There are a number of simple games I have been playing with my son for several years now while in the car, in waiting rooms or while waiting for our orders at restaurants. These are games are simple, fun and require no prep! The best part, they keep our little ones interested while supporting communication development. Here are some of my family’s personal favorites:
1. Rhyme-Time: This simple game is all about the rhyme! We take turns choosing a word to start with and begin thinking of as many real or fake words we can rhyme with it before choosing another word. For older kiddos you would keep score if you so choose, 1 point per rhyme and those with the most points wins that round. We just enjoy coming up with as many crazy rhyming fake words that we don’t even think about keeping score.
2. I spy: Who doesn’t spend time playing “I spy” in the car or while waiting in lines?! It’s an oldie but a goodie! At first I began with simply “spying” objects, and as my son’s language has improved we’ve moved on to spying categories of objects (“I spy something you use to build with”-while in the Home Depot…you can imagine how many tools we get to talk about before THE ONE is spotted!), and objects that are tricky to find (in this case we use the “hot/cold” system to guide my son to the hidden object).
3. Guess the object: In this game, children and adults take turns describing objects by their attributes and guessing what the object is. This is a simple activity but it encourages a child to listen to a description of an object with multiple attributes before guessing as well as facilitates development of their understanding of most salient attributes to when they take a turn describing the object by it’s attributes. I first introduced this game simply as a listening and guessing game. As my son, got better as listening to the attributes and guessing correctly, I began prompting him with simple questions when it was his turn to describe (“what do you do with it?”-category, “where do you find it?”-location, “what does it look like?”-color/shape/size, etc.). Over time he has become proficient in coming up with his own attributes to describe objects. We tend to stick with objects of interest, toys, superheros, food, etc. but not always. Sometimes for fun, my husband and I throw in a curve ball every now and then to spice it up!
4. 20 Questions: We all know this game! As my son has gotten better at “guess the object” the next obvious step was to introduce 20 questions where he has to ask me about an object I have in mind. It’s so funny to see what type of questions he comes up with! Never a dull moment, that is for sure!
5. Car Bingo: You can find a number of free travel bingo cards available online to print out and play with. When I’m especially prepared I’ll print these out in advance, however, if we are unexpectedly delayed in traffic we will play this game on the fly. In much the same way as “I spy”, I will name an object NOT currently seen and we have a race to see who “sees” it first. The person who “sees” 5 objects in a row wins!
6. Music Time: Don’t underestimate the importance of music in language development! Spend time playing children’s CD’s and signing along! Sometimes, I’ll then turn off the radio and we will play a simple version of name that tune, where I will hum the tune and my son or husband will take turns trying to guess the song before the other person does.
7. Build a story: This is a pretty easy game to play. You simply begin a story and each passenger in the car takes turns adding to it! You can make this game more challenging by choosing crazy words each person had to add to their part of the story. These stories can be very humorous when playing this way!
8. Create a Song: This is very similar to “building a story” just doing it using a familiar song tune! This can really be fun to see how children fit all the words they want to say within the tune.
9. I’m going on a picnic: Do you remember playing this game when you were younger? Each person takes a turn saying “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing…” and usually you have to name objects that begin with a certain letter (maybe the first letter of your name, etc.) while recalling all the objects others said before you. Well to make this a bit easier for my son when he was younger we introduced this game using categories (fruits, beverages, sports equipment, superheros, winter/summer clothes, etc.). So maybe we started with, “Ok we are going on a picnic and we are bringing fruits. I’ll start.” And of course the fun is to see how many objects any of us can actually remember. I tend to lose this game when I’m driving. Hahahaha! I guess I can’t do two things at once! 😉
10. License plate game/sign game: We’ve all spent hours in the car looking for license plates from every state or trying to find words that begin with every letter in the alphabet. Oh X why are you so hard to find?! Well this is another oldie but goodie when traveling. You can play as a family team or as individuals keeping track of which states/signs you’ve found etc. My son is in the pre-literacy stage so this game is limited to basic letter identification/recognition on signs!
I hope you enjoyed about our favorite car games! You can make these games as simple or challenging as your children require, but always remember to have fun!
Enjoy and happy talking and traveling this summer!