10 Ways to Play With Kids While You're Waiting

Fun things to do with kids while waiting in line, at the doctor's office or anywhere

A recent study estimates that the average adult spends about an hour a day waiting for something—the bathroom, the cashier, the bus, you name it. But parents seem to wait around even more than that. Plus we get the added bonus of hearing our kids whine, "I'm bored!" and beg incessantly for our smartphones.

But waiting with your kids doesn't have to be dull. You can turn that downtime into quality family time by finding ways to play together (and no, we're not talking about Candy Crush). Inspired by our series of SUMMER OF PLAY posts, here are 10 no-tech activities to try when you're stuck waiting somewhere—hopefully you won't be there long enough blow through all of them in one go!

  1. Test Your Memory
    Have your kids look in one direction for 30 seconds and try to memorize everything they see. Then have them turn away and see how many objects they can remember. Quiz them by offering clues and keep score of how many details they recall.
  2. Try a Question Game
    Like I Spy or 20 Questions, both of which we described in detail in our cool car games post. There's also Would You Rather, which can result in some pretty funny quandaries. Get creative, we're sure your kids will.
  3. Take a Pop Quiz
    Let your kids play teacher for once and have them quiz you about something they're learning in school. How have your multiplication tables or grammar skills held up? You might be surprised by what you remember... or don't.
  4. Hold an Impromptu Spelling Bee
    Now you're back in charge and testing the kids' spelling skills. Start with simple words before moving on to trickier ones. Want to really up the ante? Have them try spelling and defining homophones, ex. there, their and they're; to, too and two; board and bored.
  5. "Draw" on Each Other's Backs
    Trace a letter or simple shape with your finger on your kid's back and see if he can guess what you wrote. The bigger you draw it, the easier it is, so for older kids, try writing out a short word. Once he guesses correctly, switch places.
  6. Do a Hand Game
    Teach your kids an oldie but goodie like Miss Mary Mack or let them show you the latest clapping rhymes. Too noisy? Try quieter hand games like Rock, Paper, Scissors or thumb-wrestling.
  7. Stand on One Leg
    It's more challenging than you might think. Make it harder by having them close their eyes and then cover their ears. In addition to our muscles and nerves, we depend on these senses to balance, so make sure you're nearby in case they topple over.
  8. Have a Joke-Off
    Pull out all the punch lines for a joke-telling contest. Even if you know the answers to every knock-knock setup already, let the kids finish telling theirs. The first one to elicit a genuine laugh wins.
  9. How Did That Get Here?
    It's rare for children (or adults for that matter) to stop and think about how things are made. Whatever you're doing—shopping, waiting for a meal, etc.—pick out a product and discuss the steps that went into making it. For example, at a restaurant you could talk about the farmers who grew the ingredients, the truck drivers who shipped them out, the chefs who planned and cooked the dish, and the servers who brought it to your table.
  10. Play The Price Is Right
    This one only works if you're in a store, but it's a fun way to work on rudimentary math and money skills. Choose a product and cover the price, then have your kids guess how much it costs. Try it with similar items and compare the prices. Do the math to figure out which ones cost the least and the most.