If you've ever been stuck waiting in a doctor's office where they have nothing but baby picture books, or in a long line of cars waiting for an overturned transport truck to be moved, you've probably already discovered that word games for kids can be a lifesaver. But there's another benefit too: Playing around with words can help keep up those reading skills that tend to slide during the summer. The good thing about most of these games is that they can be played co-operatively — they're more about having fun than winning — and when there is competition, kids can sometimes beat the adults.Photo: iStock
Start with A and work your way through the alphabet using an adjective beginning with a different letter each time. For example, the first person might say "The Prime Minister's cat is an angry cat," and the second person would respond, "The Prime Minister's cat is a beautiful cat." See how far you can get.Photo: iStock
We often play this using colours with young kids, but with those who can read you can make it more challenging. How about "I spy, with my little eye, something that ends in L." Or "I spy, with my little eye, something that has a double letter in the middle."Photo: iStock
Another alphabet game, this one also tests your child's memory skills. The first person says: "My Aunt Annie went on a holiday and brought back [something]." The next person says: "My Aunt Annie went on a holiday and brought back an apple and a brick." And so on.Photo: iStock
Pick a topic or a "scene" (for example, two teachers supervising the kids at recess) and start acting it out with each person taking a turn to say a line. The catch: Each person has to ask a question. For example: The first person says, "When is recess over?" The second person says: "Why do you want to know?" The first says: "Do I have time to go to the bathroom?" and so on.
A variation on this is to pick a number and allow only sentences with that number of words, rather than questions. So if the number is 3, A might say, "Recess over soon?" and B might reply, "Check your watch."
Nicole Gardner's six-year-old son, Richie, loves to join in with what the Gardner family calls the Alphabet Game. "One person says: I'm thinking of something — naming the category, like animals or food — that begins with the letter A," says Gardner. Then everyone guesses. Categories can be anything: countries of the world, animals, boys'/girls' names, things you eat, body parts, places in Canada and so on, but I think animals is the hands-down favourite category. Gardner says Richie is still proud of being able to stump Grammy and Grampa when he chose "ibis" as his "animal beginning with I" during one round of the Alphabet Game.Photo: iStock
Have each child write their name, one letter per line, down the left-hand side of the paper. Then use each letter as the initial letter of an adjective or phrase to describe them. Alternatively, the letters can become the initial letters of words in a sentence. So Daniel might write: daring, adventurous, nice, intelligent, extra-strong, likes spaghetti in the first version, or Daring anything new, I eagerly leap.Photo: iStock
The first person starts off by writing down a word of between three and six letters. The next person tries to change one letter to make a new word. The next person (or the first person again) tries to change one letter to make a different word, and so on until no more words can be made. For example: games, gates, mates, mites.Photo: iStock
While on a road trip, give each child a piece of paper, and have them write down the letters only from, for example, five licence plates they see around them. They have to then use those letters in order, as the first letters of the words in a short (and ideally funny) phrase or sentence. For example, if the licence is AAYC 665, you write down AAYC and the phrase you could get might be: alligators avoid yellow cars.Photo: iStock
Not good for rural highway driving, but if you are trekking through some small towns, assign a child (or a team) to each side of the car and have them look for pubs (or, in some cases, restaurants) and call out the names as they read them. They get points for the number of legs the people or animals in the title would have. For example, a pub called The Coach and Four scores a whopping 16 points (four horses, each with four legs), but Shakespeare's Inn only gets two.Photo: iStock