12 Games To Play While You Wait

Sitting in traffic or standing in line, these simple games will help pass the time.

By Jennifer Ching

for the car
Long drives or stop-and-go traffic may test your grandchilden's patience in the car. Engage the kids in these fun games and make time fly.

Waving competition
Here's a silly, social way to beat the traffic blues. Challenge the kids to find out who can get the passengers in other cars to wave back to them. They'll smile sweetly, make funny faces, gesture frantically, and the best part is they don't have to make any noise doing it. Of course, there are sure to be giggles and cheers after each returned wave.

Highway alphabet game
Play this game together as a team. When you start your journey, the team is looking for a word beginning with the letter A. Have the kids scan billboards, road signs, bumper stickers, and storefronts to find the word. After you find a word beginning with A, move on to the letter B, and continue through the alphabet. The longer it takes to get to Z, the fewer times you'll hear "Are we there yet?" 

Ghost
Form a chain of letters to create a word in this thinking game for kids who like spelling. Players take turns adding letters. For example, the first player might say, "T"; the second player could say "I." Play continues with each person adding one letter to the chain. Tell the backseat gang to avoid being the person who adds the last letter and forms a word. The player who completes a word loses the round. However, players must have a word in mind as they add a letter; other players can challenge them if they think there is no word that begins with the current chain. Read the full rules

Sing together
Kids love to sing, and the car is a great place to take advantage of this because you don't have to worry about disturbing anyone. Slip in a CD of songs they know by heart and sing along, or belt out a fun song like "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" and give each one a chance to pick an animal to sing about when the line comes up," ... and on this farm he had a ____ ... "

for waiting around
Entertain their young minds with these games they can play anywhere at anytime.

I'm going on a picnic

The beauty of this game is that there are so many ways to play it. The first player says the phrase, "I'm going on a picnic and I am bringing ______." The next player repeats what the first person is bringing and adds an item beginning with the next letter of the alphabet. Players are out when they miss naming an item in the picnic basket. 

A fun way to play is for the originating player to establish a rule about what other players can bring to the picnic — without telling the others. The originating player says the phrase with an example of an item that meets the rule. To figure out the rule, the other players ask if they can bring items to the picnic. They might say, "Can I bring a zebra to the picnic?" and the first player says yes or no, based on the secret rule. Examples of picnic rules are: items that begin with the letter B, round items, items that have two syllables, items that end in vowels, items that begin with the same letter as the player's first name, and anything else you can think of.

20 questions

Pass the time playing this classic game; its simplicity and adaptability make it appeal to almost any group. One player thinks of a person, place, or thing that all the players know. The remaining players ask questions to discover what the first player is thinking. The beginning player must answer all questions with yes or no. For example: "Does she have blonde hair?" or "Is it bigger than a toaster?" Players have 20 questions to guess correctly or the first player successfully stumps them. Read the full rules

Two truths and one lie
Grandkids will delight in discovering tidbits about grandma or grandpa’s past in this simple guessing game. As the name denotes, players take turns telling two truths and one lie, while the other players try to distinguish the falsehood. It’s a great way to share stories from your life with your grandchildren, and they may surprise you by revealing unexpected facts about their personalities and interests. Read the full rules

I spy
The phrase “I spy with my little eye, something ___” was coined in the early 20th century, and the game has become widely popular, even generating riddle books. Provide an adjective about what you see and watch as the other players attempt to find it. Try to make the clue as murky as possible in order to challenge your opponents. Read the full rules

for sitting patiently
Whether you are waiting for food at a restaurant or sitting in a doctor's office, all you need is a pen and a sheet of scrap paper to have fun with these activities.

Exquisite corpse
It’s impossible to predict what sorts of wacky creatures you’ll end up with in this zany game of mixing and matching. Three players are needed for this game. Take a sheet of paper and fold it into thirds. Each person picks a panel. The first person draws the head of an animal or person on the uppermost panel, the second draws a torso, and the last draws the hindquarters. After the last person has finished drawing, unfold the panels and discover your collective creation. You can even make up a story about this creature. Hilarity may ensue.

Dots (Capture the squares)
This game of strategy will keep your grandchildren occupied and thinking. The object of the game is for them to connect dots to get as many squares as possible and put their initials in each square they complete. Draw a grid of dots, 10 by 10 is a good size, spacing dots a half inch apart. Take turns drawing either a vertical or horizontal line between dots. Watch as the grid becomes one of lines, then squares. The person who has just completed a square gets to draw again. When all the dots have become squares, count the initialed boxes. Whoever has the most is the winner. Read the full rules

Hangman
This classic game of wordplay lets your grandchildren wield the power of the pen as they think of a word or phrase, then draw lines that correspond to the number of letters in the word(s), as well as an empty gallows frame. The other players try to guess what the word is, one letter at a time. If they guess a wrong letter, the first player draws a body part in the gallows. Limb by limb, the victim is constructed with each incorrect guess. Adjust the level of difficulty to suit any age. Read the full rules

Remember what you see
Participants pit their observation skills against one another in this memory game. Choose a direction in which the kids should stare for 30 seconds, then have them turn around and write a list of the names of everything they remember seeing in that direction, the more detailed the better. The player with the longest list wins. Strangers may wonder at the furious scribbling going on, but tell the kids to pay them no attention as they need to focus intently to win.

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