I spy

I SpyWhat it is: A visual spying and guessing game, entertaining for younger kids, and, when I was a kid, my family’s game of choice while waiting for food in sit-down restaurants.

Best for: 2 players or however many more you want.

What you need: Just at least two people to play. And something relatively interesting to look at (this would be a hard game to play in an empty room with white walls, for instance).

How to play: It’s a pretty simple game. One player, like Jennie, looks around the room and picks something she can see. Then she says, “I spy with my little eye something ____,” filling in the blank with an adjective that describes the object she spies (traditionally a color).

So say Jennie’s object was a blue ceramic flower pot (like this one) sitting in the Mexican restaurant where she was waiting with her family.

Jennie would say: “I spy with my little eye something blue.” Then the other players would look around the room for something blue and try to guess Jennie’s object.

“Is it the blue border on that poster of the chili peppers?” someone might ask. Or, “Is it that vase holding the flowers by the door?” Jennie would say shake her head no until someone guessed the right object. Then the person who guessed right gets to choose the next object. And everyone would play happily, spying and guessing until the waiter brings their chips and tacos and enchiladas. Yum.

Strategies: Of course, it’s wise to not be staring at the object you’re spying while you say “I spy…” 😉 That was the tragic mistake that always got my youngest siblings.

Mirror drawing

What it is: A simple drawing game for two players, good for younger kids. It’s also one of the games my mom used to keep me and my sisters quiet during church. :)

Best for: 2 players.

What you need: A pen for each player and a pad of paper to draw on.

How to play: Start by drawing a line down the center of your paper:

Say Jackie and T.J. are playing. Jackie starts by drawing something, anything, on her side of the paper:

Then T.J. has to draw the same thing on his side of the paper:

After that, it’s T.J.’s turn to draw something on his side that Jackie has to mirror. T.J. might draw something like this:

The game continues, with Jackie and T.J. taking turns drawing and mirroring each other’s drawings. When we played, we usually didn’t know what we would end up drawing; we would just take turns drawing shapes and it would turn into a symmetrical drawing, usually a person or a robot:

A simple game, but entertaining, especially for young kids who like drawing silly pictures.

Animal signs

What it is: A noisier (and maybe sillier) variation of signs.

Best for: group of about 8ish.

What you need: Nothing other than people to play and a room with chairs for everyone to sit in.

How to play: Start by having all your players sit in a circle. Choose one player’s chair to be the head chair, then the chair to the right of the head chair to be the last-place chair.

Then each player gets to choose an animal, with a hand motion and sound effect to go with it. So, for example, if Phil were playing, he could choose an alligator as his animal, slap his hands together for the hand motion, and say “chomp!” for his sound effect. Each player needs his or her own animal. Other ideas are a lion roaring, a bird tweeting, anything. Don’t be afraid to get creative – I’ve played where someone chose a lemming, made the sign their hand fall over a cliff, and the sound effect saying “ahhh!”

Once everyone’s chosen their animal, sign, and sound effect, go around the circle a couple of times and give everyone a chance to repeat everyone else’s sign (you’ll need to remember these to play the game). When everyone feels like they’ve got each other’s signs down well enough, you can start the game.

The object, just like in the game signs, is to pass the “sign” around the circle. Players also try to work their way to the head chair by not messing up. The trick comes in keeping the rhythm and remembering who has what sign.

First set up the rhythm of the game by having all players clap along together: two pats on your lap, followed by one clap. Have everyone clap for a little bit to get the rhythm set. Start out slow so everyone can get used to the rhythm.

Once players have the rhythm down, the player in the head chair can start the game – we’ll say it’s Phil. Phil would start my making the sign and sound effect of his animal (the alligator) on a clap beat, then on the next clap beat making the sign and sound effect of another player’s animal (say Marianne’s fluttering butterfly). On the very next clap beat, Marianne would accept the sign by making her own butterfly sign, then she would pass the sign on to someone else by making someone else’s sign and sound effect.

If a player messes up, either by combining the wrong sign with the wrong sound effect, or accepting or passing a sign off-rhythm, or failing to do accept the sign at all, the game stops and that player moves to the last seat in the circle, while other players move up a seat. The goal is to make it to the head chair and stay there, obviously proving that you’re the most hand-eye coordinated, animal sign-passer, sound-effect making, on-rhythm player there. How’s that for bragging rights?

Variations: If you want to make the game more challenging, you have a couple of options. First, you could just speed up the rhythm as you go, so everyone’s giving and receiving signs faster and faster. Second, either instead of (or in addition to) speeding the game up, you could make every sign “stick” to its original chair. So, say Marianne with the butterfly sign messed up and had to move to the end of the circle. She wouldn’t take her butterfly sign with her; instead, she would adopt the animal of whoever was in the last chair, while the player who moved up into Marianne’s chair would become the butterfly. This becomes challenging because you have to remember what your sign is, especially if there’s a lot of changing seats involved. It’s a lot of fun that way, too.