So You’ve Only Got Paper, Pencils, and Time…

  by Andrew Wolgemuth

Sometimes screens can do the trick, and we’ve suggested some fun stuff on YouTube (for a young-ish viewer) for watching, GoNoodle for educational/workout/catchy-song guidance, and Art for Kids Hub for, well, art.

Screen-free is often good, though, and classic gaming with Pass the Pigs, Yahtzee, or memory come through in the clutch.

And sometimes even simpler is needed…perhaps out of necessity. So, when batteries are low, game options feel overused, but paper and pencil are on-hand, here are a few entertainment options for you and your kid.

Noughts and Crosses — Tic-tac-toe by any other name is still tic-tac-toe…but calling it Noughts and Crosses helps. As we’ve previously noted, tic-tac-toe noughts and crosses is not a great game, but it’s a good place to start in the paper and pencil entertainment world. Two parallel vertical lines, two parallel horizontal lines, and you’ve got your game space on paper. Let the kid go first (at least to start), and see who gets three noughts (circles) or crosses (X’s) in a row.

Dots and Boxes — Create a grid of dots (perhaps start with a 6×6…expand as game time, gamer patience, and game skill increase), start making lines between dots (alternating turns, line-by-line), and see who can put the fourth wall on a box. When that happens, the boxer writes their initial in the box, scores a point, and gets to draw a bonus line (and additional bonus lines if they continue to close boxes). Drop little tips and strategies as you play (Don’t leave daddy a three-sided box!), and enjoy the experience of a little mind quickly catching up to your “skill” level.

Paper Telephone — For those with modest art skills and two or more readers as their gaming companions, Paper Telephone is pretty great. Each player starts with a piece of paper and draws a simple scene at the top…perhaps “Boy playing soccer” or “Cars in a wreck” or “Airplane landing at LaGuardia at dusk.” After the drawings are complete, everyone passes their paper to the person on their right, and that person writes a sentence, guessing what the first artist’s drawing depicts. Perhaps the soccer pic is described as “Boy kicking rocks” while the landing airplane is perceived as “A crash-landing dragonfly.” After each player writes their sentence, they fold the paper over so that the drawing is hidden…and pass the paper to their right. The third recipient of the paper is back to drawing, doing their best to create a scene that matches the second person’s sentence. Then they fold the paper over the descriptive sentence, pass the paper with their drawing for viewing, and so on…until the papers are back with their original artists. Unfold the paper and see how the “telephone” tale unfolded!

I recently discovered a site dedicated to games like this, and Pencil and Paper Games is worth checking out. A few favorites there include Battleship (much like the classic board game), a few number games, Chomp, and Sprouts (full disclosure: I had to read the instructions multiple times).

So, there you go—a few options for you for situations when time is a-plenty and paper and pencil are all that you have on-hand. Enjoy.


There’s also fun to be had via folded, fly-able paper.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash