Picture this: Your family is on a camping trip up in the mountains. Maybe you’re there to do some fishing or break out those new bird-watching binoculars you just got. The sun is shining, trees dot the landscape, and a mountain breeze blows fresh air into your lungs.
There’s only one thing left to do: entertain the kids.
When it comes to keeping the kids entertained, we often rely on things like card games, activity books, or the dreaded phone screen. In a world where fun is often tied to the cell phone, it can be difficult to help the kids have a good time without relying on screens.
Thankfully, there’s a solution: games to play with friends that don’t require anything. With a little imagination and creativity, games to play without anything can keep your kids entertained without exposing them to the harmful effects of staring at the screen.
Telephone was a popular playground game when I was a kid. As soon as the recess bell rang, my friends and I would gather around the playground for a rousing round of Telephone. We loved it because there was no limit to how many people could play, so everyone got to be included. In fact, the game is better with more players!
In addition to being a great example of games to play with family without anything, Telephone helps kids practice their listening comprehension and communication skills.
How to Play: First, gather your players and seat them in a line. The person at the front of the line thinks of a word or phrase. Then, they whisper their message into the ear of the player beside them, without repeating it. This next player tries to repeat the same message to the person next to them. Once the message reaches the last person in line, they say it out loud for everyone to hear. If the message stays the same from beginning to end, everyone wins! At the end of the round, the player at the front of the line moves to the back and the whole thing begins again.
2. 20 Questions
20 Questions is one of the best games to play without anything for two. All you need is one other player and some basic deductive reasoning skills. 20 Questions doesn’t require any materials, so it’s a great game to play in the car, on a hike, or around the campfire. The strategy lies in choosing the best questions to ask, so kids also get some valuable practice with their problem-solving skills as they play.
How to Play: The game is super simple. One player thinks of something (it can be anything!) and the other player tries to guess what it is by asking a series of (you guessed it) 20 questions. The only catch: the questioner can only ask “yes” or “no” questions. If the questioner guesses correctly within 20 questions, they win! If they fail, then the answerer wins.
3. I Spy
I spy with my little eye…a fun game for the whole family!
I Spy is one of the most classic games on this list. Not only is it a fun example of outdoor and indoor games to play without anything, but this game helps kids train their observation skills and become familiar with the world around them.
How to Play: Decide who is going to start. This player chooses an object around them that everyone can see. They then give the color of the object as a clue. For example, if the player chose a red barn, they would say, “I spy with my little eye something red.” The other players then take turns guessing the object until someone gets it right. The first person to guess correctly wins and gets to choose the next object!
Next time your kids are hosting a slumber party and aren’t sure what games to play, try a quick round of Charades! This classic party game is good for all ages—and an absolute riot. Every player will be laughing and giggling as they try to guess exactly what object, movie, book, or song is being acted out.
Charades is one of the best games to play with household items, because all you need is a pen, some strips of paper, and a bowl. Oh, and some solid acting chops.
How to Play: Begin by having each player write the name of an object, movie, book, or song on a few pieces of paper. Gather these slips in the bowl. When it’s a player’s turn, they’ll take a slip of paper from the bowl and do their best to act out the phrase using only movement—no words allowed! The other players then try to guess what’s being acted out. The player who guesses the answer correctly wins a point. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.
5. The Floor is Lava
Are your kids a little too antsy to play a stationary game like I Spy or 20 Questions? Sounds like they need to play The Floor is Lava. This action-packed game of parkour gets kids up and moving. Just remind them to be careful as they play, so as to avoid any play-related injuries.
How to Play: Split into two groups: one player will be the “caller” and the other players will be “players.” The caller’s job is to call out, “The floor is lava!” As soon as the players hear this phrase, they have five seconds to get both feet off the ground to avoid touching the lava. At the end of 5 seconds, anyone still touching the ground is out, eaten by the lava. The last player to survive wins and becomes the caller for the next round!
