A great activity for everyone


Level up your team-building with the ultimate party game: Pictionary!

By Jon Zajac

What is Pictionary?

As a dynamic and enjoyable icebreaker, Pictionary brings individuals together in a casual setting to enhance interaction and foster better understanding. Ideal for workshops, conferences, team-building events, classrooms, or any group gathering, this activity is designed to break the ice among participants. The purpose of Pictionary is to create an engaging environment where teams take turns drawing given words or phrases while their teammates guess the illustrations within a set time limit.

To play Pictionary, participants are divided into smaller teams with diverse backgrounds and ages to encourage communication and collaboration. Each team takes turns sending a volunteer drawer who will illustrate a word or phrase without using verbal clues, letters, or numbers. Team members attempt to guess the drawing before the timer runs out, earning points for correct answers.

The real beauty of Pictionary lies in its ability to bring people together through laughter and shared experiences. While scoring can be implemented, the true value comes from fostering a sense of camaraderie among teammates and creating lasting memories. After the game, a brief discussion should be held to allow participants to share their favorite moments, reflections, and insights gained during the activity.

In virtual settings, Pictionary can be easily adapted by using digital drawing apps and sharing screens while privately messaging drawers their words. Encouraging active engagement through maintaining unmuted microphones keeps the lively atmosphere alive even in a remote environment. By focusing on creating an enjoyable experience that fosters enthusiasm, laughter, and collective memories, Pictionary successfully transforms unfamiliar groups into more cohesive units.

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Rules for Pictionary

  1. Take turns drawing a given word or phrase without using verbal clues, letters, or numbers.
  2. The team tries to guess what is being drawn within a set time limit.
  3. Correctly guessed words earn points for the team.
  4. Teams take turns in sequence, with a new drawer each round.
  5. The game continues for a fixed number of rounds or predetermined time frame.
  6. At the end, points are tallied and the team with the most correct guesses wins.
  7. Encourage participation and focus on fun rather than competition.
  8. Debrief by sharing drawings, fond moments, and reflections about the experience.
  9. In a virtual setup:
    • Use digital drawing apps or platforms that allow screen sharing and drawing capabilities.
    • Privately message the drawer their word in a virtual setup.
    • Keep participants unmuted when possible to maintain engagement.

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Materials needed for Pictionary

  • Large sheets of paper or whiteboards: These will serve as the drawing surfaces for participants during the game. Make sure there’s enough space for all teams to have their own area to draw.

  • Markers, pens, or styluses: Provide plenty of these so that every participant has a writing instrument in a color different from others. This helps ensure that drawings are easily visible and reduces waiting time between rounds.

  • Pictionary words cards: Prepare a set of cards containing words or phrases for participants to draw. The list should cover a variety of topics and complexities, catering to the group’s age, background, and context.

  • Timer: A stopwatch or mobile phone timer will be needed to keep track of the drawing time for each round, typically between 30 seconds to a minute.

  • Seating and drawing area setup: Arrange seating so that all participants can comfortably see the canvas. In a virtual setting, ensure that everyone can clearly view the shared screen during gameplay.

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Setting up for Pictionary

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

  1. Select a Suitable Space: Choose a room or area that is large enough to accommodate the group comfortably with ample space for seating and a drawing surface visible to all participants. In a virtual setting, ensure you have a stable internet connection and are familiar with sharing your screen.

  2. Arrange Seating: Set up chairs in a circular or semi-circular layout facing the drawing area to promote inclusiveness and interaction among team members. For online sessions, encourage participants to position their devices so that they can easily see both the shared screen and other participants’ faces.

  3. Prepare the Drawing Surface: Set up large sheets of paper, whiteboards, or digital drawing tablets on easels if required. Make sure these are stable and at a comfortable height for drawers to illustrate without straining their backs or arms.

  4. Divide Participants into Teams: Carefully consider the group composition when forming teams, aiming for diverse combinations that will encourage interaction among different individuals. Announce team assignments clearly and distribute participants accordingly.

  5. Set Expectations: Clearly communicate the objectives of the Pictionary icebreaker activity, emphasizing fun, engagement, and collaboration over competition. Encourage participants to be open-minded, supportive, and positive throughout the game.

By following these setup guidelines, you will create an optimal environment for the Pictionary icebreaker activity, allowing participants to engage, interact, and form connections in a lively and enjoyable manner.

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How to play Pictionary

1. Prepare the Necessary Materials - Gather large sheets of paper, whiteboards, or digital drawing tablets; markers, pens, or styluses; Pictionary words cards; and a timer. - Arrange seating and the drawing area so all participants can comfortably see the canvas. In virtual settings, ensure everyone can clearly view the shared screen.

