Mind Games

Mind games are a great way to occupy bored or restless children who need something fun to do.

Helpful Hints

  1. Encourage children to watch, listen, and observe. The first step to problem solving is to gather information.
  2. Create an atmosphere in which children feel free to take risks. Children should never be afraid of being wrong. Encourage them to play with ideas and to look for different solutions to problems.
  3. Emphasize teamwork and encourage communication skills.
  4. Encourage children to ask questions and resist the urge to speed things up by giving them the correct answers.
  5. Respect individual differences; every child thinks and reasons differently. Respect their ideas and opinions and really listen to them.
  6. Encourage kids to stretch their brains, i.e. list all of the possible solutions to a problem no matter how impractical. Look at the problem from different people’s points of view, start at the end, and work backwards.

Specific Activities

The Dictionary Game

You can have lots of fun with a dictionary, paper, pens, and four or more people. One player selects an unusual word from the dictionary, and writes down the definition on a scrap of paper. The point is to find a word no one knows. The other players must write down made-up definitions that sound as convincing as possible. The player who selected the word gathers all of the definitions and reads them out loud, including the real one. The other players try to guess which is the actual definition. One point goes to each player who guesses the correct definition. In addition, writers of fake definitions get one point for each player they fool. Players take turns choosing a word.

The Nine Dots

Draw nine dots arranged just like this on a piece of paper.

Without lifting your pencil, can you draw through all nine dots using only four straight lines?  

If your first idea doesn’t work, just keep trying!

How Many Ways to 24

This game is great for older kids to help them practice math. Write different sets of 4 numbers on index cards or pieces of paper. Here are some examples of numbers you can use: (1,2,3,4) (1,2,12,24) (4,5,6,2) (6,1,2,2) (3,8,3,2) (2,10,2,1) (8,7,5,4) (10,15,4,2)

The object of the game is to use all four numbers on the card (in any order) and, using addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, make the numbers come out to 24. For example, if you’re using (6,1,7,5), 5x6=30, -7=23, +1= 24! If you play in teams, race to see who gets to the number 24 first! Keep playing rounds until there is one winner left.

Pick a Coin, Any Coin

This game is for two players. Set up nine coins in a pyramid-like formation that looks like this:

XX - two in the first row

XXX - three in the second row

XXXX - four in the third row

To play, take turns removing coins. You can take as many coins as you’d like, but they can only be from one row. For example, during your turn you could take one or two coins from the first row, or you could take one, two, or three from the second, or one, two, three, or four from the third row. The person who is left with the last coin loses!


In this game for two players, draw a tic-tac-toe board on a piece of paper and take turns writing an X or O on the board. But instead of playing the usual way, try to avoid getting three Xs or Os in a row! The first player to get three in a row is out, and the other is the winner!

Rhyme Time

Play a rhyming game! This game can be a great way to help kids learn English or another language. Say a word and ask them to come up with another word that sounds the same. For example, clock and sock or dog and frog!

Next: Cooking With Kids »

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
The International Coalition for Global Education and Exchange
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation