Sometimes it is too hot or too cold to play outside. Additionally, most activities that take place away from home require spending money. Games played at home provide an alternative source of entertainment. Our list of fun games to play at home includes suggestions for every age and level of capability. Most require simple materials easily found around your home. We also provide easy to follow directions for each game.
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Pencil and Paper Games
The great thing about pencil and paper games is their simplicity. They can be played anywhere and at any time. When kids get bored at home, simply give them a piece of paper and pencils or pens, and they can entertain themselves for at least an hour. Our selection of pencil and paper games includes several old favorites
Dots and Boxes
A pencil and paper game for two players, Dots and Boxes begins with an empty grid of dots. Players take turns adding a single horizontal or vertical line between two un-joined adjacent dots. The player who completes the fourth side of a 1×1 box earns one point and gets another turn. Players write their initials in the boxes to indicate who completed each. The drawn “board” can be of any size. If you have little time to play or are just learning how to play, try a 2×2 box. A 5×5 box works well for experts. Dots and Boxes ends when there are not more lines that can be placed. The winner is the player with the most boxes completed.
The object of this game is to draw a completed cootie bug before the other players. Provide each player with a piece of paper and a pencil. Players roll a die to complete their bug. Every time, the number of dots on the die represents a different body part:
- 1 = body
- 2 = head
- 3 = antennae, hat, or bow
- 4 = eye,
- 5 = tongue, teeth, or lips
- 6 = a leg
Have each player roll the die and the player with the highest roll goes first. A player must start by throwing a one for the body and then a two for the head. If a player cannot roll the required numbers, they lose their turn and must try again on their next turn. After a player gets the body and head, cootie parts can be added in any order a player desires. However, if a player rolls a number of a cootie body part they already have, their turn is over. When a player successfully rolls a needed number, they get a free roll to attempt to get another body part. The winner of the game is the first to finish their cootie.
A challenging two-player word game, Hangman challenges players to complete the spelling of a word before a drawing of a hangman is finished. The first player thinks of a word or phrase and writes a blank for every letter below a drawing of a gallows with an empty rope. The second player attempts to spell the word by guessing letters. Each wrong guess gives the guessing player a body part added to the swinging rope – a head, torso, two arms, and two legs. If the hangman is completed before guesses provide the correct word or phrase, the player who chose the word wins. To stump an opponent, use short words or words with repeated letters.
Tic-Tac-Toe is one of the first pencil and paper games a child learns. To begin playing, draw a grid of two horizontal lines dissecting two vertical lines. Players take turns choosing a box and placing either the letter 0 or the letter X to mark their box. The goal of the game is to fill in three marks in a row or block your opponent from doing so.
Have fun building castles, homes, construction sites, and forts with anything available. Provide the kids with building blocks, empty cardboard or plastic containers, toilet tissue and paper towel cardboard tubes. Alternatively, build a fort with boxes, blankets, and pillows.
Puzzles are not only fun, but also build problem-solving and cognitive abilities. Choose from one or more of the following:
- For a real challenge, pull out a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle.
- If children are of different ages, set up several jigsaw puzzles for different skill levels.
- Have your children make their own puzzles by drawing a picture on the cardboard. Outline puzzle pieces on the finished pictures, cut them out, and have each child put together either their own or another child’s puzzle.
- Purchase inexpensive puzzle books – crosswords, word search, and Sudoku – for kids to work through.
Hide and Seek
Hide and Seek works with children of any age. For indoor hide and seek, you may wish to set a limit on the areas in which they hide. Older children will enjoy an evening game played outside in the dark – have the person playing “It” carry a flashlight for safety. Vary the time “It” counts depending on the age level of players and the size of the playing area. The last person found becomes the new “It.”
Kids love finding hidden objects and although this fun game to play at home does take a bit of preparation, the fun it provides is worth it. Begin by writing clues on small folded slips of paper. Each clue leads kids to the next place with an additional note. When the kids reach the end, they find a prize. Alternatively, leave coins in each spot, beginning with pennies and working up to the end and a larger amount of money.
- Collect ten empty plastic water bottles and fill them part way with water for stability.
- Arrange them the way bowling pins are usually set up.
- Use a medium sized ball for knocking the pins down.
- Set a starting line and have kids take turns attempting to knock all the pins down.
- The easiest way to keep score is to give out one point for each pin knocked down.
- Give a reward to the winner with the most points.
