Break the ice

Uncover the fun story behind "Break the ice" and how it's used to start conversations and friendships in English.


Ever heard someone say they want to “break the ice” and wondered how this chilly phrase could warm up your child’s social skills? Well, grab your icebreakers, because we’re about to melt down this idiom into bite-sized fun your kids will love!

What does “Break the ice” mean?

Nope, we’re not talking winter sports or smashing frozen ponds here! When someone wants to “break the ice,” they aim to get a conversation started or make a tense situation more relaxed. It’s like a friendly nudge to get people talking.

So if your kiddo is going to a new school or meeting new friends, you can suggest, “Why don’t you break the ice by asking about their favorite games?”

Where does “Break the ice” come from?

This phrase sailed into the English language way back in 1579, thanks to Sir Thomas North. He used it in his translation of Plutarch’s “Parallel Lives”, a collection of biographies that talked about pioneering efforts, like being the first to start a project, a voyage, or even an empire! Picture the phrase as the first person bravely stepping on a frozen pond, making it easier for everyone else to follow.

But wait, there’s more!

By the 1600s, “break the ice” got a social makeover. Samuel Butler used it in his poem “Hudibras” to describe easing into conversation. Fast forward, and by the time Mark Twain was penning “Life on Mississippi” in 1883, icebreakers weren’t just ships plowing through polar seas but also people making new friends at gatherings.

So next time you’re looking to warm up a room, remember, you’re part of a centuries-old tradition of ice-breaking. Whether it’s a smile, a joke, or a friendly chat, you’re navigating through social glaciers, making everything a bit cozier for everyone.

How to use “Break the ice”

Ready to crack this open? Here are some example sentences your child can slide into conversations:

  • “I broke the ice at my new school by sharing my crayons."
  • "To break the ice, I told a funny joke and everyone laughed!"
  • "Mom, can we bring cookies to the party to help break the ice?”

Other cool ways to say “Let’s get talking”

Need a bit more flavor? Let’s serve up some alternatives:

  • Make the first move - Just like a chess game, sometimes you have to go first.
  • Open up - No locked doors here, just starting conversations.
  • Set the ball rolling - Kickstart a situation just like a rolling ball!

Fun ways to practice “Break the ice”

Why not host a mini-social event for stuffed animals where each one has to ‘break the ice’ by introducing themselves? Or during family game night, let your child be the one to explain the rules to everyone as a way to ‘break the ice.‘

So there it is, the phrase “break the ice” is a fantastic idiom to make your child’s social interactions smoother than a freshly Zamboni-ed ice rink!

Ready to break some ice?