Thursday, May 15, 2008

Thinking Games


These games are great to pull out when you have a wait somewhere, or during dinner, or any other odd moments that you'd like to turn into 'school time.' One of the best things is that they can be used for a wide variety of ages. The answers that come from your five-year-old may be hilarious...or amusing. The ones from your older children may be profound.

Another good thing is that the games are open-ended...there can be more than one 'right' answer.


1. How are _____ and ____ alike? How are they different?

In the blanks, put in two things, animals, jobs, etc. For instance, "How are carrots and radishes alike?" Answers could vary from "They're both growing in our garden" to "They both contain vitamins," to " They both taste yummy!" Encourage creativity and exploration of ideas. Differences could involve color, taste, genus, shape, growing conditions, etc.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

cats and dogs
cars and dump trucks
stars and light bulbs
pens and chalk
cows and bananas (go far afield occasionally!!)
love and respect
values and rules
cooking and driving
ravens and writing desks (from Alice in Wonderland)


2. What doesn't belong?

In this game, you list four thing: three that go together in some way, no matter how obscure, and one that's 'odd one out.' Remember, though, that these things can often have more than one outcome: you may think that one of the items is out for one reason, but your creative child may point out that the same item, or a different one, is out for an entirely different reason. As long as the person can justify their answer, it's good. For example:

sock shoe slipper shirt

You could exempt the shirt because it's the one that doesn't fit on the foot. But your brilliant five-year-old may choose the shoe because it's not soft or made of fabric, as the others are. You're both right.

Here are a few ideas for this game:

banana / orange / apple / celery
fire truck / police car /ambulance / semi truck
pen / pencil / crayon / chalk
MP3 / GIF / BMP / JPEG
Firefox / Opera / Internet Explorer / Windows
Justice / love / thought / mercy


3. Where am I?

Imagine that you are somewhere else..say, on human body. Describe where you are with enough detail to clue your listeners in on where you are. For instance:

"I'm in dark cave, but there's light at the end of the tunnel...it's sticky and gooey in here, and there are these things sticking up all over the place...Whew! That was close! I nearly got blown out of the cave by high winds!"

(inside a nostril!)

This can also be played using different locations. Try

* planets
* countries
* cities
* locations in your house or neighborhood
* places on the periodic table
* book, myth, or Star Trek locations, etc.


Pick a low-tech means of travel: bicycle, goat cart, little red wagon. Then, use your imagination to figure out some great new add-ons, like:
  • GPS for your bike
  • cup holders for the goat cart
  • reclining bucket seats for the wagon...
Name 17 things that kids do better than adults.
You are the Commissioner for the new National Shoe-Tying League (or Kick Ball, or Sand-Castle Building, or whatever you choose). You have eight teams. What cities would get to host them? What kind of facilities would they need? Name your teams, and figure out their mascots and colors.
Make a list of 27 things that you'd find in a mad scientist's lab. Eye of newt, anyone?
My son has a Sarcastic Ball, kind of like a Magic 8 Ball that gives flip answers to life's questions. There are also Psychic Soccer Balls, Affirmation Balls, and more. Design your own Magic Ball to answer yes-or-no questions. What kind of ball would a Barbie aficionado have? How about someone from the Roman Empire?
Rewrite an Early Reader using really big words....or should I say, using astronomic lexemes!
Create a box of crayons for a special group of people...maybe animal lovers, or computer geeks. Give all of the crayons new names, like Screen-of Death Blue, or Tiger Stripe Orange.



There are 365 1/2 days in a calendar year, but the present calendar is confusing. Make your own year, with however many months you feel are appropriate, days off as you see fit, etc. Be sure to rename everything!
How would you celebrate a holiday like Christmas if you were in a totally different climate? Maybe you're used to having barbecues on the beach, but you'll be in a snowy area, or vise-versa. Or you're used to Trick-or-Treating in chilly drizzle, but you'll be in humid heat. How would the weather affect your celebrations?
A few years ago, a group of activists bought dolls from a store, switched their voice boxes, and then returned the dolls. When other people bought the dolls, they found that GI Joe, the Army action figure, said, in girly voice, " “Will we ever have enough clothes?”, "Math is hard!" and “I love shopping!” The Barbies growled, “Vengeance is mine!” and " Lock and load!" What other toys could be similarly switched?
For holidays this year, you got a box of Fortune cookies...but each of the twelve cookies had a slip inside that told something that would actually happen during that month. What would you like the slips to say?
What if everyone in the world had an identical twin? What if everyone were a conjoined twin?
Think of seven people that you know. What vegetable do they remind you of? What board game? What candy?

How might things be different if your country was half its size? How about twice its size?
A meteor is headed towards Earth. How would you stop or deflect it?
Think of fifty words that describe rain...or cows...or bunnies...or the way your brother snores...
Open a celestial travel agency. Plan trips to other worlds, both real and imaginary. Make travel brochures, videos, maps, posters, etc., then book tours for friends and family!

Play International Twister with a World Map Shower Curtain...Mom calls the countries so she doesn't have to have help getting up and aspirin afterward!
Play Categories: one person thinks of a category, like songs with girls' names in them, or breeds of dog, or frozen foods. Then everyone takes turns coming up with members of the set.
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