6. Hide and Seek
When I was thinking about the best games to play at home without anything, Hide and Seek was one of the first to come to mind. This game is an absolute classic—and for good reason! Hide and Seek is fun for all ages, and it helps kids develop their thinking, reasoning, and planning skills.
How to Play: One player is the “seeker” while the rest are “hiders.” The seeker closes their eyes and counts to 20, during which the other players hide. Once the seeker is finished counting, they open their eyes and track down the hiders. The first hider found is the next seeker, while the last one found is the winner!
Are your kids trying to get a game of Hide and Seek going while constantly fighting about who gets to seek? The solution could be playing a game of Sardines instead.
Sardines is basically reverse Hide and Seek: instead of one person counting and everyone else hiding, one person hides while everyone else seeks. My cousins and I used to play this game all the time when we were younger. It’s easy, fun, and offers a fresh twist on the Hide and Seek formula.
How to Play: One person is the “hider” while the rest are “seekers.” The seekers all close their eyes and count to twenty together while the hider finds a secret spot to hide in. Once the seekers are finished counting, they open their eyes and the hunt begins. When a seeker finds the hider, they hide with them. Eventually everyone hides together, squished close like a pack of sardines. The final seeker to find the group loses the game and has to be the hider during the next round.
Help your kids put their author hats on with a fun round of Fortunately/Unfortunately. This game helps players create a tall tale together one sentence at a time. In addition to giving kids a silly story to laugh about, this game also helps kids flex their creativity, making it one of the best games to play with friends!
Once the game’s complete, your kids can even practice their writing skills by recording the story in a notebook, in their journal, or on a Troomi KidSmart® writing app like My Creative Diary!
How to Play: Gather everyone together in a circle. The first player begins the story by saying, “Once upon a time…” and finishing the sentence with a zany introduction. The next player continues the story, but their sentence must begin with “Fortunately…” The next player’s sentence must start with “Unfortunately…” The game continues until the story reaches a satisfying conclusion.
If you’re a parent of older kids, games like Hide and Seek and I Spy may not be enough to keep them entertained. For something a little more stimulating, try playing a round of Categories! This quick-thinking game tests players’ ability to think of names, places, and objects that begin with each letter of the alphabet. No wonder it’s one of the best games to play without anything.
How to Play: Arrange players in a circle. The first player chooses a category. The next player has to name something in that category that begins with the letter “A.” The following player has to name something beginning with “B.” For example, if the category is “fruit” the first player could say “apple” and the second “banana.”
The game continues until a player is stumped for more than five seconds. If they can’t think of something, they’re out! The remaining players choose a new category and play again. The cycle continues until there’s only one player left!
10. The Human Knot
If you’ve ever been to a team-building retreat, chances are high that you’ve played The Human Knot. This wacky game sees players working together to untangle themselves from a knot created by looping their arms together. This game is a classic team-building activity, and can help families practice their collaborative skills (and have a few laughs) as they try to untie the knot.
How to Play: Stand in a circle. Tell everyone to raise their right hand, then grab the hand of someone across from them. Do the same thing with the left hand, but grab someone else’s hand. Before you begin untangling the knot, verify that each player is holding the hands of two different people across from them. Once the check is done, the fun begins! Players must untangle themselves without letting go of each other. If the chain of hands is broken, you have to begin again.
For an added challenge, try timing yourself to see how quickly your family can get untangled!
Troomi Inspired Kids Can Enjoy Life Sans Screen
Whether you and your family are camping in the wilderness, taking a roadtrip through the desert, or having a lowkey day at home, these games to play with family without anything are a great option to keep the kids entertained without relying on a screen.
We at Troomi are dedicated to helping kids enjoy life without seeing it through their screen. That’s why Troomi phones help your kids develop a healthy relationship with their device by eliminating social media and addictive games. After all, there’s a whole world of fun to be discovered out there! Click here to learn a bit more about Troomi.
And don’t forget to swing back to the Troomi blog for more parenting tips and tricks that you won’t want to miss.