A great activity for everyone


Boost team spirit with the exhilarating Categories game

By Jon Zajac

What is Categories?

The Categories icebreaker is an engaging and adaptable activity designed to foster interaction and connection among participants in various settings. Its primary objective is to encourage people to learn more about each other in a fun, light-hearted way, ultimately promoting a sense of unity and collaboration. This icebreaker involves participants moving to different spots in a room based on their responses to category prompts, such as preferences, experiences, or skills.

As the facilitator, I ensure there’s ample space for movement and prepare a list of suitable categories tailored to the group and session objectives. When introducing the activity, I explain the process clearly and provide a demonstration to ensure everyone understands. By boldly announcing each category and prompting brief exchanges among participants, I create an engaging atmosphere that encourages interaction and helps break down barriers.

Sample categories may include preference-based prompts like “Morning person or night owl?” or experience-based ones such as “Who has traveled to more than three countries?” Skill-based categories, like “Who speaks more than one language?” can also be used to uncover common professional skills or personal interests. To keep the activity dynamic and inclusive, I consider using advanced variations, such as having participants propose their categories or utilizing digital platforms for displaying prompts.

In order to ensure success, I am mindful of inclusivity when selecting categories, manage time effectively, and strike a balance between lighthearted and thought-provoking questions based on the group’s atmosphere and session objectives. Overall, the Categories icebreaker is an invaluable tool for transforming a room full of strangers or acquaintances into a cohesive, energized group ready to collaborate effectively towards their shared goals.

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Rules for Categories

  1. Follow the facilitator’s instructions and move to the designated spot based on your response to the category cue.
  2. Engage with other participants by sharing reasons for your choice or related anecdotes when encouraged by the facilitator.
  3. Listen attentively to others as they share their responses, showing respect and interest in their perspectives.
  4. Maintain a positive and inclusive atmosphere throughout the activity, avoiding any categories that may make participants feel uncomfortable or excluded.
  5. Remain mindful of time management, ensuring each round is lively yet allows enough time for brief exchanges (around 1-2 minutes per category).
  6. Adjust your participation based on the balance of lighthearted and more serious or thought-provoking categories set by the facilitator.

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Materials needed for Categories

  • Space: A large enough area for participants to move around freely.
  • Loud voice or microphone: Necessary to make instructions clear to all participants.
  • Category cards (optional): Simple pieces of paper with category prompts, or digital prompts displayed on a screen.

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Setting up for Categories

To set up for the Categories icebreaker activity, follow these steps:

  1. Choose a suitable location: Find a spacious area where participants can easily move around and gather in different spots based on the category prompts. The room should be quiet enough for all participants to hear the instructions clearly without a microphone.

  2. Arrange furniture: If necessary, rearrange chairs, tables, or other obstacles to create an open space for mobility. Ensure there is enough room for participants to move comfortably without bumping into each other or objects.

  3. Decide on category list: Based on the context and objectives of the meeting or workshop, compile a list of categories that will encourage interaction among participants and help them learn more about one another. Consider balancing lighthearted and thought-provoking prompts.

  4. Create category cards (optional): If using physical category cards, prepare them in advance by writing or printing each prompt on separate pieces of paper. Make the text large enough to be easily readable from a distance. Alternatively, prepare digital slides with clear, bold text if using a screen for displaying categories.

  5. Test audio equipment (if needed): If using a microphone or PA system, test it beforehand to ensure that all participants can hear the instructions clearly during the activity. Adjust volume levels and check for any feedback issues.

  6. Set up additional materials (optional): Prepare any necessary items for the advanced variations of the Categories icebreaker, such as a device for using an app or digital platform, paper, and pens for participants to create their own categories, or other props related to specific category prompts.

By carefully setting up the space and preparing the necessary materials, you will create a conducive environment for a successful Categories icebreaker activity that fosters interaction, engagement, and collaboration among participants.

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How to play Categories

1. Explain the Activity Describe to the participants that they will be moving to different spots in the room based on their response to category cues.

