Brainteasers !


Number of participants: At least three

What play will need: To like guessing games

Length of time: About 30 minutes

Age : 6-8

Rules of the game:

The first player covers his ears while the rest of the players think of a verb. The first player then tries to guess what the verb is by asking questions with “coffeepot” substituted for the verb. For example, if the verb is “smile,” the first player might ask, “Do you coffeepot with your hands?” or “Do babies coffeepot?” The others answer yes or no. When the first player correctly guesses the verb, the last player to answer a question goes next. No one wins or loses in this game; it ends when everyone has had a chance to guess.

I’m Thinking of an Animal

Number of participants: Two

What players will need: An ability to piece together clues and make good guesses

Length of time: Five to 30 minutes

Ages : 3-8

Rules of the game:

One player thinks of an animal, and the other tries to guess which animal it is by asking no more than ten “yes” or “no” questions. If the child guesses correctly in ten questions or fewer, he gets to think of the next animal. If not, the first player divulges the answer and then thinks of another animal. No one really wins, and the game is over when the children don’t want to play anymore.

Other ways to play it:

If you’re playing with your child, you may not want to put a limit on the number of questions he can ask. Instead, think of it as a way to teach him about an interesting subject. Also, when choosing an animal, consider the age of the child. An older player may know all there is to know about easy-to-guess animals, such as cats and dogs, and may need the challenge of harder choices, for instance egrets and yaks. But most 3- and 4-year-olds will recognize only the most basic creatures, such as lions, tigers, and bears.


Number of participants: One or more

What players will need: Patience and logic

Length of time: Five minutes to an hour or more

Rules of the game:

Riddles can be delightful for all ages. Children can try to figure them out alone or compete against others in a group. If they want a competition, simply have them take turns telling their favorite riddles. Each person gets a point for a correct answer. The person with the most points at the end of a set number of riddles wins. Here are a few riddles to get you started:

Question: What’s black and white and read all over?

Answer: A newspaper

Question: What’s black and white and red all over?

Answer: A blushing zebra

Question: When is a door not a door?

Answer: When it’s ajar (“a jar”- get it?)

Question: Why did the fly fly?

Answer: Because the spider spied her

Question: I use three legs when I rest and one when I work. What am I?

Answer: A wheelbarrow

Question: Why did the chicken cross the playground?

Answer: To get to the other slide

Games a Child Can Play Alone

Alone time doesn’t have to be lonely. Here are games for one that are definite fun.


Ages: 6 and up

Number of participants: One or more

What players will need: A set of ten jacks (which should include a small rubber ball), a flat surface to play on, and coordination

Length of time: 30 minutes to two hours

Rules of the game:

Although a game of Jacks usually involves two players, children can play with them alone and be both challenged and mesmerized for hours.

Before the game, each player throws all ten jacks up in the air and tries to catch them on the back of his hand. This is called “flipping.” The player who catches the most jacks goes first.

The object of the game is to throw the ball in the air and pick up a certain number of jacks before the ball bounces twice. There are ten rounds in jacks. The first round is called “onesies.” The starting player scatters the jacks on the ground and throws the ball in the air. He then picks up a jack and catches the ball after the first bounce, using the same hand. The first player continues to throw the ball and pick up a jack until he has removed all ten from the floor. If he misses a jack, moves any of the jacks, drops a jack, or fails to catch the ball, he’s out and it’s another child’s turn. If he picks up all ten jacks successfully, he moves on to twosies, threesies, and so on, until he catches all ten jacks in one last swipe. The first child to get to tensies wins.

Other ways to play it: Instead of playing ten rounds, challenge your child to pick up as many jacks as she can on each turn.

Hit or miss
Number of participants: One

Length of time: 15 to 20 minutes

What player will need: A deck of 52 cards – and patience

Ages : 6-8

About the game:

Compared to most one-person card games, Hit or Miss seems to go on forever. This game of chance is great for long trips in small spaces, such as an airplane or a car, because kids can play it quietly, save for the sound of cards turning over.

Rules of the game:

Put all the cards into one pile and hold it face down. Then turn the top card over and put it down while saying “ace,” quietly to yourself. Peel the next card off the pile and say “two.” Take off the third card and say “three.” Keep turning cards over and counting from ace to king as you do.

Any time the card you put down matches the card you name, you get a hit. Otherwise it’s a miss. Set each hit aside and continue as before. When you have used all the cards you are holding, pick up the pile of overturned cards and start counting again from where you left off.

The goal is to make all the misses into hits. This doesn’t happen very often, so remind your child that she may have to play many times before she wins.


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