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Parents: continue learning with your children when snow keeps them at home

During winter storms and snow days, engage your children in pencil-and-paper games such as Sprouts, Dots and Squares, and  Tic Tac Toe. Children will enjoy the challenging activity as well as your engagement with them, and will build great problem solving skills too. All you need is pencil, paper, and an eager mind. Look below for instructions and ideas for more paper-and-pencil games to play with your children.

Categories: Draw a grid on a piece of paper – a square filled with smaller squares. The number of squares can vary, depending on the attention span of your child. Down the left side, put some letters of the alphabet (for example, you could spell out a child’s name: LISA). Across the top, write categories – for example, girls’ names, boys’ names, animals, colors, cars, places. You can make this harder or easier by changing the categories. Players take turns writing in words that fit the category and start with the letter in the left-hand column. (Next to the letter L, in this example, you might have Laura, Liam, lion, lavender, Lexus and Labrador.) Give extra points for words that nobody else thought of.

Battleship: For two players. Here’s another popular game you can play without the official version. All you need is graph paper. Each player needs two grids. Label each grid by writing numbers across the top and letters down the side, so that the squares are easily identified as A8 or F5. One grid will be for locating your own ships, the other for recording shots against your opponent’s ships. Each player places three or four “ships” on his grid, then let the guessing begin. The first person to sink all the other person’s ships wins.

Dots and Squares: Begin by drawing a grid of dots on the paper. Using lined paper or graph paper can make this a little easier. The first person draws a line connecting two dots beside each other. The second player then draws another line to connect another two dots. The goal is to be the person who draws the last side of a square. Then you put your initials inside the square (or some other abbreviation to claim your square). In some versions of this game, if you complete a square you get another turn. The player with the most squares when all the squares are drawn is the winner.

Sprouts: If you can’t quite master drawing a neat grid of dots, you might find this game easier. Draw dots randomly all over the paper. The first player draws a line between any two dots, and draws another dot in the middle of that line. The next player draws a line between any two dots, and puts a dot in the middle of that line. No lines may cross each other, but they don’t have to be straight, so they can loop around other lines. Only three lines in total can emerge from any one dot. The dots put in the middle of the lines already have two lines connecting them to the two other dots, so they can only have one more line. The game continues until no more lines can be drawn. The person who did the last line is the winner.

Foldovers: Give everyone a piece of paper. On the top section, draw a head. It can be an animal head or a person’s head, as weird as you like. Now fold that section back, so that it’s hidden, and slide it across the table to the next person. Without looking at the hidden drawing, the next person draws a chest and arms (of a person, animal, alien), folds it back as well and passes it on to the next person. Without looking at the previous pictures, that person draws a body (stomach and hips) and the final person draws the legs and feet. (You can have more or fewer sections depending on the number of people you have playing.) Finally, unfold your papers and laugh at the weird creatures you have created.

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