I’ve worked in primary schools and I’m a mum, so I know a thing or two about keeping kids entertained when plans fall through. I’ve got a good back-catalogue of spur of the moment games for those tricky moments when the restaurant food is taking ages to arrive or the car journey is just dragging on and on and on…!
I know from experience how frustrating it can be to hear those two painful words, “I’m bored!”, especially when the situation is out of your hands. But, as a gentle parent, I also empathise with them and appreciate how hard it can be for kids to wait.
Playing games like these can be a great way to distract kids and diffuse the situation rather than getting cross at their impatience!
The beauty of these spur of the moment games is that they take zero preparation and you don’t need any props – you can literally play them anywhere, at any time.
I’ve divided them up into different age categories to make the post a little easier to navigate.
Spur of the moment games for babies
It can be tricky to keep babies happy as they don’t understand why their food is late or they can’t be at home with their favourite toy. But it’s not impossible – here are a few spur of the moment games you could try.
- I went to the barber’s shop | Bounce baby on your knee and drop through the middle at “plop”
I went to the barber’s shop,
To have my hair cut off,
And when I got there,
I sat on the chair,
And the chair went… PLOP!
- The ladies ride… | Bounce baby on knees – gentle trot for ladies, fast gallop for men, wobbling from one knee to the other for farmers, and through your knees at the ditch
The ladies ride:
A-clipperty-clop, a-clipperty-clop, a-clipperty-clop, a-clipperty-clop.
The gentlemen ride:
A-gallop, a-gallop, a-gallop, a-gallop.
But the farmer rides:
A-wibble, a-wobble, a-wibble, a-wobble,
And DOWN in the ditch!
Spur of the moment games for toddlers
Okay we’re onto toddlers. They might understand what you’re saying now, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier for them to wait for things. These spur of the moment games are going to be a lifesaver for you!
- Colours i-spy | I spy with my little eye something coloured blue…
- Simon says…
- We’re going on a bear hunt | Available here (aff link)
- Copy Cat | Start tapping your head and toddler has to copy, take it in turns to be the leader
Spur of the moment games for 4-7 year olds
Once children start being able to communicate better, we can start introducing them to some classic playground games. Keeping kids distracted is a much kinder, gentler way to guide their behaviour than getting cross and I would always try to diffuse a situation before attempting to introduce discipline.
Here are some fun games to try with your 4 year olds:
- I-spy | I spy with my little eye, something beginning with…
- Rock, paper, scissors
- Sausages | Ask lots of questions but the player can only answer “sausages” – if they laugh, they’re out!
- Can you find… | Give clues about an object in the room- player has to work out what it is
Spur of the moment games for 8-12 year olds
If you’re worried about your preteens having too much screen time, then try some of these games on car journeys. It’s fun to have fun as a family. See if they can outwit you with 21 or if you can make them giggle in Sad and Solemn.
- 21 | Take it in turns to say numbers in ascending order – each person can choose to say 1, 2, or 3 numbers but DON’T be the one who has to say 21
- Yes-no | Player must answer questions without using the words “yes” or “no”
- Questions | Have a conversation where every sentence has to end with a question
- Real Life Guess Who | Player thinks of a friend/relative you all know. Everyone else asks yes or no questions to work out who it is
- Sad and Solemn | Say the rhyme in a funny way to make the others laugh. Anyone who laughs (including you) is out. Whoever you name has the next turn.
PLAYER 1: It is a sad and solemn occasion, is it not, brother / sister [insert name]
PLAYER 2: Indeed it is, brother / sister [player 1 name]
Spur of the moment games for 13-16 year olds
Okay by the time they get to this age, it’s probably not really your job to entertain them anymore, but playing games can be a good way to engage with your teens. If you are stuck in a doctor’s waiting room or a train station platform, these games can help to pass the time.
- Word association | Take it in turns to say a word associated with the one just given
e.g. door – house – wendy – Peter Pan – flying – aeroplane – holiday
- 20 questions | Player 1 tells everyone whether they’re thinking of a person, place or thing, and then the others have 20 yes or no questions to work out what it is
- Triangles | Rule: the 1st person to speak after the triangle is completed “owns” the triangle. Players who know the rule make random triangles – “I draw a triangle from the moon to my kitchen cupboard to your nose. Whose triangle is it?”. After a pause, let players know whose triangle it is. Players who don’t know the rule have to try and work the rule by creating their own triangles and the group will tell them who that one belongs to
- I went to the shop and I bought…
- The Game | There are only 3 rules:
1) If you know about The Game, you’re playing it
2) If you think about The Game, you lose!
3) Losses must be announced.
- Hide the metaphorical thimble | Similar to 20 questions but the imaginary thimble can be hidden anywhere – in a particular story, a distant galaxy, a random scientific theory – the possibilities are endless and you’ll probably need more than 20 questions…!
I hope you enjoyed my list of spur of the moment games – no more excuses for awkward silences or bored children! Have you played many of them before? Do you play games as a family or is this something you can imagine trying? What are your go-to tricks for keeping the kids entertained? Leave a comment below and let’s help each other out!
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