Today’s technology offers more opportunities for keeping kids entertained on long trips, but while some of those options may improve English skills, very few allow the whole family to participate and interact. To keep minds sharp and build wonderful memories for the whole family, try out these English brain games for long trips!
Interactive English Brain Games for Family Trips
A good English brain game lets students practice key English skills but doesn’t feel like an English lesson. In fact, the English part of the game is not generally the focus; however, even when the English aspect is a side rule or added challenge, it still helps kids learn and practice their English skills.
1. I Spy
The game, I Spy, combines vocabulary with observations. To play, one person gives the challenge by saying, “I spy with my little eye something that starts with a ___.” In the blank, the person says the starting letter of the name of whatever object that he or she chose.
For example, if the person picked a bridge, he or she would say, “I spy with my little eye something that starts with a b.” Then, everyone else guesses until someone gets the right answer. That person gives the next challenge.
This game helps build and practice vocabulary while also teaching kids how to use reasoning to link that vocabulary to their surroundings. It’s also a great way to practice multiple languages!
2. The Alphabet Game
Most variations of the alphabet game start at the beginning of the alphabet and move to the end.
The challenge is to find words on signs or to find license plates that start with each letter. This is a great brain game for kids learning the alphabet, and watching for signs helps improve their observation skills. They’ll need it when they get to x, y, and z!
Give the kids a theme (animals, foods, sports – something that has plenty of words they would know). Then, starting with “A,” everyone takes turns trying to name something in that category that starts with the required letter. (If the theme were animals, the game might go something like this: aardvark, bee, crocodile, dog, elephant, ferret, etc. through the alphabet.)
The advanced version of the theme game works the same way except that the next person’s word has to start with the last letter of the word the person before said. So if the first person said, “aardvark,” then the next person needs to say a word that starts with k.
For an extra challenge, you can make this even more educational by making the theme something the kids have learned about recently. If you’ve been traveling to Boston, for example, then, the theme could be historic people, places, and events in Boston. (You can even transform this into a studying game at home!)
The best part of this game is the potential for variation. It can grow with the children’s skills and knowledge, and mixing it up helps keep the game fresh and entertaining.
3. The Sign Reading Challenge
No, this isn’t only reading signs (although that’s a good start for very young children, and one they’ll enjoy – just watch for kids like my uncle as a child: “S-T-O-P. Stop. The sign says to stop, Mommy!”).
Actually, like the last game, the sign reading challenge has multiple levels, so it can grow with your child’s reading level.
- Reading the signs
- Reading the signs backwards (“Stop” becomes “pots.” “Alabama” becomes “Amabala.”)
- Reading the signs in Pig-Latin (“Stop” would be “op-stay.” “California” would be “Alifornia-cay.”)
- Reading the signs with other syllables inserted (For example, try adding b in every syllable. “Stop” becomes “Stobop,” and “No Right Turn” would be “Nobo Ribight Tuburn.”)
- Reading the signs by translating them into other languages
Besides improving reading and challenging kids to sound out new words (like place names), this game is great for teaching kids to have fun with words and reading. Having fun with reading at a young age is the best way to encourage reading as students get older.
Additionally, playing with words establishes skills and brain patterns that improve students’ writing abilities as they get older and can also reduce mental blocks with language – such as the idea that grammar and writing are hard. Overcoming those blocks is one of the best reasons to play English brain games!
Singing is not only fun but can also help kids improve speaking and other language abilities, and traditional camp songs often have additional challenges like hand motions, word variation, or rhyming. Singing makes the hours fly by and has many of the same benefits as the other English games. Even singing along with the radio can help, but learning songs and singing them together has even more benefit for the brain.
Here are just a few of the English skills that kids can improve by singing different songs:
- Speaking ability
- Rhyming skills
If you don’t know any camp songs, you can download some or get a cd out of the library. It can also be fun to learn traditional songs from different cultures as a way of exploring diversity and language!
Each of these English brain games has so many variations that these 4 alone could keep you entertained on your yearly vacation. Or several yearly vacations. As well as long drives to relatives’ houses on holidays. And the best part is that any time you get tired of one, you can switch to another and keep learning while having fun.
Which brain games will you play on your family trip? Do your kids have a favorite travel game?
Author: Elizabeth F., Writer and Teacher at A Grade Ahead