10 of the best travel-friendly word games
It’s summertime! The sun is (occasionally) shining, the grass is green, school’s nearly out and it’s almost time for a holiday! Now we know that the last thing your children probably want to do is more studying, but here at BrainBox we’re always looking for subtle ways to put a bit of learning into the fun.
With that in mind, here are 10 travel-friendly word games that will widen your children’s vocabulary, whet their creative appetites and keep them entertained in the annual summer traffic jams…
1. Number Plate Game
Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. Stuck on the road for hours, our founder, Gary, spent the best part of the journey playing number plate games, making words from the letters. Simple, fun and sometimes really frustrating, you can use the letters to make a word or a series of words using those letters in order, as an acronym, or name things from a category of your choice.
To keep the interest and competitive spirit, try playing it with your children and award more points the longer the words they come up with. You might need to allow a couple of passes; we don’t blame anyone for struggling with YBX…
The word is ‘wainscoting’. Is the definition “umming and ahhing while you try and remember the word you need”? Or “a kind of skirting board”?
The definition game is great for challenging creativity and expanding vocabulary. Pick a word, the less well known the better, and the best and most creative definition (it definitely needn’t be the real meaning!) wins. On a long car journey, why not try playing it with obscure place names?
3. Name 5
Name five boybands, five predators, five kinds of musical instrument or five words to describe snow… One of the most popular games from Green Board Games, Name 5 challenges the users to name 5 things in a category before the timer runs out. But you don’t need cards and a timer to play this on the go (although they definitely help with the inspiration!).
An age-old favourite, and one we think everybody has played at some point. Pick a topic and the first player thinks of a word. The second player has to come up with a word that starts with the last letter of the previous word. If you keep ending up with ‘e’ or ‘s’ try using the second letter of the previous word. Spelling can play an important part here, especially where words end or begin with silent letters.
5. Story with an Unknown Word
You can have a lot of fun here and really challenge your child’s creativity. Think of the most descriptive word you can and challenge your child to tell a short story or construct a sentence using the word. If they don’t know the meaning of the word, you could either explain it, or combine it with the definition game and allow them to create a meaning and craft the story around it.
6. Animal, Vegetable, Mineral
Made famous in the radio show ’20 Questions’ this game can be incredibly short or drag on for ages, depending how creative your players are. One player thinks of an object and states if it is animal, vegetable or mineral. The other players may only ask up to 20 questions to which the original player may only answer yes or no. It can get quite complicated when you think that a wooden table is technically ‘vegetable’ or that a shoe (made of leather) could be classed as ‘animal’, but hopefully that just adds to the fun!
7. Start the Story
Great for awakening latent storytelling talent, you can play this game in two ways. The first way, as played on the Radio 4 comedy show ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’ works like a verbal game of Consequences. One person starts the story with a single word, and each successive player adds one word to the story. The aim is to avoid being the person who finishes the sentence or story.
The other way of playing it is to extend the opening to a whole sentence. Again, each successive player adds another sentence. Sit back and see where the story leads!
8. More Stories
Based on our new Story Cards game, pick a place, an animal and a number. Your children have to work all of them into a short story. You can vary what you choose: maybe a family member, a colour and a type of food? I mean, who wouldn’t want to hear the story about Uncle Wally and the purple banana…
It’s an oldie, but a goodie. For the younger members of the family, I-spy is a really easy way to test their spelling, vocabulary and get them engaging with their environment. There are lots of variations you can use, such as “I-spy with my little eye, something beginning with…(pick a letter)”, or “…something red” or even “…something that ends with the letter…”
10. My Grandmother’s Shopping Basket
The game begins “I went to the shop with my grandmother’s shopping basket and I bought…” and the first person starts at A, the second person repeats the first item and adds an item beginning with B, and so on. Whether anybody’s grandmother still has a shopping basket, and how anybody could fit 26 items (often for some reason including an elephant) into one basket, is a game for another day!