“You don’t go on vacations with your children, you take trips,” my Aunt Margie once told me. Wow, does that ever clear things up. Especially if one or more of your kids is still in diapers — or worse, toilet training — it is more relaxing to just stay home.
But perhaps not more fun and interesting.
Say you find yourself on the road — maybe you’re driving an hour to your parents’ house for a holiday meal, or you’re driving two states away to visit Something Significant for your summer vacation scrapbook — and maybe you have your kids with you, or maybe you don’t even have kids. The iPod’s running low on battery, you left your phone in the trunk at the last rest area on accident, and now the moment has come. You need something to do. Something other than than stare at grassy medians and make small talk with your road buddy.
Mind games are great because there’s no investment in tools — nothing to leave behind, nothing to scrabble around for in the glove box — and often you don’t even have to play with another person. Or you can. See how easy?
Mind Games for All Ages
I Spy — You take turns looking around and choosing something, traditionally based on color. For example, “I spy with my little eye something green.” The other players then try to figure out what it is. This can be a sneaky way to teach preschoolers their colors, but do not be fooled that this game is only for the very young. Difficulty level is easy to scale and you could try variations such as choosing things that start with a specific letter, or things that involve a specific number.
Color/Shape Hunt — Players work individually or cooperatively to find as many objects that are of a certain color or shape. Repeat for other colors and shapes. Bonus points for awesome finds.
ABC — Made for the road, the ABC game is one in which travelers watch for road signs as well as buildings and vehicles with letters and they see how quickly they can find words in alphabetical order and thus get from A to Z. Again, this can be a great cooperative game with a preschooler, or a competitive race for older kids and adults.
First Letter/Last Letter — You pick a category such as movies, states, food, or authors, and players take turns naming something in that category. For example, if the category is movies, the first person says “Terminator,” which ends with R, so the next player says “Remains of the Day,” which begins with R and ends with Y. The next player then needs to name a movie that begins with Y, and so on. My extended family is fond of this game, which often becomes a cooperative thought exercise as we try and keep track of what has already been said and what we are trying to find an answer for.
Animal Spotting — Give points for the person who spots the first deer, cow, horse, dog, falcon, etc. Extend the game by giving points for additional animals, different colors, or other criteria. The person with the longest (mental) life list wins! A fun variation on this game: the person who sees the animal calls out its name and everyone else in the car has to make that animal’s sound.
Opposites — A player names something and the other player(s) name its opposite. For example, player A says “truck,” and player B replies “boat.” Then player B, who is up to no good, says “walnut,” and player A, who is nobody’s fool, says “wall bolt.”
What are your favorite games to play using only the mind? Please share in the comments!