The Children's Busy Book: 365 Creative Learning Games and Activities to Keep Your 6- to 10-Year-Old Busy

CHAPTER 5

On the Move

Children seldom misquote you. In fact, they usually repeat word for word what you shouldn’t have said.

—Anonymous

Traveling with young children can be frustrating—filled with bickering, boredom, and the inevitable refrain Are we there yet? But with a little creativity and planning, you can make the time you spend in the car—or on the bus, train, plane, or ferry—treasured family time. After all, when you’re traveling, there are no chores to do or meals to make. There’s no telephone interrupting your conversation and no computer or TV luring your attention away.

Some of the games on the following pages can be played by a solitary child, but most require two or more players. The games in this chapter are all simple and compact, which makes them perfect for traveling—but don’t forget that they’re also a valuable source of entertainment in waiting rooms or on bad-weather days.

PENCIL-AND-PAPER GAMES

These games require two or more players. All you need to play them is a pencil and a sheet of paper for each player. If you like, you can prepare a supply of grids and other figures for the various games by making photocopies or by creating them on a computer and printing many copies.

Word Pyramid

This game is good for kids with basic printing and spelling skills.

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One pencil per player

One sheet of paper per player

Have each player draw a pyramid on a sheet of paper. The pyramid should be made up of squares, with two squares in the top row, three squares in the second row, and so on to the last row, which should have nine squares. At your signal, each player fills each row of her pyramid with one word, placing one letter in each square. The winner is the first to complete her pyramid. You decide how accurate spelling must be. For beginning readers, it’s best to accept honest tries, such as words from which vowels are missing or in which letters that sound alike (such as c and k) are used interchangeably.

Cooperative Drawing

One pencil per player

Paper

Crayons, colored pencils, or markers

One player draws a line or shape on paper. The next player adds a line or shape, then the next player, and so on. The players face each other so they get different perspectives on the drawing. When the players finish drawing, they color it in the same way with crayons, colored pencils, or markers.

Word Hunt

One pencil per player

One sheet of paper per player

Write a long word like concentration or spaghetti at the top of each child’s paper. At your signal, have the children write as many two-, three-, and four-letter words as they can using only the letters that appear in the long word you’ve chosen. (Let the children use proper nouns, plurals, slang, acronyms, and so on.) Stop the game after five minutes. The child who has written the most words is the winner. A child playing alone can simply race the clock and try to beat her previous record.

Reverse Tick-Tack-Toe

One pencil per player

Paper

This game requires two players. One plays Xs; the other plays Os. Draw a tick-tack-toe grid (two vertical lines intersected by two horizontal lines to form nine equal spaces) on paper. The object of the game is to avoid claiming three spaces in a row. To start the game, one player writes her letter in the center space. The other player then writes her letter in any empty space. The players take turns claiming spaces in this way until one player (the loser) claims three spaces in any vertical, horizontal, or diagonal row.

Gomuku

One pencil per player

Paper

This game, a Japanese version of tick-tack-toe, requires two players. One plays Xs; the other plays Os. Draw a grid of nineteen vertical and nineteen horizontal lines on paper. The players take turns claiming the intersections of the lines rather than the spaces. The first player to claim five intersections in a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal row wins.

Hangman

If the imagery in this traditional game bothers you, call it “Spider” instead. Replace the nine parts of a human body with nine parts of a spider (a body and eight legs) and replace the noose with a length of spider silk.

One pencil per player

Paper

Draw an upside down L (the gallows) at the top of a sheet of paper. Write the alphabet at the bottom of the paper.

This game requires two players. One thinks of a word and draws a blank for each letter in the word. (For beginning readers, use only four- or five-letter words.)

