The Young And The Restless…


I was recently crafting a scene where I needed to find a pastime for a large group of children.  Unfortunately, not just any pastime would do.  This group was stranded, along with my heroine, in an old abandoned farmhouse waiting out a storm.  My heroine wanted to keep their minds off of the storm so was trying to come up with some form of entertainment for them.

Keeping in mind that this was set in 1894, I started digging into what games my group might have been familiar with.  Anything that required components or equipment, such as board games, cards or jacks would be out, as would anything that required large open spaces. 

In addition, one of my characters had some mobility issues, so the more familiar games of hide-and-go-seek, blind man’s bluff and tag would also be out.

The first game I came across in my search that fit my criteria was a memory game.  There are several variations of this, but the one I honed in on is one I played as a child.  A group of small, miscellaneous objects is collected from whatever is on hand.  The items are spread out in front of the players.  A ‘thief’ is selected and then everyone  else covers their eyes.  The thief pockets one of the items, rearranges the remaining ones and then instructs the other players to open their eyes and see if they can identify the missing object.  The first one to do so earns a point.

This game had definite possibilities for my story.  In fact I decided I could turn it into two games.  The quest for appropriate items could become and impromptu treasure hunt that would keep the children happily occupied for a while, especially if it became a competition.  I envisioned them coming up with all sorts of items like small sticks, nails, seeds or kernels of grain, pebbles, chunks of wood, bits of metal such as the link form a chain, maybe a marble or piece of string from someone’s pocket, a coin or key from my heroine’s purse, one of her hairpins – endless possibilities.   Afterwards, my heroine would take the role of ‘thief’ in the game and play would begin.

But I still needed at least one more activity since, having raised four children of my own, I know how quickly children will tire of even the most interesting of distractions.

So I started looking at word games of the period and found three that looked interesting.

There’s the familiar twenty questions, where the person who is ‘it’ thinks of some item and the rest of the group must figure out what ‘it’ is by asking a series of questions.  Other than the opening “Animal, vegetable or mineral?” question, all of the questions must be of the yes or no variety.

In this game, the players line up in order, the first player describes the cat with an adjective beginning with the letter ‘A’ – for instance “The Minister’s cat is an amazing cat.”  The next person in line must describe the cat with some different adjective also beginning with the letter ‘A’  such as “The Minister’s Cat is an awful cat.” And so on until everyone has had a turn.  If a player can’t come up with an appropriate adjective, or repeats one already used, then he or she is out.  Once everyone has made it through the letter A, the person who went first moves to the end of the line and they start over with the letter B.  Game continues through the alphabet until all but one player has been eliminated.  Last person left standing is the winner.

Another version of this game – the one I’m more familiar with – has the players move through the alphabet more rapidly.  The first player uses the letter A, the next the letter B and so forth, continuing through the alphabet until only one person is left standing.  Traditionally the letters X and Z are skipped.

The third word game I found was “I Packed My Suitcase”, a similar game that employs nouns instead of adjectives.  This one, though, is a bit more challenging as the players must remember and recite the prior words used before adding their own.  To begin, the players again line up to determine order.  The first player thinks of a word starting with the letter A that will complete the sentence “In my suitcase I packed …” 

For instance 

Player 1   “In my suitcase I packed an apple.” 

Player 2  “In my suitcase I packed and apple and a ball” 

Player 3  “In my suitcase I packed an apple, a ball and a clock”
And so forth.

Once all players have responded, play returns to Player 1 who continues the chain, repeating what came before and adding a new item beginning with the appropriate letter.. 

If a player skips an item, can’t fill in his own item or loses his place in the alphabet, he’s out.

Since I didn’t want to make things too easy on my heroine, this gave me more than enough to work with for the scene I had in mind.

So what about you – are there games you remember from your own childhood – or from your parenting experience – that helped entertain a restless or cabin-fever stricken group?




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Winnie Griggs is the author of Historical (and occasionally Contemporary) romances that focus on Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace. She is also a list maker, a lover of dragonflies and holds an advanced degree in the art of procrastination.
Three of Winnie’s books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and one of those nominations resulted in a win.
Winnie loves to hear from readers. You can connect with her on facebook at or email her at

20 thoughts on “The Young And The Restless…”

  1. Hi Winnie, I love games. As a kid, one of my favorites was something we played on long car trips. We called it “Highway Bingo.” We’d spot the letters of the alphabet in order and call the out. It’s best in a rural area without a lot of signs. “Q” can be trouble, but “X” is easy because of “Exit.”

