Every parent dreads the moment when they look out of the window at a miserable wet scene. The children are bored, the rain’s not going to stop, and your partner’s taken the car. Somehow, you’ve got to get through the afternoon before the children wreck the place. Likewise, how do you keep the children occupied at the airport or on a train when there is no Wi-Fi? Time can pass very slowly for a bored child.
Back in the day, we used to play games with our parents all the time, but somehow, with the advent of the internet and games consoles, children no longer needed anyone else to play with their mum and dad. Some of the statistics about how long our children spend ‘gaming’ are quite disturbing so shouldn’t we be trying to get back to the day when simple games entertained the whole family? There are, of course, plenty of board games, but below are some suggestions for games that take no more than imagination. They are games that can be active or thought-provoking or both and will require small adjustments for the ages of your children. They can be quick games or, if all is well, you can make them last as long as you like. The airport wait will fly by!
Hot and Cold
Possibly the simplest game of them all requiring no more than two players and any small object (or sweet reward!) that can be easily hidden. The first person hides the object somewhere in the house – best to be in a cluttered place like a child’s bedroom, and then the second person has to find it. There are no clues except that the person who hid the object has told the searcher whether they are getting hotter (closer to the object) or colder (further away). This is one of the best games for the rainy Sunday afternoon.
A game that can be played with any number of people of all ages and a favourite around Christmas time when families together for longer periods of time than at any other time of the year. The nominated ‘player’ has to act out every syllable of a word or well-known phrase until one of the groups guesses what it is correctly. The person correctly guessing the answer is then the player who has to act out his or her turn. If played often, players will begin to work out short-cuts for certain words and sounds. The game consequently gets more fun.
Another great fun game to play with the family whereby the name of a famous person is written on a post-it note, and then stuck to the forehead of one of the players. Their task is to try to find out who the person is by asking questions that can only be answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. So the obvious starting questions are ‘am I a man’ or ‘am I woman?’, or, ‘am I movie star?’ When the answer is discovered, a new name is stuck on the forehead of the next person. With no more than a pen and a post-it note (use sellotape if you don’t have post-it note!), there are hours of fun to be had.
Hide and Seek
A game as old as humanity itself and which still never ceases to enthrall little children. Obviously, if it is raining outside, then it is best played indoors. The rules are as simple as the game, and best played when there are four or more children. One person covers their eyes and counts aloud to, say, 50, while the others hide wherever they can in the time. When the ‘seeker’ has finished counting, he or she starts looking for the others. The last hider found becomes the next seeker – and so on.
Another great fun game that was devised by poker players (one called Johnny Lodden) who got bored between plays. Lodden Thinks has simple rules and teaches the players to learn to read other people. Best played by slightly older children, the game begins when one person comes up with a question for someone else, designated to be the ‘Johnny Lodden,’ to answer with a number. For example, ‘How many black cabs are there in London?’ No one is required to ‘know’ the answer.
Johnny Lodden then writes his best guess/answer down on a piece of paper without telling anyone. The question asker then has to propose what he thinks the Johnny Lodden has written down. The opponent then decides whether he thinks the proposed answer is near to what he thinks Johnny Lodden has written down, or not. The object of the game is to answer nearest and still under the Lodden number. At this point, the opponent has a couple of choices;
- He can decide that the proposed answer is higher than Johnny’s likely answer and call out the proposer.
- He might decide that the proposed answer is to low and so proposes a higher number which he believes is still lower than Johnny’s.
Once someone calls then Johnny’s guess should be revealed. The winner is the player with the closest number under Johnny’s. If, of course, both the proposer and his opponent guess too high, then neither wins.
Once the game is played a few times, the players will begin to see patterns in how the others guess and how they can use this to their advantage. Like all good games, experience and practice help.
Rainy days shouldn’t mean bored children. There are plenty of family games that children will love and will bring you all together in a way that a games console never will. Children are curious, and while they enjoy active games like Hide and Seek and Hot and Cold, they will also get involved in games that require a little more thought like Charades and Lodden Thinks. If you don’t have board games to hand and you can see that the children are getting bored, then suggest a game. Suggest a game that you can all play together. You’ll be amazed at just how much fun they can be.