The other player (the guesser) calls out one letter at a time. The first player crosses out that letter at the bottom of the page. If the letter appears anywhere in the word she chose, she fills in the appropriate blank(s). If the letter doesn’t appear in the word she chose, she adds a body part under the arm of the gallows. (Use nine body parts in this order: head, neck, body, arms, hands, legs, feet, nose, eyes-mouth-ears.) The tenth and final addition to the gallows is a noose. The guesser must guess the word before the noose is drawn. If she does, she’s the winner and gets to think of a word for the next game. If she doesn’t, she must be the guesser again in the next game.

Battleships

One pencil per player

Four sheets of paper

On each sheet of paper draw a grid ten columns by ten rows. Across the top of the grid, label the columns with the letters A through J, one letter per column. Down the left side of the grid, label the rows with the numbers one through ten, one number per row. This game requires two players. Each uses two grids—one to mark her own battleships and one to record her guesses as she searches for her opponent’s battleships.

Each player positions eight battleships (one ship five squares long, two ships each four squares long, three ships each three squares long, and two ships each two squares long) on a grid by marking squares. Each player should make sure her opponent can’t see her grid.

Before playing, decide whether a battleship can be sunk by one hit or must be hit in each space to be sunk. One player starts the game by guessing a location where she thinks one of her opponent’s battleships may be (for example, D-five). If the opponent has a ship at that location, the opponent says, “Hit.” If no ship is there, the opponent says, “Miss.” A player records her guess on her second grid by marking the location with an H (hit) or M (miss). The players take turns guessing in this way. The first player to sink all her opponent’s battleships wins.

Squares

One pencil per player

Paper

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On a sheet of paper draw a grid of dots composed of twelve to fifteen rows of twelve to fifteen dots each. Space the dots about a half-inch apart.

This game requires two or more players. The first player draws a line from any dot to any vertically or horizontally adjacent dot. The next player does the same, and the players continue to take turns drawing lines in this way. The object of the game is to form a square by joining four dots. When a player draws a line that closes a square, she writes her initials inside the square and gets a bonus turn.

When all possible lines have been drawn, the player with the most initialed squares is the winner.

Wordgrams

One pencil per player

One sheet of paper per player

Children’s dictionary (optional)

On each sheet of paper draw a grid ten columns by ten rows.

This game requires two or more players. Give each player a grid and have her write ten words horizontally, vertically, and diagonally on her grid using one letter per square. Words may intersect and may be written forward or backward. If you like, have the players make theme wordgrams using only birthday party words, vacation words, or whatever. If a player is not a strong speller, encourage her to use a dictionary. Once each player has written ten words on her grid, she can fill in the remaining squares with random letters. If you like, have each player list the hidden words at the bottom of her wordgram.

When the wordgrams are finished, have each player give her wordgram to another player. Each player then tries to find all the words hidden in the wordgram she’s received.

NO PROPS REQUIRED

For the following games, all you need is two or more players and some free time! For more games like these, check out “Fun with Words”.

Twenty Questions

Designate one player (the thinker) to think of a person, animal, or thing familiar to all the players. The other players (guessers) take turns asking yes-or-no questions to help them guess the person, animal, or thing.

The thinker must keep track of the number of questions asked. If you like, distribute twenty counters (pennies, beans, or paper clips) evenly among the guessers. As each guesser asks a question, she gives a counter to the thinker. When the guessers run out of counters, the game is over.

Any guesser may try to guess the person, animal, or thing on her turn. If she’s right, she’s the thinker for the next game. If she’s wrong, the guess counts as one question, and the game continues until someone guesses right or until twenty questions have been asked. If no one guesses right within twenty questions, the thinker reveals the person, animal, or thing and starts a new game by thinking of a different person, animal, or thing.

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Reverse Twenty Questions

Designate one player (the guesser) to cover her ears while the other players (thinkers) think of a person, animal, or thing familiar to all the players. The guesser then uncovers her ears and asks yes-or-no questions to help her guess what the thinkers are thinking of.

Choose one thinker to keep track of the number of questions asked. If you like, give the guesser twenty counters (pennies, beans, or paper clips). Each time the guesser asks a question, she gives a counter to the thinker. When the guesser runs out of counters, the game is over.