2. Create Teams - Divide the group into smaller teams with equal numbers of participants and diverse backgrounds.

3. Explain Game Rules - Communicate that participants will take turns drawing a given word or phrase, while their team tries to guess within a set time limit.

4. Initiate the First Round - Decide on a play order for teams and have a volunteer from the starting team come up as the first drawer.

5. Start Timed Drawing - Allow 30 seconds to a minute for the drawer to illustrate while their team guesses. The round ends when the timer runs out or the team correctly guesses.

6. Rotate Teams - Teams take turns in sequence, with new drawers each round to ensure everyone participates.

7. Tally Points and Announce Winner - At the end of all rounds, announce the winning team based on correct guesses but emphasize the value of participation over competition.

8. Debrief - Encourage participants to share their drawings, favorite moments, and reflections about the experience. Discuss learned communication skills, non-verbal cues, and collaboration.

Virtual Adjustments

  • Use digital drawing apps or platforms for screen sharing and drawing capabilities.
  • Facilitators may need to privately message the drawer their word in a virtual setup.
  • Keep participants unmuted when possible to maintain an engaging atmosphere.

The Pictionary icebreaker activity fosters enthusiasm, laughter, and collective experiences among unfamiliar groups, transforming them into more cohesive units.

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Benefits of Pictionary

  • Fosters Communication Skills: Pictionary requires players to articulate their ideas without spoken language, promoting clear visual communication and observation.
  • Encourages Active Listening: Participants must pay close attention to their teammates’ suggestions and interpret them accurately, building better listening abilities.
  • Breaks Down Barriers: Engaging in a fun, lighthearted activity like Pictionary helps participants relax, allowing them to form connections more easily.
  • Boosts Collaboration: The game encourages teamwork as individuals cooperate to decipher the drawings and solve clues together.
  • Enhances Creativity: By challenging players to represent various concepts visually, Pictionary promotes creative thinking and problem-solving skills.
  • Reinforces Learning: Drawing and guessing words can help with vocabulary retention and recall, making it a useful educational tool.
  • Increases Energy Levels: The dynamic nature of the game energizes participants, helping them stay engaged and focused during workshops or conferences.
  • Cultivates Empathy: Observing others’ unique drawing styles and interpretations can foster understanding and appreciation for diverse perspectives.
  • Promotes Problem Solving: Encouraging players to think critically and find creative solutions when guessing words enhances their cognitive abilities.
  • Provides a Shared Experience: Participants collectively create memories and associations through the game, building rapport and strengthening group dynamics.

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Skills built with Pictionary

  • Communication Skills: Playing Pictionary requires clear visual communication, as the drawer cannot use verbal cues or gestures to help their team guess the word. This encourages participants to think creatively about how best to represent concepts without language.

  • Collaboration and Teamwork: As each team takes turns drawing and guessing, Pictionary fosters a sense of interdependence and shared success. Members must work together, build on each other’s ideas, and trust their teammates’ abilities for accurate guesses.

  • Active Listening: The game emphasizes active listening since participants need to pay close attention to the drawings and their teammates’ suggestions during guessing. This skill is vital in any group setting, promoting better understanding and reducing misunderstandings.

  • Non-verbal Cues Understanding: By drawing objects or ideas without verbal communication, Pictionary helps participants become more aware of non-verbal cues. They learn to recognize subtle visual hints, which can be beneficial in personal interactions beyond the game.

  • Patience and Focus: With time limits on each round, players must remain focused and patient, waiting for their teammates’ ideas while refraining from giving verbal clues. This teaches participants self-control and resilience, particularly when faced with challenging words or drawings.

  • Creativity and Adaptability: Drawing spontaneously to depict various concepts pushes players to tap into their creative resources and think on their feet. This ability is crucial in problem-solving scenarios where quick thinking and adaptability are essential.

  • Building Confidence and Self-Expression: Pictionary encourages everyone to express themselves visually, regardless of artistic skill level. By doing so, participants can build confidence in their abilities, feel more comfortable expressing themselves, and discover new ways to communicate effectively.

  • Positive Social Interaction: Lastly, the friendly competition and collaborative nature of Pictionary contribute to a positive social atmosphere. The game encourages laughter, shared experiences, and connection among participants, making it an ideal icebreaker for various group settings.

