10 Ways to Play “I Spy”

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One of our favorite car games is “I Spy.”  The traditional game uses colors (at least the one I always played)…

  • Player 1 chooses a color of an object in sight of all players and says “I spy with my little eye something (insert color of object here).”
  • Other players take turns guessing objects that are the given color.
  • Some people allow players to ask yes/no questions  such as “Is it inside the car?  Is it smaller than my hand?  Is on the left side of the car?”
  • A player wins when she guesses the object correctly.  Then it is her turn to say “I spy….”

I Spy is a fun way to pass the time on a long car ride or in the waiting room of the doctor’s office.  As a bonus, kids are also learning!  What concepts could you work on using the game I Spy?

  1. colors- “I spy with my little eye something blue.”
  2. shapes– “I spy with my little eye something square.”
  3. numbers– “I spy with my little eye three of something.”  This would work best if you are in a room where the kids could walk around and easily count objects.
  4. letters- “I spy with my little eye the letter B.”  You could spy letters on billboards while you are driving, or letters on a page while you are reading.”
  5. words- “I spy with my little eye the word go.”  Again, this could work on billboards on the road or in books in a waiting room.
  6. spelling- “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter C.”  You could just give the first letter, spell out a whole word, or maybe even letter patterns inside the word like “ee.”
  7. phonics- “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the sound /s/.”  Same playing with letters, but this time use letter sounds.
  8. rhymes- “I spy with my little eye something that rhymes with bee.”
  9. adjectives- “I spy with my little eye something smooth.”  This is another game that would be best played in a room where kids could feel the different textures.
  10. measurement– “I spy with my little eye something about one inch tall.”  Be sure to review unit measurements before you play.  If you play this at your house, they could walk around and measure things with a ruler.
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Comparison Thinking Game

As my youngest just transitioned from a crib to a big girl bed and now we are working on potty training, there is a lot of “big girl” talk going on in our house.  She likes to play the game, “What can a big girl do that a baby can’t do?”  We read and watched videos talking about how big girls can walk, talk, eat pizza, climb on the playground and babies can’t do any of those things.  It helps her see that she is changing and growing…and it is a good thing!  It’s also the same conversation we had with Big Sis when Little Sis was born.  Comparing themselves to babies makes kids feel proud about their abilities and shows them that they have a special place in the family (even if that cute baby is getting a lot of attention!)

While I was talking about “baby vs. big girl” with Little Sis, my older daughter thought it would be fun to come up with ways they were both alike, too.  Then the girls wanted to compare kids to adults.  What can grown-ups do that kids can’t do?  They gave answers like “Grown-ups can drive.  They can cook.”  You can also flip the question around so one thing isn’t always seen as “better” than the other.  What can kids do?  Kids can fit into smaller places and go on certain rides at the amusement park that adults aren’t allowed on.

Then we branched out to animals.  What can an owl do that you can’t do?  What about an elephant?  It was really funny to hear their answers and thinking.  The older the kids, the more detailed things you can ask them about.  If they are dinosaur experts, ask them to compare a stegosaurus and a pteranodon.  Or ask, “What can a microwave do that a stove can’t do?”

Comparing things and ideas is a skill kids will use many times in reading comprehension and critical thinking.  Think about how many tests say “compare and contrast.”  Why not start practicing that skill early as silly game?  It’s a perfect thinking game you can play in the car, sitting in a cart at the store, or waiting at a restaurant.  Try it out!

As with any educational game, the focus should be on fun.  Ask a questions, give them some hints or offer some ideas, then let them ask you a question.  If they are getting stressed out or bored of it, move on to something else.

Car Essentials for Traveling with Kids

Now that I officially have a momobile, there a few items that are always in the car:

  • Diapers and baby wipes– I use my car like a giant diaper bag.
  • Complete change of clothes for each kid– This might be a pie-in-the-sky goal, but it sure is nice if they get wet in sprinkler (or wet for another reason).
  • Anti-bacterial handwash
  • tissues
  • ziploc or plastic bags– For all those new-found treasures!
  • blanket– Use it for picnics in warm weather, warmth in cold months.
  • water bottle for each kiddo

And the most important….  ACTIVITY BAG!  Between the two car seats, I store activities that are easily reachable.  I change out the activities every time I clean my car (so not often!)  The activities are ideally small (to fit in the bag) with no removable parts (nothing gets lost).  Bonus points if I can get two of them so both girls can do it at the same time.  Our activity bag contains:

