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Games of words

Next time your kids are bored, then whip out these word games. No resources needed, no costly bits of plastic or hours of set up. We used to play them a lot when we were in the car, and it is a little sad that kids are now so often left with a device, rather than encouraged to interact with each other and to observe the passing world.

There is so much learning which can be gained from these games. As well as a great way of connecting with each other, they help with creativity, memory recall, mindfulness and turn taking. They also encourage our children to hear themselves get things wrong, and be ok with it.

When I am waiting for people then I use simple game such as I spy to help me be mindful, I set myself the challenge of viewing the world through different lens, spotting everything blue, things which are round, etc, and see what more I am able to see.

When I am struggling to sleep I often use the Alphabet game to help slow my thoughts and focus on something less worrying or stressful than real life. This is also a great way of filling time without resorting to looking at your phone while waiting for people.

If you do nothing else these holidays then try out a word game, they truly are priceless.

I spy

"I spy with my little eye, something which is ***"

An old and simple favourite. With young kids you start with I spy a certain colour or shape. Encourage them to have lots of guesses, the first person who gets it right gets to pick the next challenge. We don't tend to take turns, just shout out ideas as they come to us, but you can if you like.

Unfortunately in New Zealand there is a lot of green, which could bring the game to a much quicker close than normal.

Being able to progress onto "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with *"

Using letters makes the game more interesting.

This can be played at any age, whenever you find yourselves stuck somewhere with nothing better to do, as was recently proven when I played it with my 18 year old at the airport car park.

I went shopping

"I went shopping and I bought a ***"

Each person takes it in turns to add another item to the shopping list, but have to repeat all those which have gone before too.

For children who struggle to remember a list of things you can encourage them to create or picture a story using the words.

e.g. I went shopping and bought a turkey, a bottle of coke, some bread, a bottle of shampoo...

There was a turkey who was drinking coke, while getting out some bread, he tripped spilling the coke on his feathers so needed shampoo to clean them off.

Learning about word association and storying is a cool memory trick.

20 questions

A great game which can be adapted for any age group. Each person takes it in turns to be on, and everyone else gets to ask questions. The aim is to guess what they are in 20 questions or less.

My husband was playing guess the animal with our girls and their friends on the way to the beach. My youngest was on, and all were finding it hard to work out what she was thinking of. It apparently had four legs, but only walked on two, was hairy and had a small tail. When they gave up she let them know she was a chipmunk. When my husband pointed out that chipmunks walk on all four feet, she said “not in the movie they don’t.”

Finish the story

This game encourages some creativity and works really well in a car situation. Each person says a sentence, usually finishing on a bit of a cliff hanger, or the start of a description, and then the next person adds their sentence.

Adult 1: “Once there was a woodsman working in the wood. Today he decided to cut down the biggest tree…”

Adult 2: “Timber he yelled as loudly as he could. But even though he had shouted a warning the tree still landed on…”

Child 1: “A fox”

Child 2: “The fox was injured so he called an ambulance. When the ambulance arrived the paramedic said…”

Adult 1: “What did you call me for a fox for? When you asked him if he wanted help, ‘what did the fox say?”

Adult 2: “Ring a ding ding a ding ding…”

As these were some of the lyrics from one of the annoying songs of the day, moans and groans were received from the back of the car.

What can you see?

There are many variations of this game available.

When I was feeling organised, I would create ‘I spy’ tick sheets with different things to be spotted as we drove. These harked back to my childhood where you could buy I Spy books for a similar purpose.

A simpler option is to choose a list of random vehicle types or colours and see who’s turned up first. If your colour does not turn up you have to stick with it until it does.

On one holiday to the Coromandel the guess the colour of the next car game was going well. To start with we chose the more usual red, blue, silver etc. but I was getting bored so I chose yellow. For two days we did not see a yellow car. The girls would not let me claim the yellow boat I saw, the truck or the tractor roof. I told them that I had faith, and eventually on the third day, as we were heading home, we saw a bright yellow car and van, and apparently the girls saw another three on the remainder of the journey, but I was concentrating on my driving. The girls thought it was great ribbing me about my failure but I knew I would find my yellow car.

Hey Mum let’s go

My answer to Pokomon Go. As you drive you try and capture landmarks or objects of interest. Each person chooses a number and to make a successful capture you need to see this on a number plate; however, it has to appear on one of the next three you see. No one else is allowed to try and capture the item during this time, but if the capture is unsuccessful, and the object is still in view, another person can jump in. The scoring of the game was a little loose, with a monetary value agreed at the end for each object on the list. Things like the Auckland Sky tower and the Tip Top factory were very sort after items, with all eyes on the prize, rather than on their phones, which was the whole point!

The alphabet game

Agree a topic and then each person comes up with an example for each letter of the alphabet. E.g. food.

Apple, Avocado, A very large ice cream!

Or you can choose to name a word with the letters in alphabetical order.

Apple, Banana, Cupcake

This type of game worked well on tramps and to get a group talking if they had got bored of staring at the inside of a tent.

I'm going to have a party what are you bringing?

A simple version of this is 'harry the happy hippo' who likes apples but doesn't like oranges, and lying in a hammock but not on a bed.

The aim is for the group to work out what harry likes, and to suggest things to you. If they say say a word which has a double letter in its spelling, then they make him happy.

A harder version which my teenagers use, is where they set up rules of their own choosing, which could be that the next item has to start with the last letter of the previous one, or it has to start with the same letter as your own first or last name. It can get pretty complicated, but is a great way to spend an evening stuck in a cabin with no WiFi or lighting!

It's best to start out with simple rules before getting complicated otherwise the kids will give up all too quickly. But it is interesting to see that those who had given up will often jump back in again with ideas when they see that others have solved the puzzle and are in on the trick.

If you have any word games that you used to play, I would love to hear of them.

Ruth Taylor

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