Five equipment-free travel games which help ease culture shock by creating a mental cocoon (transport edition)
Managing culture shock in children is a delicate business. I’ve already told you we like to start trips with long periods of overland travel (in order to introduce the kids gently to their new surroundings using the safe structure of games, not to make other experiences seem pleasant by comparison) but even so, it can be overwhelming.
When enough’s enough, we use a whole different set of games to create a “mental cocoon” until they’re ready to engage again. These games do the opposite of what the last set did – instead of drawing kids attention to their new surroundings, they help take their minds back home.
Today, and not just because I can’t seem to upload our Thai holiday photos properly, I want to tell you our top five equipment-free, culture-shock-proofing, cocoon-making games for use on transport.
1. Song Games
You could try a simple singalong, using a familiar tune, but for extra pizazz (read: silliness) try changing the first letter of each word to a particular consonant.
“Who wants to sing Beels Bon Ba Bus Bo Bound Band Bound?”
(Edit:) Since posting this, the kids have made up a word-substitution version as well. I’m a little unclear on the rules, but the lyrics come out along the lines of, “The pillow on the pillow goes pillow pillow pillow.” And so on. Apparently hilarious.
Hum or whistle a familiar tune. First person to guess wins.
“Mm mm mm mm mmm, mmm mmm mmmmm mm mm mm…”
“Octonauts theme song!” (You got it, right?)
Take turns humming and whistling progressively more obscure pieces.
“Four minutes thirty-three.”
(Edit:) Sparrow plays a version which we are more or less going to book a trip just so we can play it where you nominate a word and each team takes turns singing pieces of song containing that word. If a team can’t come up with the next song, they’re out. Example: the nominated word is “sun”. You might sing The Sun Broke Into Your Heart, after which the next team sings The Sun Is A Mass Of Incandescent Gas. The word doesn’t have to be in the title, but you get the idea.
2. Twenty Questions
The beginner format should really be called Unlimited Questions, and comes with a correspondingly loose limit on answers. Make sure what you’re thinking about is familiar and comforting.
“Is it a duck?”
“It’s actually one of your toys.”
“Is it my duck toy?”
“Try to think less in terms of ducks.”
The intermediate version should also be called Unlimited Questions, but the answers are now strictly yes/no. Clues may be given at the twenty question mark.
“Is it a duck?”
“Is it a dog?”
“Is it a kitten?”
(Seventeen questions later:) “Is it a fox?”
“I’ll give you a clue. It’s actually not an animal at all.”
The true game of twenty questions. Think of a familiar object. The guesser asks up to twenty yes/no questions with the aim of guessing the object.
“Is it an animal?”
“Is it my brother?”
3. Blankety Blank/Madlibs/Exquisite Corpse
Begin a story, song, or series of disconnected sentences, based on a familiar and comforting theme. Pause every once in a while for the listener to insert his or her own choice of word.
“Once upon a time, there was a little house which looked almost exactly like our house at home, except the door was coloured….?”
Take turns providing whole sentences, or assign one person to descriptions and the other to dialogue.
“Once upon a time there was a little house which looked almost exactly like our house at home. Then one day, a little girl came knocking at the door and she said….?”
“I’m going to puke!”
(Edit:) Mel plays Pass The Story around a whole group, keeping it moving with a limit of two or three sentences each.
Either take turns adding whole paragraphs to the story, or switch roles so the child is doing all the heavy lifting, with the parent chiming in now and then.
Like this, but played verbally.
4. Guess the Picture
Using an index finger, draw a picture of a familiar object on the child’s palm. Say the name of the object.
“We’ve got a long, straight piece with a curve… and two bits here… it’s your sled!”
Using an index finger, draw a picture of a familiar object on the child’s palm or back. Ask them to guess what the object is. Get them to try with their eyes closed.
“And along… and around… and across the top…”
“Is it my sled?”
Ask the child to close their eyes. Using an index finger, write a word on the child’s palm or back. Ask them to guess what you’re writing.
“R… O… S…?”
“Correct so far…”
“E… B…. U…”
5. Remember That Time When We…
Reminisces about a favourite experience. Be sure to use silly voices and plenty of silly hand gestures. Encourage your child to mimic the noises and gestures.
“Remember that time we drank pink milk? And we took a looooong straw – show me your long straw – and we went glub glub glub glub until it was all gone.”
Ask your child if they remember a particular event. Get them to flesh out the details. Invent fanciful details. See where it goes.
“Remember that time we bought pink milk? What happened next?”
“We drank it.”
“Yes! And we turned into unicorns.”
Like intermediate, but with pegasi, which are much more advanced.
What Should We Try For Next Time And/Or Do You Know Anything About My Thai Holiday Photos?
If you have a favourite car game which encourages kids to focus inwardly on safe subjects, please say.
Alternatively, if you know what on earth keys my children mashed in order to link all my holiday photos with randomly-assigned and unrelated thumbnails making them almost impossible to work with, that would be awesome, too. Otherwise my next post will be Five Equipment-Free Travel Games To Play When Stranded For A Prolonged And Indefinite Period Of Time At A Small Immigration Area On The Thai-Malaysian Border Wondering What Has Become Of Your Luggage.
Who’s Driving The Bus?
The Fives at Fives On The Fly play a Guess Who style game. The aim is to guess the answer to the question: “Who’s driving the bus?”, where the “bus” doesn’t have to be a real bus, nor the “driver” an actual driver – they can be a friend, relative, or favourite fictional character (for example). Guessers can ask yes/no questions.