27 Low-Cost, High-Imagination Games
Get the kids to put up with long waits, share details about their days, do their chores, and―oh yes―have fun.
Games to Pass Time
The pediatrician is running behind schedule; the traffic to Grandma's is worse than you expected. Stave off the boredom and
the "Are we there yet?" sighs with imagination games.
Ages 8 and up
The first player says the name of a city, a state, or a country ("North Carolina"); the next person has to come up with one that begins with the last letter of that answer (A―"Argentina"). Rules: You can't use the same place twice, and the places have to be real. You're out if you can't come up with a new place. The last one standing wins.
Try it: After the kids have tired of checking for loose change in the airport lounge's pay phones.
I'm Thinking of an Animal
Ages 3 and up
One player says, "I'm thinking of an animal that...," and gives a clue ("...has fur"). The next person tries to guess what the animal is ("A bear?"). If the guess is wrong, the "it" person repeats the clue and gives an additional one. ("No, that's not the animal I'm thinking of. My animal has fur and whiskers.") And so on. The winner gets to be "it" next.
Try it: When you're trying to keep your son from behaving like a bear, a pig....
What Happens Next?
Ages 4 and up
Begin to tell a story. Just as you reach a dramatic moment, say, "And then...." This will be your child's cue to continue. The next person, in turn, picks up where he left off. If your child is too young to develop a story on his own, ask leading questions. ("Do you think the cat ran away? Where do you think she went?") Once you agree on a plot direction, ask for more details. ("Who came with her?")
Try it: As you wait for dancing popcorn to hit the big screen.
Ages 5 and up
In this variation on What Happens Next?, someone starts a story with a sentence ("One day Sydney was on her way to the grocery store"). Other players, in turn, continue with a sentence about something bad that happens ("Unfortunately, a bird had an accident on Sydney's head"), then something good ("Fortunately, she was near a friend's house, so she ran in to wash her hair"), until the nonsensical story comes to a natural end.
Try it: In that lull between the arrival of your always-bored niece and the return of her parents.
Ages 3 and up
On your computer, make up grids of pictures of things your kids are likely to see from the car on a road trip (or find ready-made ones at momsminivan.com), then print them on index cards. Everyone gets a card. When someone spots something, he crosses out the picture. When a complete row of pictures is crossed out, the player calls "Bingo!" Tip: For younger kids, try smaller cards; for older kids with longer attention spans, try larger ones.
Try it: When you just can't handle the Wiggles CD.