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What I love most about pen and paper games for kids is how easy it is to play them anywhere.
They are great for keeping kids busy while at the restaurant or in a waiting room, but also for adding more fun to a day when you’re stuck at home.
These games are fun for the whole family, and they also provide opportunities for the kids to express their creativity, develop their strategic thinking, or even practicing their writing skills.
I gathered here a list of 8 pen and paper games that are great for both preschoolers and older kids, and I hope you’ll enjoy trying them with your children!
At the end of the article, you can also download a printable pack that includes templates for four of the pen and paper games on this list.
Super easy pen and paper games
The first games on our list are easy games that you can play with young kids, but they are also fun for older children.
1. Foldables (3+ years)
This is an easy and fun game that will encourage kids to get creative.
How to play:
- Divide each paper into four horizontal sections (by folding it in half and then once again in half horizontally, and unfolding it).
- Give every player a piece of paper.
- Each player starts on the top section and draws a head. You can also invite players to color their drawings if you have colored pencils at hand.
- After the drawings are done, each player folds that section back so that the drawing is hidden, and gives the paper to the player next to them.
- Without unfolding the paper, the next player uses the next section to draw the chest and arms, then folds the paper again and gives it to the next player.
- The game continues with the players drawing the stomach and hips on the third section, and the legs and feet on the fourth section.
- When all the drawings are complete, take turns unfolding the papers and discovering your finished work of art.
2. Tic tac toe (4+ years)
This is such a popular game that I won’t write the rules here.
It’s a game that you can play anywhere, and it’s also a great game for siblings to play together.
(You can find a template included in the printable pack at the end of the article.)
3. Guess the drawing (3+ years)
This super simple version of Pictionary is great for young kids.
Here is how to play it:
- The first player thinks about something to draw. It needs to be something that the other players can name with just one word (e.g, an animal, an object, a person all the players know, etc).
- The player must draw an illustration of the word they chose and get the others to guess it.
- The first player to guess what the picture shows gets one point and is be the next person who will draw something for the others to guess.
For older kids, you can try the classic Pictionary game that is fun for the whole family: Pictionary Quick Drawing Board & Guessing Game for Family.
4. Blindfold drawing game (4+ years)
For this game, you will also need a blindfold, or you can just ask the players to keep their eyes shut while they draw.
The game is all about having fun, so there are no scores or winners.
Here is how to play:
- The first player puts a blindfold on.
- The other players decide together on one thing the blindfolded player needs to draw. (Depending on the age of the player, this can be something simple like a stick man or something more complicated like a building.)
- The blindfolded player makes the drawing. (To make it easier for young kids to make the drawing, you can tape the paper on the table and help them position their pencil when they start drawing.)
- When the drawing is done, the player removes the blindfold to see what they created. Kids will certainly be surprised to discover how different the actual drawing is from what they imagined in their minds.
- The game continues with the same steps for the next players.
Fun pen and paper games for kids
These next games on our list are more suitable for older kids, because they require writing skills or more strategic thinking.
5. Categories (7+ years)
This is my favorite pen and paper game, and I’m so glad that I can finally play it with my son!
It’s a fun game, but also an opportunity for kids to practice their writing skills in a playful way!
Here is how to play:
- Decide on 4-5 categories depending on your child’s age. We usually choose easy categories like animals, names, food, things we can find in nature.
- Draw a grid on a piece of paper so you can fill in answers for each category.
- Take turns picking a letter. Then set a timer for 3 minutes.
- All players need to think of one word in each category that starts with that letter.
- When the timer beeps, players take turns reading their answers. The players get one point for every answer that no one else wrote.
- At the end of the game, the winner is the player who got the most points.
6. Dots and boxes
This is a great strategy game to play with the kids! You can find a template to use in the printable pack at the end of this post.
Here is how to play:
- Each turn, the players draw one horizontal or vertical line to connect two dots.
- The goal is to create boxes. Each box is worth one point, and each player must write their initial in the completed box to score it for themselves.
- If you complete a box, you can take an extra turn.
- Once the board is completed, count each player’s points and determine the winner.
7. The hanging spider – a gentler version of “Hangman” (6+ years)
I enjoyed playing Hangman a lot as a child, but I didn’t like the idea of drawing a hangman with my kids.
Luckily, one day my son came home from kindergarten with a version of the game that I immediately liked!
The rules are the same, but instead of drawing a hangman, you draw a hanging spider (who comes down on his spider web).
I quickly created a template to make this game easier to play for my son, and we started playing it over and over again!
This is not only a fun game, but also a great opportunity for beginner writers to practice their skills. When I play this game with my son, he usually asks for help from his dad to spell the word correctly, but then he can play the whole game independently.
Here is how to play the adapted version of the game:
- Player 1 chooses a secret word that player 2 needs to guess. They write dashes on the paper to represent each letter of the word.
(For beginner writers, it is helpful to ask them to write the word on a piece of paper to make sure they spell it correctly. This also helps them give the right answers during the game.)
- Player 2 tries to guess the word by naming letters they think might be inside the word.
- Player 1 traces each letter on the paper. If the letter is part of the word, they write it on the corresponding dashes. If the letter is not part of the word, player 1 traces one of the spider’s body parts (the body or one of its 8 legs).
- Player 2 wins if they manage to guess the whole word before player 1 finishes drawing the whole spider.
- Then the players switch roles, and the game continues with the same rules.
8. Battleship (6+ years)
This is a game my son loves to play with my husband, and it keeps both of them busy for a long time.
Here is how to play:
- Each player secretly arranges their five ships (they can different sizes – see the template below). Ships can be placed horizontally or vertically, but not diagonally, and they can’t overlap.
- Each player uses the lower grid to track their “shots” at the opponent’s ships. To take a shot, a player must select a square on this grid by naming its coordinates (a letter and a number).
- The other player will announce if that shot was a hit or a miss.
- Each player must announce when a ship gets sunk.
- The game continues until one player has lost all their ships. The player who managed to sank all the opponent’s ship is the winner.
You can find a board game version of this game here: Battleship Classic Board Game Strategy Game.
Download the printable templates: 4 pen and paper games for kids
The printable pack includes templates for the following games: dots and boxes, tic tac toe, the hanging spider, and battleships.
Have fun and enjoy the games with your kids!
More family fun ideas: