to ask your charges, like:

    • How old are you?

    • What is your favorite activity?

    • What is your favorite food?

    • What is your favorite color?

    • What is your favorite animal?

  • Colorful construction paper

  • Pens, markers, crayons

  • Optional: Printer, if you want to print out pictures instead of drawing them

  • Scotch tape (to secure paper)

How to play: First, on your construction paper, draw multiple answers to each of your “get to know you” questions — or you may want to print out pictures instead. Once you have a few different drawings or printed images for each question, it’s time to play.

For each question, lay out the papers with the “answers” and tape them down. Have your new kiddo(s) line up and then ask them each question, like: “What is your favorite color?” Tell the child to “hop to” their answer and explain what they like about that color. Repeat for each question, removing the old “answers” and taping down the new ones as you go.

Age-friendly change: For kids of reading age, write out answers in words (rather than drawings) on your paper. For younger kids, read or explain each “answer” out loud and walk them to each one until they find the answer they want.

2. Either/Or

“Either/Or” is a great way to get to know kids and what they like — without overwhelming them.

Materials:

  • List of fun “either/or” questions using items around the house, like:

    • What’s your favorite fruit?

    • What’s your favorite toy?

    • What’s your favorite movie?

  • Two potential answers for each question, for example:

    • If you ask their favorite fruit, have a banana and an orange.

    • If you want to know their favorite toy, grab two toys from their room.

    • If you want to know their favorite movie, pull two kids’ DVDs.

How to play: Starting with one question at a time, hold up both options in your hands, letting the child see each one. Ask the child to choose the item that is their favorite of the two and put it in a pile next to them. Once the child answers all the questions, ask him or her to talk about each of their favorites in the pile. If you have multiple kids, start the questions over for each child. And don’t forget to have the kids ask you the same questions!

Age-friendly change: If your charge is young or shy, they can simply point to their favorites. If they are less than 1 year old, this game can be a great tactile experience and can introduce new words into their vocabulary. With older kids, you can also ask more abstract questions like “Breakfast or dinner?” or “Spring or winter?”

3. Book About Me

Ask your charges to tell you their story by creating a “Book About Me.” It’s also a fun craft and something their parents will enjoy saving.

Materials:

  • Construction paper

  • Crayons, markers, pens

  • Stickers

  • Stapler (optional)

  • Printable worksheets* (optional)

  • A list of “get to know you” questions, such as:

    • Who is in your family?

    • Where do you go to school? (If they do)

    • Who are your best friends?

    • What do you like to do at home?

    • Where is your favorite place to go?

    • What do you want to be when you grow up?

How to play: Gather the materials and ask your charge to draw answers for each question, talking to them about what they’re drawing as they go. Once each book is done, have the “author” share it outloud. Make sure you do one for yourself, too, so you can share your story with the kids.

*There are tons of downloadable options that you can print, but a DIY version is just as fun!

Age-friendly change: Younger children who can’t draw or write can still draw a book about themselves. It’s OK if the pictures or words aren’t quite legible to adult eyes.

4. Show and Tell

“Show and Tell” is a simple way to have the kids show off their prized possessions, and it doesn’t require much in the way of materials or cleanup.

Materials:

  • Ask your charges to collect a favorite item, like:

    • Their favorite toy

    • Their favorite book

    • One thing they take everywhere they go

    • One thing they were given at their last birthday

  • Bonus: Bring your favorites to share, too!

How to play: Ask each kid to hold up the item and tell you why it’s their favorite or why they bring it with them everywhere. Ask questions about each item, like who gave it to them or what they like to do with it. Depending on the child’s age, this can turn into a long play session, which is perfect.

Age-friendly change: With younger charges, play with them in their room, holding up different toys or books to see which ones they seem most interested in. For older children, ask higher level questions, like, “What is one toy you’ve had since you were a baby?”

5. Beach Ball Bash

Image via 4 the Love of Teaching

If you’re looking for an outdoor icebreaker activity, the “Beach Ball Bash” is perfect.

