Summer is here -- that wonderful season when we take our kids on trips to enjoy nature and some relaxed family time together. Of course, whether it is the cottage, a camp site, or a resort, we have to get there first and that’s not always easy. Whether driving in the car, waiting for a bus, or waiting at the airport, having something to do with the kids can be a lifesaver! What our family loves to do is to play games. I have assembled here some of our favorite games. The first two are car games, but the rest can work anywhere. Enjoy!
Travel Alphabet: Travel Alphabet is a simple, cooperative car game in which everyone works together to find an object outside that starts with each letter of the alphabet (difficult letters like Q, X, and Z can be omitted). For example, for A, “air,” “airplane,” or “animals” are some possibilities. I like that this game encourages the children to look out of the window and to see the scenery (of course this game doesn’t work at night, but by dark, hopefully, the kids are asleep).
Silly License Sentences: This game starts with the first player challenging the next player to come up with a sentence using the words that start with the letters on a license plate -- in order! So if the license plate was AKPA 569, you might come up with, “All kangaroos play around.” The sentences can be extremely silly but must be grammatically correct.
Hum That Tune: Can you guess the mystery song? The first player hums a section of a song for the other players to guess (it must be a song that the other players have heard). The next player can either be the one who guessed correctly or the next player in order from youngest to oldest.
Alpha and Omega (or First and Last): This is a word chain game where the next player must make a word that starts with the last letter of the previous word. Players alternate calling out unique words (that have not been said in the game so far) that start with the last letter of the previous word. This is usually played with some restriction of subjects (for instance fruits, mammals, birds, etc.). Usually no proper nouns are allowed (names) unless it is specifically tied to the subject as it is in Geography. It is called Geography when cities, towns, countries or provinces are the allowed words.
Crambo: Crambo is a fun game in which a person thinks of a word and the others have to guess which word it is. It utilizes rhyming, expands the vocabulary and pushes one to think of riddles. All players participate all the time. The player who begins the game thinks of a word that belongs to a large rhyming family (a word with many rhymes), like “mat,” and gives the others a clue by giving a rhyming clue, such as, “I am thinking of a word that rhymes with cat”. The other players try and guess the word indirectly by giving a short, descriptive riddle as their guess. For instance, if a player wants to guess “rat,” she might say, “Is it a small animal with a long tail?” The first player must then guess what rhyming word the challenger is alluding to in their riddle and must answer it, i.e., “No, it is not a rat.” A player can win by guessing the word or by posing a riddle that the first player cannot figure out (it must be a riddle that gives a good description of the word, as decided by the rest of the players). If all the players give up and cannot guess the word, then the first player wins. The winner gets to start the next game. We also play this game with kids smaller than 7 by having an older player give them a little help.
Ghost: Ghost is one of our favourite word games and we often play it on a long trip (the only danger is that I have sometimes gotten so involved that I missed my exit on the highway!) Players alternate calling out letters that could make up a word and the goal is to try and not be the one who calls out a letter that finishes a word, with a minimum of three letters. If you see no way out, you can fake it and call out a letter even if you have no idea if it could lead to a word. At any time, a player can challenge any other player and then they must say what word they were thinking of that the string of letters could make. If they have a word, then the challenger loses. If they do not have a word, then they lose that round. Each time a player loses, they get one letter in the word, “Ghost.” When a player gets the word Ghost (loses 5 rounds), then they are out of the game. At that point, the players might finish the game. The order of first-to-last place is decided on by whoever lost the least number of rounds or they can continue playing until all players but one are “out.” In this game, all words are allowed (not only nouns), except proper nouns (people’s names, place names, etc.). An example with three players: (player 1), “L;” (player 2), “I;” (player 3), “V.” Player 1 realizes that by saying “E,” she would be out of the game and then thinks of the word “LIVING” and says, “I”; player 2 realizes that he is stuck, so he accepts the point and gets a G (first letter of ghost). Variations are:
Advanced ghost: Letters can be added on either side of the word. This makes the game quite a bit more challenging and is a good game for great spellers.
Reverse Ghost: This game reverses the object of “Ghost” which is to conclude with the shortest word possible. The round in “Reverse Ghost” does not end with the first word made if a longer word can be achieved. For example, if “c,” “a,” “t” has been called out to spell “cat”, the game continues with the next player realizing that they can call out “a” to make the word “catalogue.”
Preacher’s Cat: This is another fun game where kids get to practice matching adjectives and names while travelling through the alphabet. Each child says, “The preachers cat is a/an __________ cat and his/her name is ____________” with an adjective in the first blank spot and a proper name in the second, both starting with the same letter of the alphabet. The first player starts with “A”. For example, the player could say, “The preacher’s cat is an awesome cat and her name is Angeline.” Play continues all the way through the alphabet, skipping X. Usually we play this just for fun. We have no winners or losers and help out a child who asks for help and is stuck.
Aaron Rosenthal is the owner of "Imagine and Learn" an online store dedicated to educational games. He is also a math and physics teacher and a homeschooling father of four.
By: Aaron Rosenthal
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