An old favorite, play begins with everyone sitting in a circle on the floor. Turn on music while players pass the “hot potato” – a bean bag or small soft ball – around the circle as quickly as they can. When the music stops, the player holding the hot potato is out. When only one player is left, you have a winner of the game.
Guess the Sound
Gather several items that produce some sort of sound. Blindfold players and have them guess the item from the sound it makes. You can show the items to younger children at the beginning of the game. For older children, make them guess without seeing the items. Some items to include are:
- A stapler – staple a paper
- A glass – hit the side with a spoon
- A pill bottle – shake it
- A piece of paper – tear it
- A comb – rub your fingers along the teeth
- Wood blocks – bang them together
- A pot with a lid – place the lid on top noisily
Although this game has its origin as a classroom sensory table experience for pre-schoolers, children of any age find joy in this touchy feely game. Find a heavy box with a lid you can close. Cut a hole in the side large enough for a hand to fit through. For younger children, a decorated shoebox is fun. Put your item inside the box and have each child guess what it is. Players can ask questions and you can offer a clue if you wish. The “winner” is the player who identifies the most substances and objects. Try one or more of the following:
- Cooked rice or spaghetti
- Seeds from a fresh pumpkin
- A piece of fruit – apple, orange, grapes, or cherries
- A toy – child must specify what it is
- Gelatine dessert
- Real and fake flowers
- Dehydrated potatoes
Choose the oldest or youngest to start this drawing game and then have players draw in order of their birth date. Find a fairly large piece of paper and get out colored pencils, crayons, or markers. The first player begins by drawing a line, circle, or other piece of a picture. Each player adds to it. Keep having players add to the picture until everyone has a turn, if you have many players, or until the players have had a predetermined number of turns. See what type of interesting drawing results.
Set up dominoes to make a domino run by standing them on end in long lines so that when the first tile topples, it topples the second, which topples the third, then the fourth, until all of the tiles fall. Begin with relatively few dominos and increase the number and difficulty of the design with each subsequent run. Kids will spend a great deal of time with this exercise.
Choose some of your kids’ favorite music and have them dance until the music stops, at which point they must freeze. You can have them freeze in whatever position they are in when the music stops or specify a position. Some good choices are the shapes of:
- Expressing an emotion
- Plants – trees or flowers
- Yoga positions
Another fun musical game is to have a dance party. Try some fun genres such as a square dance or some classical music along with your kids’ favorites. If you wish, kids can dress up for some of the music. Dance party time is great way to work off some extra energy, so try it before naptime for your little ones.
You may need to help your youngest children begin this game, but older children can play it without assistance. To begin, choose between five and ten categories and write them across the top of a piece of paper. Some suggestions are:
- Games that use a ball
- Television shows
- Things with wheels
- S. Presidents
The first player chooses any random letter of the alphabet. All the players have one minute to come up with something for each category listed that begins with that letter. At the end of each round scores are totalled. However, you only get a point if no one else came up with the same thing or name. The more obscure the words chosen for each category usually earn the most points.
A dictionary game for older children, word whiz can be played indefinitely. Provide each player with a piece of paper and a pen or pencil. Pass around a dictionary and each player in turn chooses a word the meaning of which they believe the other players do not know. Players read words aloud and spell them if necessary. The players who have not chosen the word write down what they believe the word means. All the definitions are read and the players vote for which one they think is correct. The player with the word gets one point for each vote and then reveals the real definition. The player with the most points at the end of a set number of rounds wins the game.
Whether you have a family of all ages or just one child, our selection of fun games to play at home has a game perfect for you. When you want to play games at home, you want something with quick and easy directions and set up. Very few of the games in this article require any outlay of funds or extra equipment. Additionally, many can be modified for different ages and group sizes. Fun games to play at home can be quick, such as a few games of tic-tac-toe, or take a great amount of time, like a 1000 word puzzle. For rainy or hot summer days, our games provide enjoyment and many, such as the puzzles and word games, are also educational and build thinking skills. Choose a game and have fun!
Susan majored in English with a double minor in Humanities and Business at Arizona State University and earned a Master’s degree in Educational Administration from Liberty University. She taught grades four through twelve in both public and private schools. Subjects included English, U.S. and world history and geography, math, earth and physical science, Bible, information technologies, and creative writing.
Susan has been freelance writing for over ten years, during which time she has written and edited books, newspaper articles, biographies, book reviews, guidelines, neighborhood descriptions for realtors, Power Point presentations, resumes, and numerous other projects.