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Best indoor game ideas for kids

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Article outline:

  1. Broken picture phone line
  2. Think fast
  3. Triple trouble
  4. Clue setting treasure hunt activity
  5. Robot turtle board game

Broken Picture Phone Line


This app turned parlour game is perfect for mid-sized groups of children (and adults), I’d recommend doing it for groups of 6 to 12 people (you could do it with more, but it’s prone to start getting a bit out of hand). It’s a good game to play with a mix of age ranges, but older children often get more out of it (the lower limit on participation is that they need to be able to write).
You need a pad or two of post-it notes, a pen each and preferably a collection of colouring pencils, felt tips or crayons.

How the game works

Players sit in a circle (around a table is ideal) and each is given a post-it note and a letter of the alphabet. On the back of their note, each player writes the number 1 (it’s the 1st turn) and the letter they were given. On the front of their note each player writes a short sentence which describes a scene. Examples might include “A taxi driver is lost and asks an old lady for directions” or “Two pigeons are eating my Hawaiian pizza”.

Now each player passes their note to the player on their immediate left and takes a new post-it note. On the back of the new note they write the number 2 (2nd turn) and the letter on the back of the note they’ve been passed (not their original letter). On the front, each player draws a picture depicting the sentence on the note they’ve been passed.

Collect the 1st notes in separate piles (a pile for each letter) and pass the 2nd note on to the player on your left. They then continue by writing on their new note (marked “3” and the letter from the note they’ve been passed) a sentence describing the picture they’ve been given.

The game continues, alternating between picture drawing rounds and sentence writing ones. Notes that are no longer in play are collected onto their relevant piles.

Finishing the game

Depending on the available time and the number of players you might want to go all the way round the circle once or twice. Make sure that you finish with a sentence writing round. Now each player takes the pile of post-its connected to their original starting letter and presents the resulting transformation to the group. Make sure to read clearly and to show pictures to everyone present.

To avoid writing sentences for the same persons art work each time, we also like to pass notes 1st one place to the right, then 2 places to the left, then 3 places to the right and so on. This can be easy to lose track of or get confused by though, so is best done on the 2nd or 3rd play once the other elements of the game are already understood.

Not only does the game bring out kids creativity, it brings out their humour in spades too. Presenting the results can be especially funny, be sure to add plenty of commentary and compliment all on their interpretations, drawing skills, imagination and so on.

Think Fast


Think Fast is a homemade variation of Hasbro’s Scattergories, a classic family game well worth getting a copy of too. It fits perfectly into a wide range of situations from being an after dinner family game to a rainy day occupier and even a fun cool-down time if you’ve got a bigger group that’s just been doing something more active and energetic.

Age range: The official game recommends it for ages 12+. I wouldn’t use it for a large group of children below this age, but for smaller groups or if there’s a few younger children in the mix eg. you have a 9, 11, and 13 year old, this can still go down well.

Time needed: 1 round will last approximately 3 minutes + 1 minute for each player or team. You can play as many rounds as you like depending on time available and how well your kids are engaging with it.

Number of players: 3 – 8 (if you’ve got a bigger group of kids to entertain, put them in pairs or small teams).

Equipment: Paper and pens for each player/team, timer.

How to play

Have each player draw a grid on their paper with 13 columns and the word ‘Letter’ in the top left box. For now it need only have two or three rows, but with space for more to be added underneath later.

Now introduce the idea of categories. Give a few example categories which the players write along the boxes at the top of their table. Examples might include: boys names, birds, places where it’s cold, orchestral instruments etc. (for more ideas search online for scattergories categories)). Now each player thinks of a category of their own and announces it to the room, each named category being added to the table’s top row. If you have spaces left in the table ask the group to call out a few more ideas for the final boxes.

Once everyone has contributed a category it’s time to start playing. Name a letter of the alphabet to be written in the left hand column in the 2nd row. As soon as it’s named, all the players start trying to think of words which fit the categories and start with the named letter (eg. if the letter is ‘T’ and the category ‘boys names’, valid answers could include Thomas or Toby). When one player has filled in something for all of the categories they call out “stop”, everyone puts their pens down and adds no more answers to their table (alternatively you can use the timer and give everyone 3 minutes to fill in as much as they can).

Now it’s time to count scores (you may want to pass papers clockwise for another player to mark). Each player reads out their answer for a category. If nobody else had the same answer as you, your score for that word is the same as the number of players. If other players have the same answer, each player with that answer scores the total number of players minus the number of other players who had the same answer as them (not including themselves). This means that the more unique an answer is the better it scores. If everyone chooses the same word they all score 1 point. For any boxes that remain unfilled 0 points are scored.

