License plate search

license-plateWhat it is: A road trip game, one of those seek-and-find games that gives you something to do on long car trips.

Best for: A long car trip across state borders, for however many players you want (even one).

What you need: A list of all 50 states, or a piece of paper or some way to write the states you find down. I have a free printable below.

How to play: The game is pretty simple: as you’re on your road trip, look out the window at the cars you see. Find the state name on each license plate, and try to spot a license plate from every state. You can cross states off of a list you already have, write them down, or just keep a list in your memory. You can play competitively, with each person in the car playing against everyone else. The player with the most states crossed off at the end of the trip wins. You could create teams. Or you could play cooperatively as a whole car or bus together.

It’s a pretty ambitious goal, I’ll admit. (My list includes Alaska and Hawaii, so I think you really might have to do some traveling to cross every state off.) I think it would be cool to save this list for multiple car trips, especially if you have several coming up. At the start of the summer, for example, you could print off the list and plan to take it on every car trip you take that year. You could even do it over a lifetime. See how long it takes you to cross off every state!

Printables: Here’s a printable I made that lists each of the 50 U.S. states. You can use it when you’re playing the license plate search game to cross off the states you find.

License Plates

Airport scavenger hunt

airplaneWhat it is: A good way to pass the time when you’re flying somewhere. Look for items on a list and cross them off when you see them.

Best for: One to 5 players.

What you need: A list of things to find in an airport! You could make your own, or I have some free printable ones below. Also a pen.

How to play: It’s easy! When you’re sitting in an airport waiting for your plane, or waiting in an extra long security line, or stuck somewhere with a longer-than-expected layover, pass the time by doing a little scavenger hunting. Make or obtain a list of common things you might see in an airport (the items could be as easy as an airplane or a person with a hat, for younger players; or much harder, like the Southwest Shamu plane). When you’re in the airport, keep your list and a pen handy and cross things off as you see them. First player to cross off all the items (or the player to cross off the most) wins!

Rules and Variations: This is a very adaptable game. It’s a great one-player or two-player game, and you can play competitively or cooperatively. You could even stretch out one game over a whole trip or multiple trips. If you want to play competitively, you probably want to set up some specific rules (when to start looking, when to stop looking, whether photographs of things count, etc.).

Printables: We’re flying this Thanksgiving for my sister’s wedding. (Incidentally, the airplane illustration above is in her wedding colors – I guess I have her color scheme on my brain after some fun clothes shopping for me, my husband, and our two kids.) In preparation, I made these scavenger hunts and I want to share them with you! Feel free to download and use. There are two lists: the first one is pretty easy, and the second one is harder. Just print, cut, and use whichever fits your needs! If you do use them, I’d love to hear any feedback on how they work. Happy flying!

Airport Scavenger Hunt

Airport Scavenger Hunt

I Spy Bingo: Halloween version

scarecrowWhat it is: I Spy Bingo is a version of classic bingo. In classic bingo, everyone has a 5 x 5 grid of randomly placed numbers. Someone reads off a number at random, and players look for the number on their playing card and mark it off if they find it. Players try to get 5 marked-off squares in a row. First person to get 5 in a row (horizontally, vertically, or diagonally) shouts out “Bingo!” and wins. In I Spy Bingo, instead of listening for numbers called out loud, you’re watching for things you might see in real life.

Best for: 1 to 6 players.

What you need: Everyone will need a game card. You can make your own or use my free printable ones! (see end of post). Everyone will also need a pen or something else to use to mark off squares (like candy, especially M&Ms, which are our favorites). You also need somewhere specific to play: in this case, a Halloween costume party, or the day at school when everyone comes dressed up, or trick-or-treating night…basically anywhere you can see lots of people in Halloween costumes.

How to play: Halloween costume I Spy Bingo is pretty simple. Everyone gets a 5 x 5 grid of squares. In each square, write a costume you think you might see someone wearing this Halloween. (My free printable cards already have costumes written out.) Once you’re at your party or school day or wherever you’re going to play, just keep a lookout at all of the cool Halloween costumes going by and cross off any costume you see on your card. First player to get 5 in a row (horizontal, vertical, or diagonal) shouts “BOO!” (instead of “bingo”) and wins!

You can also play the blackout version – where you have to cross off all your squares, not just 5 in a row, to win. Other than that, you can set up your own rules however you’d like! Here are some suggestions.

On the printable cards I made below, some of the costumes might overlap (e.g., fairy and Disney character; if you saw someone dressed as Tinkerbell, that could count for both). But I say you can only use each individual costume to cross off one square on your card. However, it’s up to you if you want to use Tinkerbell to cross off fairy or Disney character, bringing in a slight element of strategy. But if you do see two or more Tinkerbells walking around on Halloween night (from what I can gather, it’s a pretty popular costume), you can cross off both. You might have to settle some disputes as you play (like whether Princess Leia counts as a Disney princess), but that’s all part of the fun.

You can set a time limit, or just make the game last the duration of the party. You can play at a costume party, at school, or Halloween night (especially if you’re the one stuck at home alone handing out the candy. Why not call up another friend at home and have them play, too? Text each other pictures of your finished card when you win). Play by yourself or with a small group; it’s a very adaptable game. You can even have prizes for the winner(s), like pre-purchased candy bars, or some sweet deal like winner gets all the Snickers bars of the Halloween candy haul. Make it fit your group and make it fun!

Variations: There are lots of variations to I Spy Bingo. In addition to holidays or holiday parties, you can play on a road trip, in the airport, at the mall while people watching… I have some other ideas I’m working on that I’m excited to post, so stay tuned!

