Don’t Break the Ice!

“Don’t Break the Ice” is a popular children’s game that has been around since the sixties. The game can be used as an “ice breaker” and included as an activity in the playroom. Children ages 3 and older will enjoy this game. The game includes 32 small “ice blocks” and one large “ice block.” The blocks fit tightly into a frame. Players take turns knocking the blocks out with a mallet, trying to avoid letting the Polar Bear fall through.

Just like checker play, the child’s approach to playing this competitive game can provide useful diagnostic information. Children with low self-esteem may be hesitant to play, or sore losers. Children with low frustration or anxiety may demonstrate increased agitation as more blocks are knocked out and it gets closer to the skater falling. Just as when playing Checkers, playing Don’t Break the Ice can also serve as a vehicle to communicate interest, concern and affection to a client.

“Don’t Break the Ice” can be played in a session, following the rules of the game. Just like ther types of game play, this facilitates engagement and building rapport with a client. Kenney-Noziska (Kenney-Noziska, Sueanne, 2008; Techniques-Techniques-Techniques: Play-Based Activities for Children, Adolescents, & Families. West Coshohocken, PA; Infinity Publishing) adds a strategy that facilitates engagement, helps establish the therapeutic relationship, and assists client and therapist getting acquainted. Colored stickers are attached to the underside of the blocks. Each color corresponds to a question:

• Blue – Talk about something I like
• Red – Talk about something I don’t like
• Green – Say something about myself, family, or friends
• Yellow– Ask another player a question
• Smiley Face – Choice (or therapist may provide a treat or prize)

There is also the object of playing the “Large Block” version of the game. Game may end when this block drops, four stickers may be placed inside, or if you have extra small cubes the large cube can be replaced.

A third way of using “Don’t Break the Ice” involves adding feelings words to each of the stickers. When one or more of the blocks falls, participants can talk about when they’ve had the feeling identified on the sticker in one of the blocks.

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