Materials:

  • A beach ball

  • A permanent marker

  • A list of “get to know you” questions, like:

    • What fun thing did you do this summer?

    • Where do you want to travel?

    • What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?

    • What is your teacher’s name?

    • Tell us a funny story that happened recently.

    • What is your middle name?

    • What is your favorite game to play?

    • Who is your favorite cartoon character?

How to play: Before you arrive at work, blow up a new beach ball and write questions on each colored section. Then, bring it to work and set aside time to play outside (or in a playroom or other area of the house where nothing can break).

Take turns passing (throwing or rolling) the ball back and forth. When the kids catch the ball, ask them to answer the question that is closest to their right hand. Ask questions about their answers so they get share lots of details. This game may also turn into a game of catch, which is just as fun.

Age-friendly change: If your kiddos aren’t old enough to read, read the questions out loud for them. If they’re not old enough to talk, skip the questions and just have fun rolling the ball or chasing it around the yard.

6. Tour Guide

The “Tour Guide” game is a fun way to explore the house while making kids feel knowledgeable and capable.

Materials:

  • “Tour Guide” and “Tacky Tourist” costumes, which can include:

    • Hats

    • Sandals (preferably with knee-high socks)

    • A camera (toy or real)

    • Binoculars (or make them from toilet paper rolls)

    • A microphone (toy or real)

  • A list of places to tour in the house, including:

    • The laundry room/hamper location

    • Basements

    • Light switches

    • Pantries

    • Dresser drawers

How to play: Have the child(ren) meet you at the front door wearing their Tour Guide outfit while you rock your Tacky Tourist gear. Pretend like you’ve never seen the house before and ask the kid(s) to show you everything. You can pretend to take pictures with your phone or a toy camera and have the kid(s) tell you a story about each area of the house. Leave no stone unturned. Open closets, drawers and look under beds. The kids will think it’s hilarious!

Age-friendly change: Carry young charges to each room of the house, asking them to point to things or find things that are in the room. Ask older charges to show you how the TV works, where backpacks go after school, where the garage code keypad is located, etc.

7. Token for Your Thoughts

If your charges are especially shy, this is a great icebreaker activity that gives them a small “reward” for engaging with you.

Materials:

  • 5-10 small tokens (like stickers, cereal puffs or candy*) per child

  • A list of “get to know you” questions, for example:

    • What is your favorite color?

    • What is your favorite subject in school?

    • What is your favorite toy?

    • Do you have a favorite book?

    • Who is your best friend?

*Make sure that the parents are OK with their child(ren) eating a small amount of sugar. Also, make sure there are no allergies and that you choose candy that is peanut-free.

How to play: Each time your charge answers a question, give them one small item. Then, once their items have “run out,” let them ask you questions. Spread the questions and discussions around them throughout the day to keep the fun going.

Age-friendly change: If the child is too young to talk but understands some questions, ask them to point to things (like their belly button or the window).

8. Guess Who?

This activity is a great icebreaker for families with multiple kids. Instead of asking each child individual questions, “Guess Who?” makes you guess which child gave which answer — and the kids can try to hide their secrets while you think.

Materials:

  • Paper, index cards or flashcards

  • Pencils

  • A list of fill-in-the-blanks sentences, which can include:

  • I like to eat _____.

  • _____ makes me happy.

  • I do not like _____.

  • My favorite movie is ______.

  • My favorite ice cream is _____.

How to play: Write your fill-in-the-blank sentences on paper, index cards or flashcards for each kid, leaving a wide blank space for them to write in. Have children (or the oldest sibling) write all their answers on their papers. Once all of the blanks are filled in, have the kids mix up all of the papers. Then, you can draw one paper from the pile, read it out loud and guess who wrote it. Even if the handwriting or answer gives it away, play into the guessing game. The kids will love it.

Age-friendly change: If your kids are too little, leave the fill-in-the-blank papers with the parents and have them write their kids’ answers that evening. When you come back the next day, the answers will be ready for you!

Read next: What nannies should ask before their 1st day

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