    “Twenty Questions” was another favorite. Your story sounds like fun : )

  2. With 3 young kids of my own, I can certainly sympathize with your heroine. My middle child loves to play 20 questions. He often begs to play when we get in the car to drive to church. The other two moan. But as soon as we start, the others always want a turn and can’t help but participate.

    Another classic is charades. If your barn is dark, it may not work, but that is a parlor game children and adults alike enjoyed.

    Thanks for the post, Winnie. I love learning about games and entertainment from those early days.

  3. We were big on board games as a kid.. We loved to play Monopoly, scrabble and etc., and we loved to play cards.. We all learned to play Crib and Euchure at an ealry age. Crib helped us with math and counting..

  4. Victoria – oh those road games! We played that one you described and also the license plate game where we’d try to find plates from as many different states as possible.

    Karen – Hi! Charades DO sound like a good fit – why didn’t I think of that.

  5. Kathleen – Oh yes, we’ve always been big fans of board games around my house as well – and that’s both when I was growing up and when I was raising my own kids. In addition to Scrabble and Monopoly, Clue was always a big hit as was Life.

  6. I love any kind of games but one that comes to mind that would fit your topic is telephone. Someone in the front of the line whispers into the ear of the person next to him and they go down the line – the last person repeat what he heard and it’s never the same and usually ends up very funny.

  7. Delightful blog, Winnie! As a kid I remember playing a variation on your suitcase game called “Crossing the Plains.”
    One of our favorite car games was called “Zit.” Simple–when you’re the first one to see a dog you say “zit” and get a point. A bulldog or a dog in a car gets five points. First one to ten points wins. (We always hoped to see a bulldog in a car, never did).

  8. Hi Winnie, terrific blog. When our son was little, he loved Candyland….but we had to manipulate the cards so he didn’t land on the Candy Hearts (it sent you back to the beginning) or he’d have a fit. Sorry and Rummikubes were favorites later on.

    Oh, that road sign car game. We’d allow the kids to “store up” a Q or X or Z out of order because they were so hard to find.

    Now kids watch TV while they’re on a road trip. Kinda sad.

    I remember a baby-shower memory game kind of like your thief game.

    I can’t wait to read this book.

  9. Elizabeth – LOL, I’ve never heard of Zit. Sounds like one my kids would have enjoyed (as would I – keeping four youngsters occupied on those five hour drives to grandma’s house could really test my patience!!)

    Tanya – yes, it is kinda sad that there are some children out there who miss out on these experiences. So many fun memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything…

  10. Wonderful blog Winnie. When my son was small he loved Battleship then when my daughter was small she loved Candyland.

    This made me think back to when times were easier and how I miss my children not being small anymore

    Thanks Winnie


  11. Winnie, loved reading about the games you came up with in your search. Those are neat. My sister and I had a game we played in the car while we were traveling. We’d see how many of the different states on license plates we could find. Sure kept us entertained. And we played I Spy a lot. Of course being in the car sure limited us there.

    Interesting blog!

  12. Melinda – yep battleship was one of the favorties at my house too, the only problem being only two could play at a time, which sometimes led to ruckuses among my crew 🙂

    Linda – glad you enjoyed the post. I remember I Spy! My sister could be especially ‘inventive’ with that one.

  13. Winnie, Loved the blog. Games have always been fun for me while growing up and for my children. One they often played in the car was Windmills. Each side of the cart was a team and counted the windmills spotted on their side of the car and only on their side. When they spotted a cemetary on the other side of the car you’d say ‘Bury all your windmills.’ and the other team would have to start over. Hard to watch both sides of the road. But they enjoyed it. For indor games we loved word games and board games of all kinds.

  14. We did versions of I Spy on any road trips and
    always carried paper, pens, pencils, and crayons
    in our snack/activity bag. My bunch have always been serious readers so books were ALWAYS in the
    activity bag!

    Pat Cochran

  15. We always had lots of board games and cards. We played most of the games you mentioned. When the kids were little, we always took puppets and books wherever we went. Puppet shows over the back of the front seat can keep little ones occupied for a long time and give mom a stiff neck. Battleship, hangman, charades, looking for license plates, I Spy, counting how many of a certain item we see (cows, a certain car, etc.), and round robin stories (or mom just made them up by herself) all filled our time.
    People with their kids plugged into their DVD’s are missing so much.

  16. Pat – Oh yes, I remember those trips to the dollar store to stock up on crayons, note pads, coloring books and word puzzle games

    Patricia – Puppets! For some reason we never went that route but it sounds like it would have been fun

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