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22 Boredom-Busting Games

  • by Kris Bordessa

    Grocery store entertainment

    Find that letter
    Pick a letter and take turns naming items in the store that start with it. Get creative: "B" is for banana, but also for a box of cereal! 4 and up

    I-Spy times three
    Name three items your child can look for, like something that's bigger than his fist, something that's liquid, and something that's red. 3 and up

    Banana notes
    Pick up a banana and let your kid draw a picture on the skin with a pencil eraser. By the time you get home, your artist's work will magically appear -- just in time for a snack! 3 and up

  • Color scout
    Choose a color for the day. Tell your child that her job is to watch and tell you every time you put something of that color in the cart. 2 and up

    Basket case
    Challenge your child to find another shopping cart with two items that are the same as two already in your cart. 3 and up

    Build a word
    Have your child try to find all the letters in her name on a package from your cart. If your kid's older, pick a simple sentence ("I love to eat cheese!") and have her search the box for each letter. 4 and up

  • Little Picasso
    In the exam room, whip out a crayon so your child can draw on the paper covering the table. Older kids can play tic-tac-toe or hangman. 18 months and up

    Grab three paper cups from the sink and turn them upside down. Hide the cotton ball under a cup, switch the cups around, and see if your child can guess where the ball is. Try it again -- and then give him a chance to trick you. 3 and up

    Floss art
    At the dentist's, see if you can snag your free dental floss before the exam. It's fun to arrange into different shapes and to figure out how to make animals or flowers. 3 and up

  • Card shark
    Pull a bunch of subscription postcards from various magazines in the waiting room. Deal them out and play Go Fish: "Do you have one with yellow on it?" 4 and up

    Sock toss
    Take your child's sock off and roll it into a ball (you'll have to take his shoes off for the weigh-in anyway). See if he can toss it so that it lands on a magazine placed a few feet away. 2 and up

    Walk this way
    When you're brought to the exam room, ask a nurse if you can have a cotton ball and a tongue depressor. The challenge for your child: Carry the cotton ball across the room on the tongue depressor. Can she make it? How many times? 4 and up

  • Got a stamp?
    Make a show of hiding stamps in all of your child's pockets. Have her search for where you actually put them. 2 and up

    Fill in the blanks
    If your child knows how to write her name, grab one of the mailing forms and have her fill out as much as she can (give her a hand with the rest). This'll help her memorize important information, too! 4 and up

    Mime games
    While you're standing in line, designate a leader and a follower. As the leader makes motions or funny faces, the follower mirrors the action. Try to be sneaky enough that nobody else knows you're playing. 3 and up

  • Number hunters
    If your post office has personal mailboxes near the line, read a number from one of the boxes and see if your child can find it. 3 and up

    Post your pic
    Have your child draw a picture. Put it in an envelope that you've addressed to yourself (or Grandma), then have him stamp it and mail it before you leave. 2 and up

  • A sweet deal
    Arrange the silverware in a tic-tac-toe grid and use packages of sugar (white) and artificial sweetener (pink) as X's and O's. 4 and up

    Pepper picker-upper
    Sprinkle a teaspoon each of salt and pepper onto a napkin. Have your child rub a plastic spoon (not one you'll eat with!) on his hair for about a minute. Then, if he holds the spoon over the napkin, you can watch as the static electricity makes the pepper -- but not the salt -- jump onto the spoon. 4 and up

    Straw magic
    Have your child put two straws in her mouth. Put one into her drink and leave the other on the outside of the glass. See how much of her drink she can swallow. Odds are, not much! 3 and up

  • Who's next?
    Guess who's going to walk through the door or past your table. Will he be wearing a hat? Something red? Or maybe a beard? See how many correct guesses you can make as a group. 3 and up

    Modern art
    When your child gets antsy from coloring the kids' menu, use the crayons to make rubbings of the things you have on hand -- a fork, a penny, a rough table surface. Just put a paper menu over each item, rub with the side of the crayon, and watch the textures appear, in color! 2 and up

    Photo by Paul Goyette (CC Licensed)

    Kris Bordessa, a mom of two, is the author of Team Challenges: 170+ Group Activities to Build Cooperation, Communication, and Creativity.