Waiting Games For The Whole Family


This season has been rough. I don’t know if we can blame it on the immunity gap, unmasking, bad luck, or a combination of other factors. Regardless, our family, like many others, has been sick for months on end. We’ve been hit by the tripledemic and then some! 

The unending rotation in illnesses has us playing waiting games more often than I’d like–waiting for an appointment, for test results, for antibiotics to come in, to see the doctor. I’m trying to use screen time judiciously and for quarantine purposes only.  To help our family and yours through these long and tedious waits, I’m sharing our list of favorite waiting games.  

High Low Buffalo 

We actually borrowed this from a work pandemic pivot. My husband started using these prompts in his daily team stand-ups. In essence, this “game” offers easy on-ramps to conversations. Each person tells a “high” from the day. Then everyone shares a “low,” something not so great about the day. Finally comes the “buffalo,” which is something that really surprised them. Regardless of age, anyone can participate. We frequently use this one at dinner to get more than the typical one-word answers. 


You can think of this as the more humane version of what you may have known as “Hangman.”  I had honestly forgotten about this one, but it has become a favorite for my tween and me. In this timeless guessing game, players will take turns trying to guess a word or phrase by using clues such as letters or pictures. To play, choose one person to be the host who sets up the game and selects a mystery word or phrase. Then everyone else must guess what it is by making guesses on individual letters in the word or phrase. If they guess correctly, they get to stay in the game; if not, their turn ends when their allotted amount of wrong guesses has been reached!

When you play Snowman, for the first incorrect answer, the lower (and biggest) snowball is drawn; for the second, the middle snowball is added; and for the third, a snowball is added at the top (the head of the snowman). After that, the snowman gets two sticks (the arms), a top hat (like the one Frosty the Snowman wears), two eyes, and a sad face. Nine mistakes in all before you are on to the next round. 


All you need for this game is two players and their fingers! To play, each person holds up either one or two fingers at a time without showing the other player how many they held up until both players put their hands out simultaneously. The player who has more fingers up wins that round! 

Quiet as a Mouse

This is a great way to encourage quiet time and soft voices if you need your kids to calm down in the exam room. I often find this to be the most difficult time of managing an appointment. All the good behavior and patience have been used up in the crowded, public waiting room. Now that you are alone chaos, wrestling, and the like ensue. All you need to do is encourage your kiddos to move around without making any noise; whoever stays quietest for the longest wins! They stayed still in the waiting room. This gives them a way to get the wiggles out once you are in your private exam room. 

I Spy 

You know this one by heart. One player selects an object and announces, “I spy with my little eye something… (color)”. The other players then have to try and guess what it is based on the clue given. This can also be turned into a counting game, where players must first identify how many items there are before figuring out what they are.

These activities help keep us mostly calm, and they strengthen problem-solving skills, focus, and patience too.

What’s your favorite waiting game? Let us know in the comments!

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Kristi Howard-Shultz
Kristi grew up in Danville, Indiana where she met her childhood sweetheart and now husband Elliott. After years of living apart including graduate school in New York City and military tours abroad, they resettled and started a family in Indianapolis. Together, they are raising two bright and busy boys—Henry and George. She has a Master's Degree in Social work from New York University and is a RYT 200 Yoga Teacher. In her “spare” time, she enjoys reading memoirs, chasing her boys, and listening to her husband, the funniest person she knows.


  1. A great list! Another one that practices creativity is “What if.” You take turns asking what the other would do if something about the world was crazy different- like what if your head grew spaghetti instead of hair or what if we lived in the sky instead of on land.

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