Screen-Free Boredom Busters

By Avery Walker

“I’m bored!” If you are a parent, you have heard this too many times to count. Whether it is in the car, at a restaurant, in a waiting room, or just around the house, boredom plagues parents and kids of all ages every day. It is often tempting to hand over a phone or a tablet during these times and give in to extra screen time in the name of keeping the peace. Thinking back to my own childhood, those little “waiting times” became memorable times with my parents and siblings as we created our own games and activities. Here are just a few screen-free boredom busters that have been around for generations, but still manage to entertain even the most skeptical participants.

Card Games
Did you know there are over 10,000 games that can be played with a single deck of face cards? A deck of cards is inexpensive and convenient to keep in a purse, backpack, or even a glove compartment for easy retrieval when boredom strikes. Younger children will enjoy games like Go-Fish, Crazy 8’s, Old Maid, Slap Jack, or Spoons, while older players might enjoy learning a more complicated game such as Rook or Bridge. The internet is a nearly infinite resource to learn imaginative card games for all ages and experience levels.

Drawing Games
A pad of paper and a couple of pens or pencils are another inexpensive and nearly endless resource for on-the-go fun. In addition to classics like Hangman and Tic-Tac-Toe, here are a few of our favorite drawing games:

Finish the Doodle
The first player draws a doodle or squiggly line of any shape or size. Player two must use their imagination and finish the doodle by turning it into a picture.

Grid Pictures
First, draw a grid on a blank piece of paper. You can choose to make the squares as large or as small as you like. Players take turns drawing in just one square at a time, creating an imaginative and often hilarious finished picture.

Folded Creatures
Fold a piece of paper several times back and forth, creating three or more horizontal sections. Take turns drawing the head, body, and legs (or add more categories like hats and shoes) of a creature without looking at what the person before you drew. Open the paper to reveal your crazy creature!

The Dot Game
First, draw a grid of dots on a piece of paper. The more dots, the longer the game. Players take turns connecting two dots. When a player completes a square, they place their initials inside it. The player with the most squares at the end wins!

Conversation Games
Sometimes the best games do not require any supplies at all. Even after we received our portable video games and CD players, my siblings and I often preferred playing conversation games like I Spy or 20 Questions in the car. Now I get to share them with my own son, and we have fun coming up with games of our own. These games are often a great way to connect with your kids and gain insight into their personalities and imaginations.

Would You Rather
Players take turns posing thought-provoking and often giggle-inducing questions to each other. Questions like “would you rather never eat pizza again, or only be able to eat pizza for the rest of your life?” Everyone then answers the question and explains why they chose the answer they did.

Continuing Story
Players take turns telling a part of a story and ending in the middle of a sentence. The next person must pick up where they left off, choosing either to follow the expected plot or take a turn for the unusual!

Chain Words
This game is great for kids who are learning how to spell. One player says any word, and the next player must say a word that begins with the last letter of the previous word.

We Went on a Picnic
We Went on a Picnic: This is another great game for children working on ABC’s and spelling! The first player might begin by saying “we went on a picnic, and we brought apples.” The next player must say “we went on a picnic and brought…” reciting what has already been said and adding something that begins with the next letter of the alphabet. Although the gameplay is simple, it is great for building memorization skills, creativity, and reinforcing beginning sounds.

Name Ten
The first player names a category, and each player must name ten things within that category without repeating what someone else has said. For an extra challenge, choose a category and a letter of the alphabet that each word must start with.

Reading Incentives
Books are a great way to pass the time while engaging the mind and can go with you anywhere. While some children naturally gravitate toward reading, for others it is more difficult to encourage them to read. You can create reading charts with a reward for reading. This reward can be based on the number of books, number of pages, or even time spent reading. Charts can be as simple as a thermometer that they can fill in as they read, or even a blank sheet of paper to place stickers on. Click here for a fun reading chart that you can download for free. Click here for the reading chart instructions.

Have fun trying out these games or coming up with games of your own, and you may find that those previously dreaded wait times have turned into memorable family moments.

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