Printables: To make your Halloween Bingo easy, here’s some free printables! The first one comes with 6 unique cards already filled out. (But even if you want to play with more than 6 people, it would probably work just fine as long as there’s enough variation in the costumes you all see). The second one is blank so you can fill in your own costumes. This would be a great way to play and encourage creativity. Just come up with some basic rules, especially if you’re playing with a lot of people, and let the fun begin!

Halloween Bingo thumbnail

Halloween Costume Bingo

Halloween Bingo blank thumbnail

Halloween Costume Bingo: blank cards

Happy Halloween! I hope you all enjoy!

Draw your dream house

What it is: More of an activity than a game, but one that kept my sisters and I occupied many a time in our childhood. Just like the title says, you draw your dream house.

Best for: One person or a smaller group, maybe during a time when you need to be quiet.

What you need: Everyone needs paper and a pen or pencil. Optional: colored pencils, crayons, markers, or other supplies for making your dream house pretty.

How to play: Really, it’s a simple activity. You just draw your dream house! And when you’re a kid (or an adult), you can let your imagination run wild, which is where the fun comes in. I thought the best way to show this activity would be an example, so imagine how happy I was when, during the move my family recently completed, I was going through a box of old memories and found this:

I wish I had dated it! My best guess is that I drew it when I was 7 or 8? But this is exactly what I’m talking about! Usually my sisters and I drew kind of a floor plan layout like this, and of course our houses were always ginormous and held all sorts of cool extras. Which seemed to mostly be themed rooms: a party room, a toy room, a ferris wheel room, a rock climbing room, a pet room, a maze room, a museum room, a candy room, of course…oh, and a manatee room. (My sisters and I were in love with manatees. We thought they were the coolest things ever.) There also has to be a mini airport, of course, and indoor swimming pool. Anyway, I’m so glad I found this priceless drawing. Maybe I can convince my husband to build this floor plan for us one day. ;-)

And as a bonus, here’s another, more recent example. I think I drew this shortly after my husband and I were married; I was babysitting some younger cousins and wanted to show them one of my favorite drawing activities. So, since I was older this one is of course more realistic…(uh, kind of…)

Notice I kept the indoor swimming pool (this time with a dolphin) and now have a private helicopter pad instead of a mini airport. And complete with home theater, exercise room, large kitchen, hot tob, play room, and star-gazing deck, this dream home is perfect. Oh, and slides to reach the lower levels. Who hasn’t wanted a house with slides at one point?

Anyway, this second drawing shows another way you can draw your dream home: as a cut-away side view instead of a bird’s-eye view. And you can use words to label rooms (like in the first drawing), or you can just draw (like in the second). Either way, whatever you want to draw, go for it! Draw your dream home. Adding as many details as possible is always fun.

Variations: We often played this with sidewalk chalk, too, except it was more of a “draw your dream room.” Each of us would take one large square of the driveway (the squares formed by the seams in the concrete) and pretend it was our room, drawing in beds, dressers, rugs, and usually bean bag chairs and lava lamps (things we always wanted but never had), all from a bird’s-eye view. Then you can play house in your new room. :)

What if?

What it is: A silly group game that’s played indoors. There aren’t really winners or losers; it’s more a game of being creative/funny and laughing at everyone’s responses. It works well with teens or adults.

Best for: A group of about 10.

What you need: You’ll need paper and pens for everyone to write with. The paper doesn’t need to be big; in fact, index cards would be perfect.

How to play: To start, pass around pens and cards to everyone in the circle. This is a great, easy game for groups because you don’t need a certain number of players and no one has to sit out; everyone can play right away. Once everyone has a card and pen, tell everyone to write a question that begins with “What if…” at the top of the card. For example, “What if people had platypuses for pets instead of dogs?”

These questions can be as serious or as silly as you want them to be. In our games, they usually end up both ridiculously silly and about people in the room, like “What if Joe wore only corduroy clothing all the time?” At any rate, don’t be afraid to let your creativity show!

Then collect all of the cards, shuffle them up, and deal them back out to everyone randomly. If someone gets their own card by chance, you can let them switch for another one.

Once everyone has a card with a question that they didn’t write, tell everyone to then write an answer to the question, starting with the word “Then…” Again, these can be as silly or as serious as you want. If you got the question “What if we all had platypuses for pets instead of dogs?” you might write: “Then we’d all have to live next to rivers and streams.” Or you might write “Then Lassie would have turned out a whole lot differently.” The point of the game is to be kind of silly, so don’t be afraid to. :) Also don’t worry if you think you’re not terribly witty (as I always do in games like this), because it really won’t matter in the end. You’ll still be funny even if you’re not witty. I love games like that.

Then for the last part of the game, everyone goes around the circle and reads their cards, but here’s the catch: you’ll answer each question with a mis-matched answer. So here’s how it works. Say Mike’s playing and he was holding the platypus question. He’d read the question out loud: “What if we all had platypuses for pets instead of dogs?” But then the person to the right of Mike, we’ll call her Kim, would read her answer for her question, which might be: “Then the world would be a much better place.” Then Kim would read the question on the card she’s holding, “What if there were a Chick-fil-A on every corner?” and the next person in the circle would respond with their answer to their question. You’d go all around the circle until you got back to Mike’s answer: “Then Lassie would have turned out a whole lot differently.”

Usually hearing a question with the wrong answer is pretty funny, either because it makes absolutely no sense or it’s surprisingly true. :) So as you go around the circle, you’ll all probably laugh and joke (especially if  some of the questions are about people in the room) and claim the questions. A lot of silliness, but a lot of fun, too. Then if you like it, play another round!

Variations: This game reminds me a lot of paper telephone, probably because both games invariably tend to be about people in the room in ridiculous situations. So silly. But so fun.