Sanity savers: 14 ways to entertain an antsy kid

Little ones squirrelly at the checkout? If you need some good old "waiting games," try these boredom blasters

Photo: Katrina Wittkamp/Getty Images

Keep this list of on-the-go activities handy to reference while waiting in long lines or doctor’s offices.

Magic finger
Hold the tips of your index fingers together, about 10 cm in front of your eyes. First, focus on your fingers, then look just beyond them. Where did that freaky third finger come from?

Mind games
Focus on an object, such as a painting, about 6 m away. Close one eye and hold up one finger in front of the object. Close that eye and open your other one. Did the painting move?

Handy trick
Find letters, numbers and shapes in the lines of each other’s palms.

I spell with my little eye
One player says a word. The other has to find objects around them that use each letter in the word. (In the grocery checkout, you might spell CAT: carrots, avocados, tomatoes.)

Act it out
À la Vanity Fair’s “In Character” column, take turns reacting to a scenario: Your kite just got stuck in a tree. A dog ate the hamburger out of your hand. Let your face do the talking.

Math mimic
Count to 10 in silly voices – like a clown or robot.

Band practice
Choose a tune and “play it” by snapping fingers, tapping toes or humming.

Mirror image
Face each other in a pat-a-cake stance, with palms not quite touching. One person slowly moves her hands (up, down, sideways, in different directions) and the other tries to mimic the movements. Bonus: This has a calming effect.

Strike the tree pose
Put your hands together in prayer style, slide one foot up your opposite leg and press the sole into your inner shin or thigh, with your knee pointed out to the side. See who can balance the longest.

Body rhythm
How many sounds can you make with your body? (Be prepared for at least one armpit fart!)

BRAIN TEASERS (more advanced for older kids)
Count on me

Take turns counting by twos, threes, 10s…and see how far you can go without making a mistake. Pick up the pace as you go.

Word builder
One person picks a letter (like M), the next person thinks of a letter that would lead to a word (O). Continue until a word is built.

Riddle me this
Choose a fruit or animal and give clues: “I start with the letter A. You like to eat me in pies. You picked a whole bunch of me at the farm last autumn.”

Zoo-phabet
Take turns naming an animal that starts with each letter of the alphabet. (Stuck on U? Try umbrella bird.)

Get more ideas with our 20 fun indoor games >