We’ve all been there: whether you’re standing in line for a ski lift or waiting for breakfast, antsy kids are often whiny kids looking to start a fight with a sibling. As parents, we’re always looking for ways to keep everyone entertained (and sane). Here are 15 games you can play pretty much anywhere, requiring you to pack very little in your already over-flowing tote bag.
Say anything. A roll of tape and a clear mind is what it takes to play this silly game loved by parents and late night talk show hosts alike. The rules are simple: players say random words, back and forth until one of them blanks, pauses or repeats a word that’s already been said. Then it’s time to tack tape to their face before starting up again. If your kidlets can keep playing through the giggles, then everyone wins!
Oh captain, my captain. Argh, matey! Challenge your crew to follow the Captain’s Orders with this easy one-prop game. The only thing players need to know up front are the movements for each order. And once they’ve got those down, it’s time to play. Assign a captain to call out commands and then watch the zaniness ensue as mini mateys enthusiastically follow them. Hilarious to watch? Totally. But it’s even more fun to play!
photo: Personal Creations
Would you rather…? Would you rather have a pet monkey or a pet porcupine? Inquiring minds want to know! Ask your mini-me to answer this and other thought-provoking pairings when you play a few rounds of Would You Rather. All you need are a few good questions. The Family Dinner Project has a great list of kid-friendly ones you can pull up on your device, so you can dole out new questions as fast as your Little can answer them.
Freeze! Freeze dance is always a hit with the tot lot. All you need is a smartphone to stream music so your kidlets can play this familiar fave. Turn on the tunes and let them boogie-woogie until you press pause and they stop in their tracks, silly poses and all. Then it’s right back to it when the music turns on again. On again, off again: it’s almost too easy!
Connect the dots. Tic Tac Toe is so yesterday. The Dot Game is clearly today. And it’s one that can easily be re-created when you’re in a lurch. All you need is a paper and a pen to make a large scale dot grid. Then, you and your mini-me take turns connecting one dot to the next, trying to complete squares. When you do, don’t forget to claim your property with a big fat initial smack dab in the middle of the box.
Make a chain with your gang. Try this simple word game that keeps everyone thinking when you need a quick fix during down time. Have the first player say a word, any word will do. The next player picks up the chain and adds to it using the last letter of the previous word as a starting point. So if the first player picks “broccoli” the next word needs to start with an “i.” No accessories needed if you’re playing with two players. But be sure to grab a small ball to toss between players if it’s more than just you two trying to keep the train rolling.
Trace away! Cap your pen for this guessing game. To play, kiddos use their best writing finger to trace letters on someone’s back while they try to figure out what letter it is. Up the ante by adding in numbers to really stump the competition. Ready, set, draw!
Spell frightfully. Cast a captivating spell over your little goblins when you pull GHOST out of your bag of parent tricks. And with zero extras needed, it’s too easy not to give it a try. Here’s how it works: The first player says a letter, and each player that follows adds a letter to the original, keeping in mind the goal— to be the first to complete a word. For example, player one chooses “P,” and the next two players add an “L” and an “A.” The last player could add an “N” or a “Y” to finally form a word. Whoever completes it grabs a point, and the first one to score five wins.
photo: rekre89 via Flickr
Roll the dice. Add a little oomph to a typical Categories game by letting dice dictate the numbers. Simply choose a category your kiddo will totally know (think: animals, Disney characters, food) then roll the dice to see how many items they have to list for the chosen category. Before you know it, they’ll be on a roll!
Play “Who am I?” To play this game, you and your mini-me need to put on your thinking caps. Once they’re securely fastened, it’s time to play. Have the first player choose a well-known person (think: Moana, your school principal, or even grandma). Then everyone else tries to narrow down the list of suspects using “yes/no” questions until they’ve uncovered enough clues to wager a guess. If they get it right, they take over your spot. If not, everyone keeps on guessing.
photo: Dean Hochman via Flickr
Post-It note peek. Follow the lead of a classic street game when you play a kid-friendly version of the shell game. Pull three Post-It notes out of a drawer (or diaper bag, hint, hint), and stick a sticker on the back of one (or draw an “x”). Then mix ‘em up, round and round so nobody knows where the sticker goes. Keep your cutie guessing on this one!
Get moving! All you need for this one is a bit of space and a deck of cards. To play, assign a movement to each card suit. So, hearts could mean jump up and down, and spades could mean touch your toes. Once you’ve assigned an easy action to each suit, flip to it! Have your Little do the actions as you go through the deck. Speed it up or slow it down until he dissolves into giggles trying to keep up.
photo: Michael Smith via Flickr
One word: RoShamBo. Get your throwing hands ready, because this easy no-prop game is one you can pull out in a pinch no matter where you are. Whether your kidlet likes to play it fast or play it slow, she’s always trying to outthink her opponent. Play it in a series to add a little competition to the mix.
Don’t drop the balloon! This one’s a classic, and for good reason. It’s so easy to set up, and the Littles can’t seem to get enough. Play it like you did when you were a kid. Blow up a balloon, swat it toward your sidekick and then watch her bump, hit, and kick it with all her might as she tries to keep it from touching the ground. Keep it up!
photo: Peter Roberts via Flickr
Place a card… any card. You don’t have to binge watch episodes of House of Cards (although you can) to build one with your future engineer. Because the house you and your sidekick will construct isn’t a political one, it’s a bona fides house of cards and a great chance to exercise fine motor skills. Have your mini gently place and lean cards against each other as she constructs a building to reach to the sky. Now that’s one awesome abode!
What are your favorite quick and easy games to play with kids? Have you tried any of these? Tell us how it goes in a comment.