Our colleague Rachel shares some fun, resource-light game ideas to help pass the time with little ones

Squiggle game

Get into pairs and the first of the pair draws a squiggle (choose different colours, shapes and sizes). The other person then makes the squiggle into a picture – it could be anything from an alien to a shaggy sheep. Three minutes each per drawing.

Take it a step further …

Get into a group of four (less or more people will work, too). Each person has a piece of paper and draws a squiggle, which they pass to the person on their left, who then turns the squiggle into an image – but for one minute only this time. Pass the paper to the left again, invite them to add to the drawing (you can start adding things such as backgrounds and signs) for another minute. Keep passing to the left and adding for one minute until you get back to the beginning. Have a look at how something can be made from nothing and then display the pictures proudly.

This is a good game for children who feel they need to be perfect; given that there is no such thing, these feelings can often get in the way of enjoyment by focusing on the end product rather than the journey. The pictures can be anything so there should be no pressure to get it ‘right’. Any game that is meant to ‘go wrong’, such as Jenga, can be helpful with this.

Back-to-back art

In pairs, one person will assume the role of the director and one the artist. Each director is given a minute to draw a simple drawing and told not to reveal it to the artist who receives a blank piece of paper and a pencil. Directors are to give directions on how to duplicate the drawing using only verbal instructions. The artists cannot ask any questions, or you can allow them to ask only questions with yes or no answers. When all partners are finished, compare the drawings and see who has the closest representation. For any perfectionists out there, make sure it’s clear before you start that the more wrong the artist gets it the funnier it is.

Find the leader

This game is perfect for a larger family. One player is sent out of the room. While the chosen person is gone, the others sit in a circle and choose a leader. The leader starts any of the following simple movements:

  • Stomach patting
  • Opening and shutting the mouth
  • Hand waving
  • Foot stomping
  • Clapping

As the other players copy the leader’s movement, the player who has been outside comes in, stands in the centre of the circle, and watches to find out which person is the leader. The leader changes motions, trying not to get caught. When the leader is guessed correctly, repeat with another person serving as the leader and a new person guessing.

Jenga game

If children are bored of the classic game of Jenga you can revamp it by writing questions on each brick such as ‘what would you do if you were invisible?’, ‘name three things that you enjoy’ or ‘if you had a superpower what would it be?’. You could also add things such as ‘jump on one leg for one minute’ or ‘collect three things from the house beginning with B in three minutes’. Children have a much better imagination than most adults and will come up with great questions and tasks. Each time you successfully pull out a Jenga brick you have to do what it says or answer the question.