I Spy

Blue kids magnifying glass on white surface

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Any Time Game to Keep Kids Busy Without Screens

Blue kids magnifying glass on white surface

  • What: I Spy game
  • When: 18 months and up
  • Why: No equipment necessary, wide age range, versatile
  • Where: Home or away

Tired of sitting around the dinner table waiting for the last person to finish eating? Trying to keep other kids entertained without letting them loose to play while siblings get enough to eat? We’ve started a dinner table trend of family games, including I Spy.

We resurrected this favorite from our own childhoods. It works great because it can be played almost anywhere, and by a wide variety of ages. Younger kids enjoy guessing. It makes great practice for taking turns. Because people spend a lot of time looking around, it doesn’t make much noise (excepting the random outbursts of guessing). It requires zero literacy skills and only enough verbal skills to be understood by everyone playing. Once your kid knows their colors, they can join in the fun.

Blue kids magnifying glass enlarging yellow P and red A letters
I Spy can be played with colors or letter sounds.

It helps reinforce learning colors for younger kids, while older siblings enjoy the challenge of stumping their parents. We’ve instituted a must be visible from here rule because it turns out to be nearly impossible to guess an object in someone else’s head if you can’t physically spot it. We have also learned to ask if the object in question is inside or out.

You can do a more advanced version with letters once your kids get old enough. Instead of spying something of a certain shade, people take turns spying objects that start with a specified letter. My kids will often also limit the number of guesses or questions, which can help keep the game moving and prevent boredom or frustration with hard to spot items.

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