20 (Thousand) Questions: A classic boredom buster for the whole family

Whether you're in the car, on a hike, or trying to keep your kids engaged at the dinner table, a quick game can be a magical way to connect and enjoy the journey. Here's one of my family's favorites.



20 (Thousand) Questions:

This is a variation on the class 20 Questions game we all know and used to love. But in this case, there's no counting and no limit.


How to Play

Someone thinks of a person, place, or thing and everyone gets to fire off yes/no questions. It may take a while, but that's the point. When my son stumped us with Ursula, The Sea Witch, we were happy to oblige -- he stayed at the table twice as long as usual. Because. power. When children know something we don't, they feel a sense of control, and it's a healthy, safe way for them to experience power.


The skill it develops:

This game is great for developing your child's detective skills. They learn deductive reasoning and how to start with big ideas (Is it a person? Are they alive? Is it a female?) and then narrow in on more granular details (Do I know her? Does she go to my school?). Children will also practice holding a lot of information at once while using their imagination to build a picture in their mind. It also helps them practice their attention skills. A longer attention span? Who doesn't want that?


Adapting for age:

Children can begin playing this game as early as preschool, but the younger lot will need plenty of coaching on how to ask yes/no questions, what questions to ask and in what order, and reminders about what information they already know. For example, let's say they guess "Whale" but it was already established that the animal has 4 legs. A quick reminder is all they need. With older kids, you can choose more obscure words, but so will they! The challenge should be fun for all.


No matter how old the child, be careful not to criticize them if you catch mistakes in their logic. Their brains are still working out a lot of details.


Click here for more ideas about how to set up a family culture of games and get links to more games.