Once all the marking is done and added up, the winning player can choose a letter for the next round and the process repeats.

 

Triple Trouble (The Fishbowl Game)

This is a classic party or parlour game that works well for everyone from 1st graders through to grandparents. It’s especially good for big family gatherings with a mix of ages present. I’ve heard it called a range of different things, so you might know it by another name. Triple Trouble and The Fishbowl Game are the most prevalent that I’ve encountered though.

Preparation

You’ll need lots of small slips of paper (50 -100), a pen for each player, a stop watch and three bowls. The minimum number of players for the game is 4, but it works better with groups of between 8 and 20 people.

At the beginning of the game, give everyone a pen and a slip of paper. Name a category (eg. famous people, animals, places, instruments, etc.), each player should then write (clearly) a word that fits that category. Place one of the bowls in the centre of the playing area. The written on slips are folded and placed in the central bowl. Repeat this process at least 5 more times, naming different categories each time.

Now, divide your group into two equal teams and give each team one of the remaining bowls.

Gameplay

The first team chooses a player to go first. This player takes the stage and has 45 seconds on the clock. During this time they take slips of paper from the central bowl and explain them to their team so that the team can guess the word. The player should not say the word itself or the original category that it’s from. Place any words that are correctly guessed into the team’s bowl. They should explain as many words as possible in 45 seconds.

The teams alternate sending a player forward to explain more words until all of the words in the central bowl have been won by one team or the other. At this point both sides count how many words they’ve successfully guessed and the results are recorded. All of the word slips are now placed back into the central bowl.

The second round works in the same way as the first, but this time players have to explain the words on their slip by acting them out. They are not allowed to make any sounds. More complicated ideas can still be guessed relatively easily as all the words are already known from the first round. At the end of the round, again count up the scores and add them to those of the first round.
The third and final round involves saying just one word to explain the words on the slips, e.g. the word on the slip says “cow”, you might choose to explain it by saying the word “moo”. You can repeat it as many times as you like, but you can’t say any other words, so choose carefully!

Once all the rounds are played, add up the scores and the team with the highest score across all rounds wins the game.

Extra rounds

There are a couple of bonus rounds you can play if the game is especially well received or you want it to go on a little longer.

No hands – the same as the 2nd round, but the acting is done with your hands held behind your back.

No words – the same as the 3rd round, but instead of a word, a sound is chosen.

Silent ghost – the same as the 2nd round, but the actor is covered in a sheet to make their actions harder to decipher.

Moaning ghost – a combination of the last 2 examples, this round is the same as “No words”, but done from underneath a sheet.

Clue Setting Treasure Hunt Activity


Kids love hunting for treasure! You can hide just about anything and call finding it a game. At Easter we have them hunting for eggs in the garden, at other times of year games like ‘hot or cold’ and ‘hunting the thimble’ (which have been popular for centuries) can still easily engage their attention.

My favourite type of treasure hunt though is the clue setting hunt. It’s good because it comes with so much variation and encourages some really creative thinking from the children.

What is a clue setting treasure hunt?

The name might make it sound obvious, kids follow clues to find some hidden treasure, but how does that really work?

Someone is the clue setter, their job is to write and hide a series of clues. Each clue leads the other players to the next clue. The last clue leads them to some hidden treasure. I’d suggest that the first time you do this activity you play the role of clue setter yourself; in this way you’ll set an example of what’s expected. Further on, the real creative potential of this game is unlocked when children start creating their own hunts, but we’ll get to that.

Setting clues

You might want to hide the treasure first and write the clues in reverse order, starting with the last clue (which describes where the treasure is). The treasure could be anything at all, from sweets, to one of their existing toys, to some new present. I’d recommend making it something not too expensive or grand as the focus of the activity is more on solving the clues than on getting some great prize. It’s also much easier for them to make good hunts of their own if they can use something like an old teddy bear rather than feeling they need you to provide them with something remarkable.

Clues can take all manner of forms, they’re limited only by your own imagination and the level of complexity you think your children can handle. Simple clue forms might include instructions like: “the next clue is under a coaster in the living room”, or “you’ll find what you’re searching for under a chair in a room with blue walls” (use scotch tape to put clues under chairs and tables or in other less visible spots). We also like to set gentle descriptive riddles “I’m used for removing boots” (the next clue is in the shoehorn) “If you want to make some tea, first take this clue from out of me” (the clue is in the teapot).

