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Suggestions for Focusing Event/Ice Breakers

To promote group process and learning within the group, it helps to start training with "ice-breakers" or to integrate these into training. Some groups and group leaders are more comfortable with scripted activities such as those noted below; while others are more comfortable with sharing stories or discussing issues. Others use several.


Group members can share personal stories regarding their children or families. We have found that at least initially, it helps to suggest less personal or threatening topics, such as how different people deal with the eating preferences of their children. The reason for this is not that people will not share personal issues, but rather, that in an inner-city community where most people have no experience with group process, some will share very personal issues early on, and later, regret their openness. Almost invariably, more personal issues will arise along the way. These frequently include discipline, violence in the family, and alcohol and other drug use. We believe that there should be support available after the group finishes each day's session and after the training is complete. There almost always is at least one person who needs such support.


Select a current (short) article that relates to the topic to be discussed, e.g., family planning and/or birth control, family violence, child health, etc. Summarize the article to/for the group, pointing out relevant information or areas of interest. Ask for feedback from the group and allow the discussion to flow from their ideas and concerns.

Scripted Activities

Some people who have reviewed this work have suggested that some of these activities are not appropriate. We have used all with success. Remember, many of the people participating in this training have no experience whatsoever with training of any kind. Some live desperate and grim lives. These are fun for most. They may be a little goofy, but maybe we could all use a little of that too!

"Pass the Orange"

  1. divide group into two teams
  2. each team stands in a line
  3. an orange is placed under the first person's chin and is held there by dropping the chin towards the chest
  4. the orange is then passed from one person to another without using hands
  5. the teams compete to see which team can pass the orange to the end of the line first
  6. the members of the winning team receive some type of prize or privilege

"Musical Chairs"

  1. Set up enough chairs for all the members of the group.
  2. Start the music and remove one chair.
  3. While the music is playing the members of the group walk around the remaining chairs.
  4. When the music stops everybody sits down in a chair.
  5. The person who doesn't have a chair is out, and leaves the game.
  6. Continue to remove chairs until one person is left.
  7. The winner gets some type of prize or privilege

"Diaper the Baby" Set up two "changing stations" (desk, countertop or table). Each station needs a box of tissue, two cloth diapers, two safety pins, talcum powder and a baby doll or stuffed animal. Divide group into two teams. Each team competes against the clock to properly change, clean and diaper the doll or stuffed animal. Members of winning team receive some type of prize or privilege.

Have all group members and facilitators line up on one side of the room. As each persons name is randomly pulled out of a hat, that person must cross the room in a manner different than the others. So, if the first person simply walks, everyone that follows must get to the other end of the room differently, by skipping, running, or hopping, etc.

"Telephone game"

  1. Have everyone get into a circle
  2. Choose the person that will go first
  3. Have that person come up with a silly saying or short story
  4. Have the first person whisper the saying into the ear of the person next to them and so on
  5. Have the last person say it out load ñ you will be amazed at how much the story has changed by the time it reaches the last person.
  6. Briefly discuss how children are affected by gossip and the importance of teaching children to respect others.

Have everyone bring a printed copy of their favorite recipe to share and exchange with the group (it would be a nice idea for the facilitator to make copies to distribute to all members). Choose 2-3 of the recipes and demonstrate how each may be modified to decrease fat, cholesterol and calories. Include the modifications in the copies that are distributed.

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