The guesser may try to guess the person, animal, or thing at any time. If she’s right, she remains the guesser for the next game. If she’s wrong, the guess counts as one question, and the game continues until she guesses right or until she has asked twenty questions. If she doesn’t guess right within twenty questions, the thinkers reveal the person, animal, or thing, and a different player gets to be the guesser for the next game.

Grandmother’s Trunk

To begin the game, one player says, “I went to my grandmother’s trunk, and I found a (coat).” The next player says, “I went to my Grandmother’s trunk, and I found a (coat and hat).” The players continue to take turns, on each turn repeating the words already mentioned and adding a new word to the list. Start a new game when the list becomes too hard to remember.

If you’d like to reinforce alphabet skills and make the list easier to remember, require the players to add words in alphabetical order (antique, book, coat, and so on).

Word Race

This game is fun for talkative kids. Choose a song, poem, or nursery rhyme familiar to all the players. At your signal, have the first player sing or recite the song, poem, or rhyme as fast as she can. Time her by using a clock or a watch or by counting “one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi. . . .” Let each player take a turn. Remember each player’s time and see who’s the fastest yakker. If you like, record the results in a Family Book of Records.

Brainstorming

According to Susan K. Perry in Playing Smart, the more a child uses brainstorming skills, the more creative a thinker she will be. Brainstorming is thinking up as many answers to a question as possible. Below are some ideas to get you started. After you’ve brainstormed for a while, brainstorm some new brainstorming topics!

• Think up far-fetched excuses for why something was or wasn’t done, for example: I didn’t have a bath because the tub was full of piranhas.

• Ask the question Must you ______ to ______? For example: Must you go to school to be smart?

• Make up a ten-ways-not-to list, for example: Ten Ways Not to Get Good Grades: Sleep during class. Don’t do your homework. . . .

• Fill in the blanks in the following sentence: It was so ______ that ______. For example: It was so hot outside that my lemonade boiled.

• Make up a 101-uses-for list, for example: 101 Uses for Paper Clips: Holding papers together. Picking locks. Making necklaces. Playing with magnets. . . .

• Think up as many oxymorons (figures of speech that seem to contradict themselves) as you can, for example: an honest thief or tears of joy. Just for fun, you might think up oxymorons that are particular to your family. In our house, quiet boy and sleeping baby are oxymorons!

Cooperative Story

One player makes up the beginning of a story. For example, she might say, “One day a little girl was walking down the street when. . . .” She stops telling the story at any exciting or suspenseful moment, and the next player adds to the story in the same way. The players take turns adding to the story, which will likely take some hilarious twists and turns. End the story when the players tire of it.

Name That Rhythm

One player claps the rhythm of a familiar song or nursery rhyme, such as “Three Blind Mice” or “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” The other players must guess what song she’s clapping by listening to the rhythm. The player who correctly guesses the song gets to be the next clapper.

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GAMES WITH PROPS

The following games require a little advance preparation. For some, all you need is a supply of marbles; for others, you’ll have to make the game ahead of time. All the games require two or more players.

Who Wants to Be a Genius?

Start your trip with this game and award prizes that will give your children something to do while you travel.

Five index cards per player

Pen or pencil

Children’s trivia games and schoolbooks (optional)

Supply of prizes like coins, marbles, playing cards, small toys, markers, books, and/or snacks

Before your trip, write a question that your children should be able to answer on each index card. Good sources of questions are the Parker Brothers game Trivial Pursuit Junior, the Brain Quest games by Workman Publishing Company, and your children’s schoolbooks.

During your trip, choose the first contestant, then choose an index card and ask her the question on it. If she answers correctly, she wins one prize, and her stakes jump to two prizes for the second question. Add another prize to the stakes for each question she answers correctly. Ask her a total of five questions, then choose another contestant and ask questions and award prizes in the same way.

After each child has had a turn as a contestant, end the game and let your kids enjoy their prizes. You’ll need a maximum of fifteen prizes per player.

How Big?

Six household objects

Lunch bag

One pencil and one sheet of paper per player

Before your trip, collect six household objects that come in standard sizes (for example, a playing card, key, quarter, new pencil, fork, and spoon) and put them in a lunch bag.

During your trip, give each player a pencil and a sheet of paper. Ask each player to draw the objects you’ve collected without looking at them. Compare the drawings with the objects to see which drawing is closest to each object’s actual size. The player with the greatest number of most accurate drawings is the winner.

Eggs in the Bush

Ten marbles or pennies per player

Each player takes a turn hiding one to five marbles or pennies in her hands. The other players guess how many items she’s holding. (Each player must guess a different number.) The player who guesses correctly gets the hidden items. Each player who guesses incorrectly pays the hider in items the difference between the number of hidden items and the number guessed.

Travel Flannel Board

Scissors

Large piece of flannel

Cardboard

Glue gun

Felt

Magazine pictures

Family photos

Words written on index cards

Clear contact paper

Strips of Velcro, sandpaper, or flannel

Before your trip, cut a piece of flannel a few inches larger all around than the cardboard. Lay the cardboard in the center of the wrong (smooth) side of the flannel, fold the edges of the flannel over the cardboard, and glue the edges down. Cut out felt shapes that can be used to make a design or tell a story. Cut out magazine pictures, gather family photos, and write a wide variety of words on index cards. (To make a matching game for beginning readers, make an index-card label for each picture and photo.) Cover these with clear contact paper and use a glue gun to attach a strip of Velcro, sandpaper, or flannel to the back of each picture and card.

During your trip, encourage your kids to use the pictures and words to create a story on the flannel board. If you’ve made a matching game, challenge the kids to match each picture and photo with its label.

Travel Bingo

One sheet of heavy paper or cardboard per player

Markers (or magazine pictures and glue)

Clear contact paper or plastic page protectors

One dry-erase marker per child

Before your trip, make simple bingo cards by drawing a grid four squares by four squares on each sheet of heavy paper or cardboard. In each square, write words that represent things you may see as you drive, for example: parking lot, cow, flag, and so on. For nonreaders, draw pictures or glue on pictures cut from magazines instead. Cover the completed bingo cards with clear contact paper or slip them into plastic page protectors.

During your trip, give each player a bingo card and a dry-erase marker. Each time a player sees something described on her bingo card, she marks an X in that square. The first player to mark four squares in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal row is the winner.

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Odd or Even?

Ten marbles or pennies per player

Each player takes a turn hiding one to five marbles or pennies in her hands. The other players guess whether she’s holding an odd or even number of items. After all the players have guessed, the hider shows them the items in her hand. Players who guessed incorrectly pay the hider one marble each; players who guessed correctly are paid one marble each by the hider.

Wave If You’re Famous

This activity may seem silly, but kids love it!

Dark, wide-tip marker

Sheet of heavy paper or cardboard

Use a dark, wide-tip marker to write a sentence like Wave if you’re famous! or Wave if it’s your birthday! or Wave if you love cats! on a sheet of heavy paper or cardboard. As you drive along, let your children take turns holding up the sign to passing cars. They’ll love the various reactions they get.

Magazine Scavenger Hunt

One old magazine per player

One sheet of paper per player

One pencil per player

Before your trip, leaf through each magazine. For each magazine, make a list of fifteen objects pictured in it. Each list should be on a separate sheet of paper.

During your trip, give each player a magazine and its corresponding list. Each player must look through her magazine, hunt for the objects on her list, and write down the numbers of the pages on which the objects are found. To determine a winner, you can either time the game for fifteen minutes and see who finds the most objects within that time or simply declare the first player who finds all her objects the winner.

This game is great for players of different ages and abilities, because the lists can be tailored to the players. A younger player may want to mark the pages on which she finds objects by turning down their corners. Very young players can search for colors rather than objects.