A pizza restaurant near us hands each child a menu illustrated with several games and a small pack of crayons when we are seated. While the menus vary over time, “tic tac toe” always appears. It’s a simple game of each player alternating placing an x or an o in one of the nine open squares. The first player to get three in a row wins. One thing I have never done is preplan any strategy. This makes me an easy mark for my grandchildren who have figured out who needs to go first and what mark to make to win nearly every time. Their glee delights me.
Another favorite pencil game, “Hangman” is still just as enjoyable as it was years ago when I played it on rainy days at school. The first player thinks of a word and draws an appropriate number of blank spaces to accommodate it. The other player guesses which letters appear in the word. If she is right, the space is filled in(see above for letters “a” and “n.”) If wrong, a piece of the hanging man is added to the noose. Ideally the word is guessed before the complete “hanged man” dangles from the rope. Clearly the more minimal the man, the fewer turns are available before losing out to the rope. When I played my granddaughter at a younger age, I had a very elaborate stick figure with eyes, ears and toes to allow her enough chances to win. Now we stick to just head, arms and legs.
I am always glad for the restaurants which give us some fun things to do while waiting for our food. These word hunts, mazes and tic tac toe games make the arrival of the meals almost secondary. And no one is likely to look at her phone.