2. Demonstrate the Process Show an example of a category and how to move based on personal preferences or experiences.

3. Begin the Game Start the activity with enthusiasm, announcing the first category clearly. For instance, “If you prefer dogs over cats, move to the right side of the room. If you prefer cats over dogs, move to the left side.”

4. Encourage Participant Engagement After each move, invite participants to share why they chose their answer or a related anecdote. This fosters interaction and helps break down barriers as participants discover commonalities or discuss differences in a light-hearted manner.

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Benefits of Categories

  • Breaks the ice effectively: The Categories icebreaker is an excellent way to get people talking and connecting in a relaxed environment. It helps reduce tension and anxiety by providing a lighthearted activity that encourages interaction among participants.
  • Fosters a sense of belonging: By discovering shared interests, experiences, or skills, individuals feel more connected to the group, which contributes to a positive atmosphere and increases their comfort level in contributing to discussions or team tasks.
  • Encourages active listening: As participants share their answers and related stories, others are prompted to listen attentively, creating opportunities for better understanding and empathy among team members.
  • Enhances group dynamics: The Categories icebreaker helps break down barriers between individuals, allowing them to form relationships more quickly, ultimately improving communication and collaboration within the group.
  • Promotes self-awareness and self-expression: By answering category prompts, participants reflect on their own preferences, experiences, and skills, which can lead to increased self-confidence and a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses in relation to others.
  • Provides insight into individual backgrounds and perspectives: The game offers glimpses into the diverse backgrounds and viewpoints of participants, which can be valuable for fostering respect, appreciation, and inclusivity within the group.
  • Energizes the room: A well-executed Categories icebreaker generates enthusiasm and excitement, setting a positive tone for subsequent activities or discussions and making it more likely that participants will remain engaged throughout the session.
  • Adaptable to various settings and objectives: With its simple structure and flexibility, the Categories icebreaker can be tailored to suit different contexts, group sizes, and desired outcomes, making it a versatile tool for facilitators and educators.

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Skills built with Categories

  • Interpersonal Communication: By encouraging participants to share their thoughts and experiences related to the category prompts, the Categories icebreaker helps build interpersonal communication skills as individuals learn how to effectively convey their ideas and feelings in a group setting.
  • Active Listening: As participants engage in discussions based on each category, they practice active listening skills by focusing on what others are saying, providing verbal and non-verbal feedback, and asking clarifying questions when necessary.
  • Empathy: By sharing personal stories and experiences, the Categories icebreaker facilitates empathy among participants, helping them better understand each other’s perspectives and appreciate their unique viewpoints.
  • Collaboration: The game fosters collaboration by encouraging individuals to work together to discover commonalities and shared interests, ultimately building a stronger sense of teamwork within the group.
  • Confidence Building: By actively participating in discussions and sharing personal information, participants can enhance their self-confidence and public speaking abilities in a supportive environment.
  • Diversity Awareness: The Categories icebreaker promotes diversity awareness by highlighting the unique qualities and characteristics of each individual, fostering respect for different backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints.
  • Inclusivity: Through careful selection of categories that cater to a diverse group of people, the game encourages inclusivity and ensures all participants feel welcome and valued in the session or workshop.
  • Time Management: The Categories icebreaker teaches time management skills as players learn to quickly process category prompts, make decisions, and share their thoughts within a limited timeframe.
  • Adaptability: The game’s adaptable nature allows for easy customization based on the context or objectives of the session, teaching participants how to adjust their communication style and content accordingly.

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Why I like Categories

As someone who enjoys bringing people together and fostering positive interactions, I find the Categories icebreaker to be an invaluable tool. Its simplicity makes it accessible for any group, while its versatility allows me to tailor the experience to different settings and objectives. The Categories icebreaker not only helps participants break the ice and get comfortable with one another but also encourages active listening, empathy, and self-expression, contributing to a dynamic and inclusive environment.

One aspect I particularly appreciate is the opportunity for participants to discover shared interests or experiences, which can serve as common ground for building relationships. The lighthearted nature of many categories prompts also helps to alleviate tension and anxiety, making it easier for more reserved individuals to participate in conversations. Furthermore, by incorporating a mix of fun, professional, and reflective categories, I can strike a balance that caters to various group dynamics and session goals.

