Have you already been with your kids in a line that never ends? Stuck in traffic or in a hotel room waiting for the rain to stop? To keep your children busy in any circumstances when travelling this summer, here are 10 games you can play with barely no material. Cherry on the cake: they not only keep them busy, they will also enrich your children’s vocabulary, train their memory, help them practice math and develop their creativity!
These 2 first games can be played by children aged 3 or 4
1- “Jacques a dit” / Simon says
A classic game where a game master is chosen to give instructions that will have to be followed by the other children only at one condition: Jacques must have said it. If the game master announces, “Jacques a dit mettez vos mains sur la tête » (put on hands on your head), you have to obey and do so. But if you hear ”croisez les bras!”, don’t do it or you’ll be eliminated. Stay focused!
2- « Bouche à oreille » / Telephone game
Players are seated or standing in a single line. The first player creates a sentence more or less complex, and whispers it to the ear or the next player. The second player repeats the sentence he/she has heard to the ear of the next player and so on. The last player must say it aloud. The victory is collective: everyone wins if the sentence pronounced by the last player is identical to the original one.
The 3 next games are accessible to children aged 5
At this age, children start to enrich their vocabulary and to understand the concept of strategy. They develop their short term acoustic memory and their ability to concentrate.
3- The classical “Ni oui, ni non” / neither yes nor no game
One player asks questions and the other answers, using all the words he wants except “yes” and “no”. From “pas du tout” to “absolument”, through “Je ne pense pas”, “je suis d’accord” and many more, you’d better be focused to get away from the interviewer’s traps. Make sure he or she will put all the necessary energy to win!
4- Guess the animal game
A child thinks about an animal and if possible writes its name or says it to an adult who does not play, to avoid memory loss or strange mutations of the said animal during the game…The goal is for the other players to guess the name of the animal by asking close-ended questions (that can only be answered by yes or no) : “Ton animal a-t-il quatre pattes ?” (Does the animal have 4 legs?) “A-t-il des poils ?” (Does it have fur?) “Vit-il dans l’eau ?” (Does it live in the water?) “Est-il plus grand que moi ?” ( Is it bigger than I am?) and so on. Then the winner picks up an animal and the game continues.
5- I put in my luggage / in my basket
This is a game that uses the thematic vocabulary and trains your memory. The first player starts saying “Je mets dans ma valise….” and names a first object. The second player follows “I put in my luggage…”, repeating the first player’s object and adding his or her own object. Every player has to list all the previous objects in order and adds one. In case a player forgets or mixes up objects, he or she is eliminated. You can make the game more challenging by imposing a theme for the vacation (beach, countryside, sport tournament…). A variant is going grocery shopping and adding items to the cart.
The 3 next games are accessible to children aged 7
Children are already comfortable reading and writing. You will need some paper and crayons.
6- “Le cadavre exquis” / Exquisite Corpse game
The goal of the game is to build a sentence without knowing what the other players will write. The reading of the result will bring a lot of laughs.
On top of the page, the 1st player writes the subject of the sentence (ex: “Le dragon géant“), then folds the edge of the paper to hide what is written and gives it to the next player. The 2nd player writes downs the verb (ex:”écoutait“) (to make it easy limit the game to transitive verbs allowing an accusative object). Then the player folds the paper and passes it over. The 3rd player writes down the accusative object (ex: “les oiseaux), folds the paper, passes it over to the 4th player. This player will finish the sentence by adding a circumstantial adverbial phrase regarding time or place (ex:”lorsque surgit une tortue pas contente du tout“).
Variant: using the same principle (here with 4 players), the 1st player writes down the name of character #1, the second player writes down the name of character #2. The 3rd player writes down where the two characters met. The 4th player writes down what character #1 said. Back to the 1st player, he or she writes what character #2 answered. The 2nd player writes how the story ends.
In this example, we can read:
Le petit ver du fond des océans et un éléphant jaune se sont rencontrés à la maison. Le petit ver a dit : “J’aime beaucoup votre chapeau !” L’éléphant a répondu : “Et oui c’est moi Papa Noël et je t’apporte un cadeau !” Ils éclatèrent de rire : mieux vaut en rire qu’en pleurer.
The little worm from the bottom of the ocean and a yellow elephant met at home. The little worm said: “I do love your hat!” The elephant answered: “Hey it’s me, Santa Claus and I bring you a present!” They both laughed: if they weren’t laughing they’d be crying.
One can naturally imagine multiples variations and pretext to work on the language: the subject must be a noun group with 2 adjectives, the verb must be in future, in preterit, add an adverb, etc.
7- “Le petit bac” / equivalent of Scattergories
Each player prepares a chart (A4 landscape) with as many columns as the number of chosen categories, like country, town, animal, fruit, vegetable, celebrity, name, game, clothes, etc.
Randomly pick up a letter and starts a timer (2 minutes). Each player or each team fills up his or her chart by writing in the right column the element starting with the chosen letter. When time is up, each player counts his / her points: 1 point per correct element which has not been chosen by another player. If 2 players have the same answer they both score zero. Being original matters!
8- Another game of words inspired by Unanimo
A game master chooses a word: not too specific nor too vague and adapted to the player’s age (maison, table, plage, chat, ballon…). In a given time (for example: 2 minutes) each participant has to write down 8 words associated to the first by the meaning. Points are earned when one of your words has been written down by at least another player. For example, if you wrote “Garden” and that 2 other players also did, then each of you earns 2 points. If you wrote “Door” and you are the only one then you earn 0 point. The winner is the player with the highest score after few games.
Eventually, here are 2 games of numbers
9- “Le compte est bon” / It adds up
Choose un number with 3 digits and draw 6 numbers among: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 25 and 50. At the end of the time (3 minutes, to be adapted according to the player’s age), each player proposes his or her calculation which result targets the original 3 digits numbers, using only once each of the drawn numbers and the 4 operations (+, -, x, /)
10- Fizz buzz
The players take turns in counting aloud replacing the 5 by “Fizz” and the 7 by “Buzz”. Hence 17 becomes “dix buzz”, “cinquante-sept” “fizz buzz”, etc. A player making more than 2 mistakes is eliminated. The last player is the winner.
Have fun this summer, and play in French!