Healthy KidsYMCA Camps and Outdoor Education

4 games you can play with nothing but a pencil and paper

09 April 2020 - by YMCA of Greater Toronto
We know lots of you parents out there are feeling a little trapped these days, stuck inside with kids who are all too willing to let you know just how bored they are. The good news is, while we’ve never had to practice physical distancing before, we do have a lot of practice keeping kids occupied. Just think of all those rainy spring weekend days when your little ones would rather be in the park or on the playground, but you’ve had to come up with creative ways to keep them engaged indoors.

These simple games you can play with a pencil and paper will keep you and your kids pleasantly distracted while we all stay safe at home.

1. Join the Dots

Draw a six-by-six square of dots on a piece of paper (three dots wide, three dots tall). Take turns drawing a line between two dots to join them; you can only join two dots per turn. Your goal is to be the one to create a box with your line. If you do, write your initials inside. The person with the most boxes wins the game. Once the kids get the hang of it, you can add more dots to make a larger grid.

2. Tic Tac Toe

This classic game is played on a three-by-three grid. One person will play “X” and the other, “O.” Player X uses their pencil to mark an “X” in a box of their choosing. Then, player O picks another box and marks it with an “O.” The first player to get three Xs or Os in a line — vertical, horizontal, or diagonal —wins.

3. Pictionary

Pictionary is like charades, except you’re drawing instead of miming. To set up the game, have someone who is not playing write a whole bunch of words — people, places, animals, objects, and actions — out on small pieces of paper. Distribute blank sheets of paper and pencils to everyone. When it’s your turn, choose a word from the pile, and don’t tell the others what it is. Make your blank piece of paper visible to the other players, and start drawing your word until the others guess what it is! Don’t worry if you’re not artistically inclined; the whole fun of the game is listening to the silly things people say while they’re guessing.

If you’re looking for a little friendly competition and excitement, make up a scoring system. Say every correct guess is worth one point, and the first person to get ten points wins. Then, use a kitchen timer to set a one-minute time limit for each player; if you don’t guess correctly before the timer goes off, no one gets the point.

4. Name, Place, Animal, Thing

Divide a piece of pager into four parts and mark each either Name, Place, Animal, or Thing. Set a timer for five to 10 seconds and ask one player to say the alphabet silently until it goes off. When the timer stops, the player says the letter they stopped at. All players write down a word beginning with that letter for each of the categories: name, place, animal, and thing. You want to be as creative and original as possible, because the next step is to go around and share your words; if you wrote down the same word as another player, you both lose five points. For every unique word, you gain ten points!

We hope these fun YMCA Camp games brighten your family’s day and bring a smile to your faces :)


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