  • paper and writing tool– The girls like pens, but be careful because you might find your kiddos with some new body art…..not that it has ever happened to us (wink, wink).  Crayons woudl be good in the winter months when they won’t melt.
  • Magna Doodle– This is a Kerr girl favorite.  We have one for each girl.
  • Reading books– Throw in some familiar books so they can practice reading.
  • Flip charts or books–  These books usually have three sections that can be flipped to create different drawings.  Something like this: Flip-o-saurus.  I found ours at a used bookstore.
  • “Look and find” books– Think Where’s Waldo?  This will keep them entertained for awhile!
  • kaleidoscope
  • Movable toys– These are my favorite!  They can be wood, plastic, or wire.  They should be all one piece, but easily movable into different shapes.  Great to stimulate creative thinking!IMG_7396
  • plastic, light-up, talking toys–  I wouldn’t recommend these (for your own sanity), but we have a few.  Hopefully they are relatively quiet or have a volume control.IMG_7394
  • phone or tablet– On long car trips, we give the girls turns on the iPad (with a timer so no one can complain).  As much as I prefer non-electronic toys, the iPad is a great learning tool and the kids LOVE it.  And if the kids are happy, quiet, and learning….then Mama is happy!

Learning in the Car

Driving in the car is a chore we do every day.  It’s a great time to interact with your kiddo since they are a captive audience. 🙂  Of course, there is a lot to be said for a few minutes of silence.  But if you get bored of the quiet (or it is not quiet at all because the natives are getting restless), here are a few ideas…

Babies

  • Talk out loud about….anything!  Provide a running commentary about what is out the window, what streets you are on, where you are going, or what you’d like to eat for lunch.
  • Sing familiar songs: Mary Had a Little Lamb, ABCs, etc.
  • Talk out loud about….anything!  Provide a running commentary about what is out the window, what streets you are on, where you are going, or what you’d like to eat for lunch.
  • Call attention to when the car stops and when it moves.  Talk about red and green lights.

Toddlers and Preschoolers

  • Talk about….anything!  Ask them questions about their day or where you are going.  Try to ask them questions that will start a conversation and not just a “no” or “yes.”
  • Sing familiar songs, but change some words and see if they notice.  Mary Had a Little Lion.  Kids think this is hilarious!
  • Talk about driving rules and signs.  What does a yellow light mean?  Why are their lines on the road?  What does a red sign mean?
  • Play “I Spy a Color.”  See if they can find something red out the window or in the car.  Once they find something, change the color.
  • Play “I’m Thinking of an Animal.”  Traditionally you ask yes or no questions to figure out the animal.  (Does the animal live on a farm?  Does the animal fly?)  For this age, giving those clues first and then allowing guessing works best. (I’m thinking of an animal that has wings and lives on a farm.  Can you guess what it is?)
  • Ask some simple addition and subtraction math problems related to driving.  (There are 3 people in the car now.  After we pick up brother from school, how many will be in the car then?)
  • Count something together for the length of the (short) trip: the number of trucks you see, how many times you have to stop at a red light, the number of bicyclists on the road
  • Come up with as many rhymes as you can for a given word.  Teach them how to go through the alphabet and rhyme: at, bat, cat, dat (no, that’s not a word)

Elementary

  • Talk about…anything!  Driving is a great time to catch up and ask them about school, friends, sports, or hobbies.
  • Talk about driving.  Why are steering wheels on the left side of the car?  What does “miles per hour” mean?  Why are speed limits important?
  • Ask “If you could be a _____________ what would you be and why?”  Fill in the blank with animal, item in your classroom, food, plant, etc.  Make sure you play, too!
  • Create an addition and subtraction game related to driving.  Let the kids come up with rules.  Maybe for every truck you get 2 points for every green light you pass and subtract a point for every red light.  This is great mental math practice!  You can always make the game easier or more difficult by changing the objects or point values.
  • Play “I’m Thinking of an Animal” the traditional way by asking yes or no questions to figure out the animal.  Vary the game by playing “I’m Thinking of a Sport” or “I’m Thinking of a Number between 1 and 100” or “I’m Thinking of a Book.”
  • Play “I Spy something that starts with the letter _____”
  • Practice spelling words by taking turns saying the letters.
  • Take turns thinking of as many things that starts with a certain letter.
  • Choose a category of things (for example: food).  Name something in that category (pizza).  Then the next person has to name something that starts with the last letter of the item (a- apple…and then e- enchilada)