Creative, easy games to keep your family entertained in the car, on a plane, in a line... and anywhere else kids get bored.
Standing in lines, long road trips, dinners where no one can think of anything to say... There are numerous situations that call for games that will bring the family together without requiring a board, cards, lots of plastic pieces and other bells and whistles (sometimes literally.) So we’ve pulled together the games our family plays when we’re in need of boredom-eradicators, creativity-stimulator,s or family-bond-enhancers.
Feel free to adapt these games as you wish, based on the unique ages and interests of your family.
This is a great game for humans of any age (at least those old enough to string a sentence together) that enjoy stories. To play, one person starts the story. For example, “One day, Pikachu decided he wanted to learn how to swim. He called his friend Squirtle who agreed to teach him and together they headed to a secret beach they had found on one of their long walks. But little did they know that a pirate ship was heading to the same beach...” And then, the next person takes a turn, adding a few lines to the tale. You continue until the story comes to a natural conclusion.
Would You Rather...
While all ages can appreciate this game, it’s especially fun for little ones, as they get to be super silly. To play, one person thinks up two scenarios that are somewhat equal in absurdity, and the others have to decide which one they would rather do. For example...
“Would you rather slip in a puddle of boogers, or swim in a pool of pee?” (This is a real one our son came up with up. I chose the puddle of boogers.)
“Would you rather run a full marathon, or have to give up sweets for the rest of your life?”
“Would you rather be given a spaceship that can go anywhere in the galaxy, or a time machine?”
This game is a wonderful choice if you want to avoid hurt feelings, as there’s no winners or losers.
This is the picture version of the Story Building game, and only requires paper and a drawing utensil. To begin, one person draws something on the paper, like a square and a cloud, for example. Then the next person adds on to the drawing. You continue until you have a scene you all agree is complete. This can result in fun family keepsakes that can be displayed as a framed collage.
Ever find yourself watching people in passing cars and making up stories about where they’re going, or what they’re saying to one another? We do. So much so that we’ve made a game of it. Whether we’re in the car, at the airport, or standing in line at an amusement park, we take turns choosing strangers as the inspiration for our stories (strangers that are far enough away to not overhear us!) We then give them names and brainstorm about the wild adventure they're on, pretend they’re spies, create a fictional argument between them, or spin any other tale we find funny or intriguing.
Two Truths and a Fib
Most kids adore the chance to tell a lie that won’t get them in trouble, which is why most also adore this game. To play, one person thinks up two things about themself that are true, and one thing that is a fib. For example, “I’m the fastest runner in my class (true), I’ve never seen the LEGO Movie (fib), and I like to dip my French fries in a chocolate malt (true.)"
The trick is to create two truths that are pretty wild, and a fib that is in sync with them, or mild truths that are accompanied by a mild fib, as you want the others to guess the fib. For really young children, have an adult help them create their two truths and a fib.
It Could be Worse...
This is an ideal game for bringing levity to challenging situations, especially during travel. So let’s say you’ve just missed your flight, and now have to sit in the airport for eight hours. As you sit with your group, each person takes a turn creating scenarios that would make the situation worse.
For example, “It could be worse... As we were running to our gate David could have snagged his pants on a piece of luggage that pulled his pants down and exposed his butt to everyone in the crowded terminal.” Or, “It could be worse... Aliens could have attacked the airport right when we got here, and sprayed fart gas everywhere.” (Another one our son thought up.) This is a fun way to help you feel better about a bad situation, because hey, it could be worse.
Secret Handshake Creation
Who doesn’t love a secret handshake? Especially when you make it with your nearest and dearest. So when you hear the kids proclaim that they’re sooo booooored, pull out the claps, snaps, spins and jazz hands to craft your one-of-a-kind family handshake. To amp up the fun, come up with a rhyme to go with it.
Animal, Vegetable, Mineral
To play this classic, one person secretly thinks of something that is an animal, vegetable or mineral. (A good way to describe “mineral” to kids is, “Something that comes from the Earth that’s never been alive.”) Next, that person tells the group whether what they’re thinking of is an animal, vegetable or mineral. Each player then takes turns asking the answer-er yes or no questions until someone guesses the correct animal, vegetable or mineral.
For this one, grab a piece of paper, and tear off three strips for each person who is playing. Then have every player secretly write the names of famous people or characters everyone in the group will know on the slips of paper – one name for each piece of paper. For kids, writing characters like Mickey Mouse, Sponge Bob, or folks from other shows, books or movies they’re into will ensure they can play. It’s unlikely they’ll be able to give clues for Charlton Heston... Next, fold all the papers in half, place them in a hat (or mix them up on a flat service) and have everyone select a paper, without looking at the name.
Now, everyone holds the paper on their forehead so everyone but the person holding the paper can see the name on their head. Finally, going in a circle, players take turns asking one yes or no question about his or her person. For example, “Am I a man or woman?” You keep taking turns until someone correctly guesses their name - when they do, that person is the winner (if you want it to be a game with a winner), but we like to continue the game until everyone has guessed their celebrity.
Tip: If you’re playing with kids who can’t read, have an adult help them write their three celebrity names and read the names of the others, so they can also give answers to the questions.
This is one of our favorite games when we have a family member feeling stressed. It is especially helpful during turbulence on an airplane.
To play, one person thinks of a word, or short sentence, and traces the letters on the other person’s back or hand. If you’re going to write a sentence, think of a symbol that represents a space - we like to use a horizontal line. If you are playing with a child who can’t spell, let them draw their message.
I Went to Market...
In this memory game the first player says, “I went to market and bought [insert market item here.]” For example, “I went to market and bought cookie dough.” The next person would then repeat the item the first person said, and add his or her own. Like... “I went to market and bought cookie dough and apples.” You keep going around in a circle with each person adding something new to the list. If someone forgets an item, they’re out, and you go on to the next person. At my son’s school, they do this game as a song, which is a fun option for musical families.
The version of this game we find most enjoyable is one where you give the first letter of the two words that describe what the clue-giver has spied. For example, if you want your family to guess “cloudy sky,” you would say, “I spy, with my big ole eyes, something that begins with C. S.” Your people can then ask yes or no questions until they land on the correct answer. If you’re playing with little ones that can’t spell, you can play the old school “I spy something that is [insert color here.]”