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Volunteering at Scouts is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing to help us reach more young people

Volunteering is changing at Scouts. Read more

Discover what this means

Break the ice

Stay cool as we learn how to stay safe in cold and icy waters.

Back to Activities

You’ll need

  • Bowls
  • Tables
  • Access to water
  • Something to mark lines (for example, chalk, masking tape, or rope)
  • Ice, or suitable alternative
  • Towels and blankets
  • Plastic building blocks, like Lego
  • A pretend buoyancy aid (for example, a football)

Before you begin

  • Anyone leading this activity needs to read through the Royal Life Saving Society’s winter water safety advice before running the activity.
  • Before getting stuck into this activity, you could book a visit from the RNLI to learn about water safety
  • Set up two tables next to each other, with some of the plastic building blocks on one and two large bowls of cold water and ice on the other. Put the remaining plastic building blocks in the ice water. Place towels and blankets close to hand.
  • Mark out a pretend lake on the other side of the activity space to the tables. You could do this with some chalk, cones, tape or with a sheet of tarpaulin.
  • Larger groups may wish to run this activity in bases, with more than one pair of tables (as above) and more than one pretend icy lake. If you’re doing this, make sure you have enough leaders who are familiar with the RLSS advice (linked above).

Run the activity

  1. Double-check that everyone can handle ice cubes safely. Cold can affect some medical conditions, so use cubes of jelly or another alternative if this is the case.
  2. Split the group in half. One team should stand by the table with the building blocks and the other should stand by the table with the bowls of ice water.
  3. The team with the blocks has 20 seconds to build a simple structure from their blocks.
  4. The team with the bowls now has to try and build the same structure from their own blocks, which are in the ice water and must be fitted together to make the same shape. See how long it takes them to do this.

The person leading the activity should watch closely to make sure no-one submerges any part of their body in ice water for longer than 15-20 seconds. If there’s time, the teams could swap over, so the other team can see what it’s like.

  1. The team who had to put their hands in the icy water should dry their hands and warm them with towels and blankets. See what this team thought about the challenge, and how hard they think it’d be to submerge their whole body in icy water.
  2. Everyone should now gather around the pretend icy lake. One of the leaders should stand in the middle of the lake and pretend to be in need of rescue.
  3. The person leading the activity should ask the group why rescuing someone from water, particularly very cold water, can be dangerous.
  4. Between them, the leaders should demonstrate a step-by-step rescue from the ice, with the aftercare steps needed, as outlined in the RLSS guidance.
  5.  Now, everyone should discuss how to keep pets safe around the ice, and what to do if an animal is in trouble. Leaders can use the RLSS guidance to demonstrate this too.
  6. Everyone should get into small groups with a leader and practise both scenarios around the pretend lake.


It’s against our nature to ignore someone who’s in distress. The trouble is, how can you save someone from a dangerous situation without endangering yourself? The ice in the bowls in this activity gave the groups some idea of what hands that have been in very cold water feel like. How might this make it difficult to help someone in distress? Why should you not rescue a pet in the same way as you’d rescue a human? Remember that the first thing to do in either scenario is call for help.


All activities must be safely managed. You must complete a thorough risk assessment and take appropriate steps to reduce risk. Use the safety checklist to help you plan and risk assess your activity. Always get approval for the activity, and have suitable supervision and an InTouch process.

Active games

The game area should be free of hazards. Explain the rules of the game clearly and have a clear way to communicate that the game must stop when needed. Take a look at our guidance on running active games safely.

Snow and ice

Be careful when activities involve snow and ice. Check surfaces and reduce the risk of slipping where possible. Have appropriate supervision for this activity.

Water games and activities

Be careful when doing activities with, in, or near water. Check surfaces and reduce the risk of slipping where possible. Make sure you have appropriate supervision for this activity.

Blindfold the team copying the structure of building blocks, so that they have to construct it from feeling the shape with cold fingers. Allow some more time for this version, which would simulate the issues with working in low-visibility conditions.

Bear in mind that some young people and volunteers may have suffered traumatic experiences related to water. Provide alternatives for young people to show they understand the steps, other than taking part in the role-play, and don't make anyone do something they’d rather not do.

All Scout activities should be inclusive and accessible.

Those taking part may be interested in going for their Royal Lifesaving Society UK (RLSS UK) Rookie Lifeguard Gold Level 1 Award and/or their RLSS UK Survive and Save Silver Medallion Award.

Any Young Leaders with lifeguard training or experienced swimmers are ideal for leading this activity.