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Ice Breakers 4
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Getting re-acquainted

Icebreakers are essential at many reunions. These ideas may inspire you to develop new ways to become re-acquainted.

  • This Is Our Life. Ask each family for photos of their home, yard, activities, sports, hobbies and pets for a display. Then, at the reunion ask kids to explain the pictures.

      Genealogical display at the Seidemann Reunion.
    Photo by Josh Evert. Click to enlarge
    Sample word-find puzzle. Click to enlarge.
    Display genealogy
    . Family photos and special remembrances will quickly get members remembering and mingling.

  • Tape baby pictures to a poster, then try to guess who was who. Marvel at family resemblances.

  • Make a word-find puzzle using all the cousins’ names.

  • Guess the numbers. Fill a fishbowl with peanuts or candies, and let everyone guess how many the bowl contains.

  • “Identify the picture” contest. Take torso shots of men to post at next year’s reunion. Identification may not be easy since some will lose or gain weight.

  • 20 (or 30) questions. Give everyone a get-acquainted list of questions. Examples: Find someone who sings in the shower … who’s left-handed … who plants tomatoes in the garden … who served in Vietnam.

  • Ancestor Search. Each parent/child team receives a list of ancestors and has 15 minutes to collect signatures from ancestors’ descendants. Winners are those who gather the most correct signatures.

  • Ask everyone to face the person to the right and give him/her a compliment.


Reunion warmer-uppers
Recognize that some people may have pre-reunion jitters. Plan activities to help people get acquainted without feeling self-conscious. For example, give each person a 3-by-5 card and ask them to write something unusual about themselves that others might not know. Then, play a guessing game where everyone tries to match the card to the right person. Or make a family scavenger hunt for information not for items. Who has a tattoo? What are the great-grandparents' birthdays? What country did our founders come from? Who went to the University of Wisconsin?

The Peltonen-Maki Family Reunion is held every five years. For the first, each family wrote a tribute to the matriarch, and these were bound into a book. At the second, each family made a quilt square representing their family's interests. For the third, each family member sent a recipe, including why it is an important dish for them, to be compiled in a family cookbook.

The kids play “get-to-know-your-cousins” games. One year placards were held up such as Attended Bohn 50th wedding anniversary” while the song Have You Ever Been There, Stand Up plays and those who attended that event stand up.

Forrest S. Clark, Kissimmee, Florida, writes that a feature of one Buck Family Reunion was a 40-part family questionnaire based on little-known facts about each family member; everyone was asked to answer. This generated much discussion and prizes were awarded for those who got the most answers correct. It was a learning process because each person learned information about others.

J. Lynne Wilson Jenkins, Simpsonville, South Carolina, described these icebreakers from the Douglass-Blount Reunion: “We ask everyone to introduce themselves and state how they are related to the family. We play icebreaker games that force people to mix and mingle. We recognize the oldest and youngest, member who traveled farthest and the family with most immediate members present. We always do a memorial for those who died since the last reunion and share family history.”

Carol Idalski says the Darga Family Reunion encourages kids to sit at different tables and talk to all the aunts and uncles and play games together.

From an article in the Lansing, Michigan, State Journal, come these ideas.

Nametags can help in a crowd of extended family or for a family that meets infrequently.

Sponsor a night-before “meet and greet” for out-of-town guests to break the ice.

Schedule games that reveal family facts. Give family members a list of others' accomplishments, such as “he jumped out of airplanes in World War II” or “she was the first person in the family to graduate from college.” Then have them circulate until they find the person.

Connect people who have similar interests, such as hobbies, jobs or kids.

When the Stantons gather

Louise Hawley, Lillian, Alabama, wrote that the Thomas Stanton Society meets every three years for a three-day reunion on property in Stonington, Connecticut, owned by the family since the 1640s. They have no problem “breaking the ice.” First, they provide nametags with lineage on the reverse side and a packet of relevant historical information. We encourage everyone to bring whatever information they have to share. This always includes computer printouts, photos and stories of their immediate family and even artifacts (such as a 1740s gun which was later donated to a local museum).

The first evening is always given over to family members with a story to tell. What is so great is to see young cousins meet for the first time or find out that another family member might share the same lineage for a number of generations. “Yes, it's work to plan and notify everyone, make the tags and prepare the folder and program. It pays off in developing a rewarding connection, not only to other kin, but to our country's history as well,” says Hawley.

We sincerely thank everyone for sharing information about their reunions because we know it inspires many others. Feel free to share not only your icebreakers but anything unique about your reunion or what you’ve learned by organizing your reunion. Send to

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