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How to Entertain Kids While You Wait

Do you ever wonder how to entertain kids while you wait? Sitting in an office, standing in a line, waiting for a show to begin? Jot these ideas down and stick them in your wallet. Pull it out the next time the kids threaten to do gymnastics across the seats.

Do you ever wonder how to entertain kids while you wait? These 5 simple games will keep everyone engaged no matter where you're sitting.


Every Thursday, the twins have strings lessons. One plays the cello, one the violin. Even through the summer. Practicing isn’t really high on their list of favorite activities right now, so it’s time to pull out my list of techniques for inspiring young musicians.

But that’s beside the point . . . the point is, I don’t take just the twins to strings practice. I take all the kids. That means those not engaged in a lesson have to – wait. And waiting’s not really high on their list of favorite activities!

Which means they usually beg me to bring the iPad with us, so they can play games. Now I’m not opposed to letting them play a few games now and then, but monitoring three kids sharing one small screen is not really high on my list of favorite activities.

Sometimes I remember to throw a deck of cards or a simple game like Spot It in my bag. Once I even took our Bird Bingo set. (Did you know bingo’s not just for numbers anymore? Amazon carries bingo games to match any interest – find one your kids will love here.)

When I forget to grab something, we fall back on one of these simple games.

Simple Games to Entertain Kids While You Wait

Sometimes the winner of a round gets to be the next leader. Other times mom stays the leader and the kids just get to guess. Depends on how well everyone’s cooperating. And I don’t make them take turns; they just guess as they think of an idea. If someone wins one of the guessing games too many times in a row, they sit out a few rounds to give the others chance at success!

I Spy

I usually start by stating the color. “I spy something yellow.” Then the kids start looking around and guessing. If they start to run out of ideas or get discouraged, I add another detail. “It’s yellow and very tiny.” I often start the game with bigger, more obvious objects and gradually move to smaller or trickier, more detailed items. Things in the room, outside a window and on each other are all fair game.

I’m Thinking of . . .

This is similar to I Spy, but the target items aren’t visible. So it helps to identify a category such as animals or vehicles. Start with a detail such as color (black and white), habitat (lives in the ocean) or body structure (long neck) and add detail until someone guesses correctly.

I’m Going to Grandmother’s House

Do you remember this one? I used to play it with my family on long car trips. Doesn’t work so well for us in the car yet, but we can practice other places. If you’re not familiar with this game, one person starts by saying, “I’m going to Grandma’s house and in my basket I have an apple” or anything else that starts with the letter A. The next person continues by remembering the item for A and adding one for B. The next person remembers both of those and adds an item for C and so on until you reach the end of the alphabet . . . or current concentration and memory capabilities!

List It

Here’s an alphabet based game that doesn’t require quite the memory power of the last one! Just ask the kids to list all the animals, flowers, trees, vehicles, sports, girls’ names . . . whatever category you think of that start with the letter A. When you’ve exhausted A, go on to B and so on until you run out of time.

Modify for numbers and list everything you can think of that comes in pairs (shoes, ears, mittens, twins) threes (clover, poison ivy, triplets), fours (sides of a square, wheels), dozens (donuts, eggs) or any other set.


Pen and paper required but no cards or game board necessary. Just some imagination. Draw a simple picture and let everyone guess what it is. We don’t usually name categories, but you could if it helps.

You could also try other pen and paper games like TicTacToe or Make-A-Square, but they don’t seem to hold my kids attention very long.

There you go!

Five simple games to entertain kids while you wait . . . in a long line . . . at the doctor’s office . . . sitting in the car . . . or in the echoey hallway on the third floor of an old church while your brothers have music lessons.

As an added incentive to play, I sometimes keep track of points and give kids an M&M for each one when we get home. It’s not much, but they get excited about it!

How do you entertain kids while you wait?


Shared at: SHINE, Thoughtful Thursday,


  1. It’s so nice to hear a list of things to keep kids entertained that doesn’t involve an iPad! I remember passing time by playing games like these. Great ideas! #SHINEbloghop

    • Hurray for games that don’t require a screen! We all did fine without them when we were kids, right!? Thanks for visiting, Kim.

  2. I Spy is big for us or, if waiting at a restaurant the “what’s missing” game from Daniel Tiger. I also always carry paper/a small coloring book and crayons with us. We’ll have to try some of these other games! #ShineBlogHop

    • I’ve heard a couple people recommend Daniel Tiger . . . but without a TV (assuming it’s a TV show), we’ve never seen it! If the “what’s missing” game is easy to explain would you share with me? Thanks, Julie.

  3. I’m kind of glad I’m out of that mothering phase of my life, at least when it comes to keeping kids entertained while waiting!! I would take books, since we didn’t have those kinds of devices when my kids were little. You listed some great ideas, though!

    • Books are always good! Sometimes we take our read aloud with us, but not always easy to read with multiple people playing stringed instruments in the rooms around us! The kids all surprised me today by each grabbing a Waldo book on the way out of the house; they love to search those.


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