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Why I like Pictionary

As someone who enjoys bringing people together and fostering positive interactions, I find the Pictionary icebreaker activity to be an excellent tool for achieving these goals. Here are a few reasons why I like it:

  1. Inclusive and engaging: Pictionary is an activity that can be easily adapted to various age groups, backgrounds, and contexts, making it highly inclusive. The combination of drawing and guessing keeps everyone engaged and actively participating, which I believe is crucial for a successful icebreaker.

  2. Non-verbal communication focus: By encouraging participants to draw without using verbal clues, letters, or numbers, Pictionary highlights the importance of non-verbal cues in communication. This aspect can lead to interesting discussions about how we interpret and respond to different forms of communication, further deepening connections among participants.

  3. Collaboration and teamwork: Since teams must work together to guess the drawn word or phrase within a time limit, Pictionary fosters collaboration and cooperation. Team members learn to build on each other’s ideas, listen actively, and support one another—skills that are valuable in both personal and professional settings.

  4. Energetic and entertaining: The fast-paced nature of the game, coupled with the creative drawings and often humorous guesses, generates a lively atmosphere filled with laughter and excitement. This energy can help break down barriers between participants, making it easier for them to form connections and build relationships.

  5. Easy to organize: With just a few materials and simple rules, Pictionary is relatively straightforward to set up and conduct. The flexible structure allows facilitators to tailor the game to their group’s specific needs, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

  6. Post-activity reflection: I appreciate that Pictionary concludes with a debriefing session, where participants can share their experiences, discuss their learnings, and further reflect on the importance of clear communication and collaboration. This thoughtful closure helps reinforce the connections formed during the activity and ensures that participants walk away with positive memories and new insights about their team members.

In summary, I like the Pictionary icebreaker for its inclusivity, focus on non-verbal communication, promotion of collaboration, high energy level, ease of organization, and opportunities for reflection. By employing this activity in various settings, I have witnessed firsthand how it can transform unfamiliar groups into more cohesive units, ultimately making it an invaluable tool in my arsenal of icebreakers.

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Tips for making Pictionary more inclusive

  • Tip: Choose Inclusive Words and Phrases Make sure the words and phrases on your Pictionary cards are diverse, culturally sensitive, and relatable to all participants. Avoid using terms that may be offensive or unfamiliar to some individuals.

  • Tip: Mix Up Teams Dynamically Instead of having fixed teams, consider creating new teams for each round by randomly selecting members from the larger group. This approach will help ensure everyone interacts with different people throughout the activity.

  • Tip: Offer Accessibility Accommodations If any participant has visual impairments or difficulties drawing, provide alternative ways to engage in the activity, like describing the drawings verbally or using tactile objects.

  • Tip: Use Simple and Clear Instructions Make sure your instructions are easy to understand for all participants, regardless of their language proficiency or cognitive abilities. Speak slowly and clearly, and consider offering written instructions in multiple languages if necessary.

  • Tip: Encourage Participation from Everyone Actively invite quieter participants to contribute ideas and take turns drawing. Ensure that no one dominates the activity, and remind everyone of the importance of active listening and respecting others’ contributions.

  • Tip: Adapt the Activity for Different Ages and Abilities If your group consists of people with varying ages or abilities, adjust the difficulty level of the words and phrases accordingly. Provide simpler options for younger participants or those who might struggle with more complex concepts.

  • Tip: Emphasize Fun Over Competition While keeping score can add excitement to the game, it’s essential to prioritize a positive and inclusive atmosphere over competition. Encourage everyone to enjoy themselves, learn from each other, and build connections during the activity.

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Reflection questions for Pictionary

  1. What was your favorite moment during the Pictionary icebreaker activity? Understanding what participants enjoyed most can help you plan future activities that cater to their preferences.
  2. Did you discover any hidden talents or interests through drawing or guessing? This question encourages self-awareness and acknowledges unique skills or hobbies that emerged during the game.
  3. How did communication within your team change throughout the activity? By reflecting on their communication, participants might recognize improvements in their ability to interpret non-verbal cues and work collaboratively.
  4. What challenges did you face while trying to guess or draw the words? Identifying obstacles can lead to valuable insights about individual and team strengths and weaknesses in communication and problem-solving.
  5. How does this experience relate to real-life situations where clear communication is essential? Connecting the game to real-world scenarios helps participants recognize the relevance of effective non-verbal communication and collaboration in various aspects of life.
  6. What did you learn about your teammates through this activity? Reflecting on newfound understanding about others promotes empathy, respect, and appreciation for diversity within the group.
  7. How will you approach similar tasks or challenges differently in the future based on what you learned today? This question encourages participants to apply lessons learned from the Pictionary icebreaker activity to other contexts, enhancing their interpersonal skills and adaptability.

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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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