The Blog

Can We Entertain Our Kids This Summer With Just Pens and Paper?

For instance, Kate needs to find William and Peeta needs to find Katniss - this will get strangers mingling and talking to one another, and serves as a perfect icebreaker if you're throwing a blind date party or are trying to fix up single friends!

Are the kids beginning to drive you nuts with their addiction to flickering screens this summer? While we love a browse through Facebook as much as anyone else, it can be a bit concerning to see our children 'zombied' in front of the television, glued to their PlayStations and obsessed with the number of likes they are (or aren't) gaining on Instagram. So, why not impose a bit of screen-free time?!

Nope, I'm not utterly crazy. You're going to be met with some resistance, that's for sure, but there's a lot to be said for going screen-free for a couple of hours every day and trying something different.

In fact, Adam Parmenter, a Senior Marketing Manager for educational supplier GLS has echoed this, saying that

"Screens and technology are an inevitable part of life nowadays, and there's a lot of educational and recreational benefits for children using tablets, for example. But, there's still a place for traditional games! Pen and paper games are great fun, facilitate quality family time, and even have educational benefits too... such as strengthening creativity, imagination, fine motor skills and social interaction."

So, why not use the time to introduce your kids to the retro games you used to play as a child!? Here are just a few ideas of the kinds of games you can play with bits of stationery (and be sure to read right to the end...there are a few ideas in here for the grown-ups, too...)!


Noughts and Crosses

You'll need: Paper and a pencil

How to play: let's start simple. Noughts and crosses is a classic game and couldn't be easier for the kids to play in the back of the car while they're sat in traffic. They'll need to draw a 3 x 3 grid on a piece of paper and decide who's going to be noughts (O) and who's going to be crosses (X). Then, the first player marks an O or an X in one of the squares, before the second player does the same in another square. The winner is the person who can make a straight line (vertically, horizontally or diagonally) with three of their marks, uninterrupted by the other's.

Top tip: Smart kids might quickly cotton on that going first gives them an advantage (having five squares to play for rather than four), so be sure to make them take it in turns.

Fortune tellers

You'll need: A square piece of paper and some colourful pens

How to play: fold a piece of square paper into the shape of a fortune teller, I found quite a few handy tutorials online. Then, decorate the fortune teller with colours and numbers on the folds as directed, writing generic "you will live in...", "you will get..." and "you will make..." fortunes beneath the inner-most folds. When it's ready, put your thumbs and index fingers in each of the four pockets of the fortune teller. One person needs to operate the fortune teller, and the other needs to pick options when asked. Choosing the colour 'blue' from the first layer, for example, requires the operator to pinch and pull the fortune teller at the same time as spelling out the word 'b-l-u-e', revealing the next layer of the fortune teller to complete. Continue through each layer, until the player picks a hidden fortune in the centre.

Top tip: Remember, fortune tellers are most fun when there are a few nasty surprises in there! Make sure there are a good mix of positive and negative outcomes if you want to make the game exciting, such as "you will live in...a smelly old caravan forever and ever" to illicit some giggles.


Dots and Squares

You'll need: Paper and coloured pens

How to play: Begin by drawing a grid of dots on some paper. Using lined paper will make this easier, especially if you don't have a hard surface to draw on. The first person draws a line to connect two dots together. The second player then draws another line to connect another two dots. The aim of the game is to be the person who draws the last side of a square, as this way, you 'win' and get to put your initials in the square. If you complete the square, you get another turn. The player with the most squares on the page at the end is the winner.

Top tip: This game is actually more fun than it sounds, but try using different coloured pens to make it more appealing, or use a small stamp to mark the squares you win rather than drawing your initial.


You'll need: A pen and a piece of paper

How to play: First, choose the categories that will make up the final MASH 'story'. Categories could include something like: the names of four people, four models of cars and the numbers one to four. Then, write MASH at the top of the page with some space between each letter. Next, tell the other player to close their eyes while you draw a spiral on the bottom half of the page. The other player should tell you to "stop" when they want you to stop drawing. Count how many coils you drew in the spiral - three, for instance. Then, start at the M at the top, and move clockwise while you count through each option, crossing off each once you've counted to '3'. Continue around the page, skipping the crossed-off options. Keep working your way around the page until you're left with just one option remaining in each category. Circle each remaining option, using it to tell the other player their story... will they live in a 'mansion' (m), 'apartment' (a), 'shack' (s) or 'house' (h)? Who will they marry? Which car will they drive? And how many children will they have?!

Top tip: You can make the game longer by adding in categories such as where in the world a person might live, what job they'll have, and what type of pet they'll own.


You'll need: Paper, pens and a ruler

How to play: Everyone will need need a piece of paper. Ask players to draw a grid, adding letters of the alphabet down the left hand side. Run right through from A to Z if you think your kids' attention span is good enough, or just pick five to ten at random. Then, across the top, write some categories. These could be names, capital cities, food and colours, for example. Then, set a timer and challenge everyone to complete the first row under timed conditions. Down pens when the timer rings, and award 5 points for finding a word, 10 for writing a difficult one, and 15 points if nobody else thought of it.

Top tip: You can make it more challenging by changing the categories, even using it as a sneaky educational tool during the holidays... for instance, make one of the categories 'action verbs' (so that children need to pick words such as jump, walk, amble and stride) to improve their vocabulary.



You'll need: Paper, pens and a calculator

How to play: Gather a group of adults and assign all letters of the alphabet with numerical values. Keep it simple: A = 1 and Z = 26. Then, call out categories one at a time (such as rock bands, battlegrounds or newspapers), challenging each player to write down a word or title for that category. Add up the numerical value of that word, and find a winner! It sounds easy, but it's actually hard to adapt to the idea that words containing lots of A's and E's (and anything else in the front half of the alphabet) is low scoring.

Top tip: This game is bizarrely addictive, and made all the more fun by introducing punishments for the lowest scoring participants: drinks or dares make this game extra entertaining...

Celebrity Heads

You'll need: Sticky notes and a pen

How to play: There are tons of variations of this game, but the essence remains the same. All you need to do is give everyone a sticky note. Then, write the name of a famous person (fictional or real) before sticking it on the forehead of the person to the left. Make sure that the person receiving the sticky note can't see what's written on it - everyone else needs to be able to. Take it in turns to ask yes/no response questions so that everyone can figure out which celebrity they are.

Top tip: If you're doing this in a situation where participants don't know each other very well, consider twisting the theme slightly so that everyone has to find their celebrity love match. For instance, Kate needs to find William and Peeta needs to find Katniss - this will get strangers mingling and talking to one another, and serves as a perfect icebreaker if you're throwing a blind date party or are trying to fix up single friends!