Fun, simple games to keep kids occupied at the restaurant, doctor's office, in the car, on rainy days and more
No fast food on this outing. Tonight you've taken your kids to a restaurant, made your selections from a menu you can actually hold in your hands and now you're waiting for the food to arrive. And waiting. And waiting.
Want to keep your restless, hungry children from becoming completely miserable? Melisande Neal, mom of four, always keeps a stash of pencils and paper in her purse for just these emergencies.
Start simple, advises Neal. When her kids were at the younger range of this age group, she taught them tic-tac-toe. As her children's skills increased, she added other, more challenging games. This list should give you some ideas the next time you're waiting at the dentist's office, in an airport, in the car...
Draw a grid on a piece of paper - a square filled with smaller squares. The number of squares can vary, depending on the attention span of your child. Down the left side, put some letters of the alphabet (for example, you could spell out a child's name: LISA). Across the top, write categories - for example, girls' names, boys' names, animals, colours, cars, places. You can make this harder or easier by changing the categories. Players take turns writing in words that fit the category and start with the letter in the left-hand column. (Next to the letter L, in this example, you might have Laura, Liam, lion, lavender, Lexus and Labrador.) Give extra points for words that nobody else thought of.
Click here for a printable Categories template in a PDF format.
For two players. Here's another popular game you can play without the official version. All you need is graph paper. Each player needs two grids. Label each grid by writing numbers across the top and letters down the side, so that the squares are easily identified as A8 or F5. One grid will be for locating your own ships, the other for recording shots against your opponent's ships. Each player places three or four "ships" on his grid, then let the guessing begin. The first person to sink all the other person's ships wins.
Click here for a printable Battleship template in a PDF format.
Most people know how to play the traditional version of Hangman. But what about kids who aren't yet master spellers?
Neal plays a variation suitable for pre-writers. "We play it like 20 Questions - I would think of something, and my son would have to think of yes-or-no questions to guess what it was," she says. "Each time he got a no answer, I'd add another part to the Hangman figure."
Click here for a printable Hangman template in a PDF format.
Dots and Squares
Begin by drawing a grid of dots on the paper. Using lined paper or graph paper can make this a little easier. The first person draws a line connecting two dots beside each other. The second player then draws another line to connect another two dots. The goal is to be the person who draws the last side of a square. Then you put your initials inside the square (or some other abbreviation to claim your square). In some versions of this game, if you complete a square you get another turn. The player with the most squares when all the squares are drawn is the winner.
Click here for a printable Dots and Squares template in a PDF format.