The Categories icebreaker also fosters active listening and engagement, as participants are encouraged to share their responses and briefly discuss them with the group. This process helps create a supportive atmosphere where individuals feel heard and valued, which is essential for successful collaboration and learning.

Inclusivity is another reason I enjoy using the Categories icebreaker. By carefully selecting categories that do not stereotype or marginalize any participant, I can ensure everyone feels welcome and respected. This attention to inclusivity contributes to a positive group dynamic, setting the stage for productive discussions and activities.

Time management is crucial when facilitating an effective icebreaker. The Categories icebreaker’s quick pace keeps participants engaged while allowing for brief exchanges over each category, making it an efficient way to warm up a group. Moreover, its flexibility enables me to adjust the duration and intensity of the activity according to the session’s needs.

In conclusion, the Categories icebreaker is an indispensable tool in my toolkit due to its simplicity, versatility, and ability to foster connection, engagement, and inclusivity among participants. By leveraging this activity, I can transform a room full of strangers or acquaintances into a more cohesive, energized group ready to collaborate effectively towards their shared goals.

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Tips for making Categories more inclusive

  • Tip: Choose Neutral and Inclusive Categories Ensure the categories you select are neutral and inclusive to prevent any participant from feeling uncomfortable or excluded. For instance, instead of using gender-based categories like “guys” and “gals,” opt for alternatives such as “people who prefer coffee” and “people who prefer tea.”

  • Tip: Consider Diversity and Representation When deciding on categories, take into account the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives of your participants. This will help create a welcoming environment where everyone feels valued and heard.

  • Tip: Offer Optional Participation Make it clear that participation is voluntary, allowing individuals to choose not to disclose personal information if they feel uncomfortable doing so. Encourage respect for those who opt out of specific categories.

  • Tip: Use Positive and Respectful Language When announcing categories and facilitating discussions, use positive and respectful language. Avoid making assumptions about participants’ experiences or using language that may be offensive to certain groups.

  • Tip: Provide Pronoun Stickers or Badges Offer pronoun stickers or badges as an option for participants to clearly communicate their preferred pronouns. This can help create a more inclusive space and prevent misgendering.

  • Tip: Accommodate Accessibility Needs Make sure the activity is accessible to all participants, including those with mobility challenges or other disabilities. For example, provide seating options for individuals who may have difficulty standing for extended periods.

  • Tip: Foster a Safe and Supportive Environment Establish ground rules that promote respect, active listening, and empathy among participants. Encourage open-mindedness and remind the group to be considerate of one another’s feelings and experiences.

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Reflection questions for Categories

  1. What did you enjoy most about the Categories icebreaker? Understanding what participants enjoyed can help facilitators tailor future activities to meet their preferences and maintain engagement.
  2. Did you discover any commonalities or shared interests with others during the activity? This question can highlight the power of the icebreaker in fostering connections, as well as provide insight into the group’s dynamics and potential collaborations.
  3. How do you feel the Categories icebreaker contributed to the overall atmosphere of the session or workshop? Gauging participants’ perceptions of the icebreaker’s impact on the group’s energy and cohesiveness can help facilitators evaluate its effectiveness and make informed decisions about incorporating similar activities in the future.
  4. Were there any categories that particularly stood out to you or sparked an interesting discussion? Identifying these categories can inform facilitators about the types of prompts that resonate with the group, allowing them to fine-tune the activity for maximum engagement and value.
  5. How comfortable were you sharing your responses and participating in discussions during the Categories icebreaker? This question can help facilitators assess the appropriateness of their category choices and the overall atmosphere of inclusivity and safety they’ve established, enabling them to make adjustments as needed.

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About the author

Jon Zajac

Jon Zajac

Founder & Chief Icebreaker

I started Icebreaker Spot because I truly believe that strong connections are the foundation of successful teams. I wanted to create a platform that would make it easy for people to find and share icebreakers and team building activities, empowering them to build trust, foster collaboration, and ultimately, achieve greatness together.

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