For older children you could make the riddles more complicated or cryptic. You could also try adding in some other sorts of puzzles like some mathematics. If the answers to such puzzles can fit easily into a clue, great, if they can’t, just instruct the children to tell you the answer to the puzzle in return for the next clue.

The hunt is on

Once you’ve written all the clues and put them and the treasure in place (making sure to do so in such a way that the kids don’t notice you hiding them), it’s time to begin. Simply give the first clue to your children and tell them to work together to find the treasure. The hunt can be over very quickly or take a long time depending on the quantity and difficulty of the clues you’ve set.

Getting the most out of the treasure hunt

Obviously this activity is particularly work and time intensive for the clue setter. The first time you do the activity this means spending a long time on it yourself. The real joy of this game though comes afterwards. Once the example had been set our kids imaginations went wild.

As soon as they completed one hunt they wanted to start making their own. Their hunts have a tendency to be either very simple or too bizarrely cryptic to follow, but they’re very enthusiastic about explaining their own clues, so we usually get there in the end.

Making hunts for each other, for us, even for guests to the house soon became something of a craze. Now “make a treasure hunt ready for when daddy gets home” is a sentence which gets their brains ticking over (without being focussed on a screen) every time.

Board game for young programmers &

their parents: Robot Turtle Review

screen time alternative

New days – new games

Kids learn when they play. They used to play with wooden swords and pistols, with constructors and little doctor’s kits. Now they play more with their tablets and phones. And their playmate quite often is no longer another kid from the neighborhood (let’s call him Johnny) but from another continent entirely! And with a name like m()n5terShOOt3R111. This has become the norm. electronic devices play a bigger and bigger role in everyday life, and as a result, programming skills are becoming more and more necessary for a successful career.

Digital world dilemma

As parents, we want our kids to be successful in the modern digital world, but sometimes we also worry about phone dependency and internet gaming disorders. We want games to be fun, but also to have an educational element. To provide our kids with computer skills without causing screen time addiction. The experience of Finnish schools’ proves that it’s possible for kids to successfully learn programming without a computer or tablet. But it’s not a curriculum that many educators or parents are ready to use.
We can potentially help our kids to achieve the same success using a good old fashioned board game though!

Robot Turtles

Den Shapiro’s Robot Turtles is designed to teach programming principles to kids and is one of the most-backed board game for kids in Kickstarter history. More than 13 000 people supported the project. The game was designed for kids aged 3+ but older kids (and some adults for sure) will enjoy it as well.

The rules

Players direct little robot turtles on the gaming board in a quest to collect crystals while trying to avoid various obstacles along the way. Some obstacles can be destroyed (like the ice wall that can be turned into a puddle with a laser shot), some can be moved (wooden boxes) and some require you to find another route (stone wall).

Interestingly, the mechanics of the game don’t have players moving their own little turtle figures, instead this is done by a neutral moderator. Players can only pre-program the robot turtle for the move using a series of instruction cards. They are quite simple – go forward, turn right/left, shoot. And the “function frog” card which is “program in a program” and consists of a sequence of several commands. And, of course the “Bug” card. This one is used when a command sequence is not working well. Then players slap on the table and cry, “Bug!” And the program should be redone.

Why should your kids play it?

It’s very simple. Even the youngest can enjoy it. Though you can make it more complicated by using additional scenarios and maps.

No losers. The more competitive among us may not like this feature so much, but in the end, every turtle gets its jewel. “Winning” in this game is creating a program that works rather than defeating the other players.

It helps kids to learn programming in a very fun way. And doesn’t contribute to their daily screen time.

It stimulates kids’ creativity. They can not only make their first simple programs but the process is very fun, with unique sounds associated with every command.

It gives a lot of opportunities to get close to your child and better understand them and their peers. Remember, the game needs a moderator. That’s probably going to be you (or perhaps an older sibling). It could be hard for you to be a mere spectator – you might bite your tongue more than once during a game trying not to offer young players suggestions and solutions. But you it’s a great opportunity to talk about technology and a whole lot of other things too.

Kids love it, which speaks for itself.

Modern parents’ choice

Robot Turtles seems like a good alternative to kid’s tablets and phones while helping them to learn basic programming skills, potentially very important for them in the modern world. I’m sure it can help some parents to become less addicted to their phones and spend more time with the kids too.

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