Waiting doesn"t have sầu lớn be synonymous with whining. Try these deceptively simple on-the-go games that sneak in skills your child needs in kindergarten.


When the Loper family embarked on a 22-day cross-country trip covering 8900 miles, 28 states, and eight national parks, their friends and family thought they were crazy. With 5-year-old Jack, 3-year-old Owen, và 20-month-old Madeline in tow, the trip involved at least 200 hours of oto time. That’s a lot of sitting và waiting for kids who haven’t even started kindergarten yet.

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So how’d they make it work?

Games, says Kris Loper. “We played games to keep the kids occupied.”

A simple solution lớn a daily problem

Waiting is a fact of life. We spover almost an hour a day waiting — for appointments, in traffic, in check-out lines. For young kids, that can seem like an eternity. But spkết thúc that time playing games, like the Lopers, and you turn an otherwise boring wait inkhổng lồ chất lượng learning time. Why? Playing games is more than just a good way to keep kids busy và happy. It’s an opportunity for your young child to develop key skills. Games help children acquire competency in reasoning, language, và math. When kids strategize and problem-solve sầu to play games, they also improve sầu self-regulation — the ability to lớn control their emotions và behavior, resist impulses, & exert self-control và discipline. So while you’re passing the time pleasantly rather than petulantly, you’re also helping your child practice skills they’ll need to adapt lớn — & thrive in — kindergarten.

The classics

#1 Dots and Boxes

To play: Using a pen and paper, make a grid of 10 dots across & 10 dots down for a total of 100 dots. (If that seems overwhelming to lớn your preschooler, you can adjust the kích cỡ of the grid.) Take turns connecting two dots horizontally or vertically. The player who closes a box puts their initial in the middle. The one with the most closed boxes marked with their initial at the end of the game is the winner.

The connection khổng lồ kindergarten: Boosts fine motor skills as your preschooler practices drawing lines & writing their initials.

#2 Guess which hand?

To play: With your hands behind your bachồng, place a small sản phẩm, lượt thích a coin, in one hand and hide it by making a fist. Without revealing where it is, show your child your fists and ask them lớn choose the hand hiding the coin. Tweak this game by holding your fists in different positions, like one above the table and the other below, or one in front of you & one behind, and asking your child, “Which hvà — in front of behind?” After a few rounds, give sầu your child the coin as a prize.

The connection khổng lồ kindergarten: Teaches spatial awareness, foundational for math — & helpful for young kindergartners following new rules lượt thích standing behind the line or putting their backpack in front of the bookshelf.

#3 I’m thinking of…

To play: Pick a number, a color, a person, place, or thing. Then, like you’re playing Twenty Questions, prompt your child to ask questions to deduce what you’re thinking of. Guide your child along by giving hints, too.

The connection to lớn kindergarten: By practicing complete questions & responses that are more than one-word answers, you’re helping them be kindergarten-ready communicators — expanding their vocabulary while giving them rudimentary grammar practice khổng lồ boot.

Classics with a twist

#4 Tic Tac Toe with straws and sugar packets

This can be a lifesaver in a restaurant while waiting for your food khổng lồ be served.

To play: Use straws khổng lồ create a Tic Tac Toe board and sugar và sweetener packets as the X’s & O’s. This game may be more appropriate for older preschoolers who are ready to lớn learn strategy and how khổng lồ make choices. If your 3-year-old prefers lớn use the straws and sugar packets lớn create designs or practice counting, that’ll work, too. Ask your child to lớn stachồng three yellow sweetener packets or make a row with four Trắng sugars. The options are almost endless.

The connection lớn kindergarten: Recognizing and creating patterns helps with the development of counting, strategy, problem-solving, & algebraic thinking. Yes, algebra skills vị start in kindergarten!

#5 Find the coin

This sleight of hvà game, which typically uses cups & a ball, can be adapted to lớn the restaurant table with sugar packets and a coin.

To play: Make a row with three sugar packets. (Make sure they’re all the same color.) Hide a coin under one of the packets, then start khổng lồ move sầu them around in circles as quickly as you can. Once you stop, ask your child which packet the coin is hiding under. This game’s another chance khổng lồ earn some cold, hard cash if you reward them with the coin at the kết thúc of the game.

The connection lớn kindergarten: Hiding games encourage children to lớn use their imagination và help kids develop problem-solving skills.

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#6 Backseat bingo

To play: Keep a phối of bingo cards (download không tính phí, age-appropriate bingo cards) và markers in the glove sầu compartment of your oto. Players can look for the numbers on license plates, street signs, billboards, or buildings.

The connection khổng lồ kindergarten: Boosts matching, sorting, and classifying skills. This game also teaches kids to identify numbers, an important early math skill.

Games khổng lồ play on the fly

#7 Thumb wrestling

It’s hard khổng lồ st& still while waiting in line, but games like tag và hide and seek may not be appropriate in a crowded waiting room or grocery store. When you must stay in one place, try thumb wrestling.

To play: Grasp hands with thumbs sticking up & without using any other fingers, try to be the first khổng lồ pin your opponent’s thumb down for a count of three.

The connection khổng lồ kindergarten: Boosts dexterity & fine motor skills.

#8 Statues

To play: Challenge your child to pretkết thúc they’re a favorite character & to strike a pose that character would make, then see how long she can hold it. Freezing in one position can get pretty boring after a few seconds, but retìm kiếm shows that by adding the element of imagination, kids can hold still and stay focused much longer..

The connection khổng lồ kindergarten: Uses imagination lớn practice impulse control and delayed gratification, two important self-regulation skills.

#9 Rock, paper, scissors

Your preschooler may not be ready to lớn compete in the annual USA Rock Paper Scissors tournament, but a few rounds can make a wait bearable.

To play: On the count of three, each of you makes a rock (fist), paper (hand flat), or scissors (holding up the first two fingers with your hvà tilted khổng lồ the side to lớn mimic cutting). Remember paper covers rochồng, roông chồng breaks scissors, & scissors cut paper.

The connection khổng lồ kindergarten: Encourages kids to memorize simple rules (like roông chồng beats scissors), to strategize, & lớn practice motor skills.

#10 APPropos games

There are plenty of preschooler-appropriate apps for your điện thoại thông minh or iPad tablet. Jack, Owen, and Madeline all enjoy Toca Boca apps. “They’re simple, safe, và usable,” Kris says. “Madeline can play most of them at trăng tròn months, but Jaông xã still loves them at 5.”

To play: Toca Boca games are designed for open-ended play and exploration. With 23 apps khổng lồ choose from, preschoolers can prepare food in the Toca Kitchen, explore nature in Toca Nature, or use digital building blocks lớn create a new world with the six Toca builders.

The connection khổng lồ kindergarten: Apps that allow open-ended play (meaning there are several possible outcomes rather than a single static ending to every game) teach children to lớn use their imaginations lớn solve sầu problems, which is a step toward self-reliance and independence.

Whether you’re in line, at the doctor’s office, or in the car, having these games on hvà will transform waiting time into enjoyable memories together. Plus, you’ll stave off poor behavior and whining — at least for a while — while sneaking in key skills that will help prepare your child for kindergarten.

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