Pencil & Paper DIY Board Games

April 6, 2020
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Like many of you, our day to day schedule has adapted to a new normal. For those of us who are working from home, it may mean a shorter commute, but it also may mean taking on a new role as a teacher, chef, or entertainer for yourself, your children or partner. Since we can’t run to the store to buy new games, here are a few of my favorite pencil and paper games that can entertain even the pickiest people. 

  • Tic tac toe

We are going to start off simple with this one. Tic tac toe is not the game that you will likely spend hours on, but it is simple and easy to play with very few supplies, so of course it made this list. It works best for 2 players. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the game, you start with a drawing like this:

One player chooses to play as “X” and the other player will play as “O”. The first player places their designated letter into one of the 9 open spaces, and the next player will place their letter in one of the remaining 8 unoccupied spaces.

The goal of the game is to get three of your letter in a row.

In this case, the X’s win!

All in all, a very simple game that takes very little time to set up, and can be played over and over again. Want to add a creative twist? Draw your own picture instead of X’s and O’s. For example, I may play a game with pencils and scissors instead!

  • Categories

To exercise your knowledge of different things in the world, you can play a very simple word game that we call categories in my family. The game can accommodate any number of players, but I think it is most fun with 2-6 people. To start, have each player think of a letter for the game. Write down all of the letters that the players would like to use. Then have each player think of a category that they would like included in the game. I usually set up my paper like this:

Now, you can have participants answer one at a time round robin style, or each participant can fill out their own paper version and compare answers at the end. Sometimes we play this without paper and just say everything out loud so going one at a time can be challenging if the person in front of you also thought of Rose for a flower that starts with R! See below for my filled in answers of this version of the game!

Note: I like to play where you can’t use the same word more than once, so Tangerine is both a fruit and a color, but I replaced the color with Teal to cover my bases! You can make up your own rules and categories to match the group you are playing with!

  • Collaborative Drawing

For your more creative game players, this game asks your players to work together to create a drawing. This can be played best with 2-3 players, but you can easily play with more! To start, grab one piece of paper and drawing utensil for each player and have the players fold the paper into three equal segments “hamburger” style. (Essentially fold it like you are folding things to put in a regular envelope) It should end up looking something like this!

The idea is that each player will draw a portion of a person/monster/humanoid being. The first segment will be the “head”, the second will be the “torso,” and the last will be the “legs/feet.” It is best to be as silly as possibly for the most delightfully enjoyable results!

Starting with the “head,” The first person with the paper, will orient it so that the top is the only segment facing outwards. That will be their drawing surface for the head. Draw whatever fun thing comes to mind. For my drawing, I chose to make my drawing be a pig head. Before you finish and pass it along, unfold it to the next segment, and draw two lines to create the neck from your head, so the next player will know where to put the “torso.”

Refold the paper so that the next blank segment (the “torso”) is the only part that’s visible. Then pass it to the next player. They will draw the “torso” of the mixed up thing you are creating. For my inspiration, I asked some friends what I should draw for my torso and they came up with a tutu!

Again, the player is going to unfold to the next empty segment (don’t peek at the head yet!) and draw the start of the legs so the next player knows where to begin. Then, refold and pass it with the blank segment up to the last player. For my last segment, I was asked to draw Dinosaur Feet! But they came out looking much more like bird feet, which I think still works!

Now that everyone has completed their drawings, you can open them up and see what you have created! In my case, it is a pig ballerina with bird/dinosaur feet, and I like to think that those feet really help the pig with pliés and pirouettes. Much better than hooves for sure!

If you don’t have anyone to play with at your home, you can always play this by mailing your pieces to a friend, or send them through email! Or, like I did, just ask for some input from some friends and see what you can do!

I did not realize how much I could write about three pencil and paper games, so stay tuned for another future blog entry about more fun games that you can do with little to no supplies! If you are looking for more digital content of ways to engage with HMNS, visit our website

Though our physical doors are closed, our virtual doors remain open. Finding ways to creatively bring science to you is our highest priority. Your contributions matter today more than ever, as we strive to ensure that the museum is ready and able to welcome you back. Please GIVE TODAY to help support our mission of science education.

Authored By Kelsey Friedemann

Kelsey started working at the Museum through Xplorations summer camp, and this fall she started working as a programs facilitator. She is a presenter for several outreach programs, assists with overnight programs, and assists with education collections during summer camp. Her favorite dinosaur is a Triceratops found at HMNS Sugar Land. The Triceratops is also named "Kelsey."

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