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The Category Game

Sweet Pea is 37 months old.


From: My parents used to play this super quick and easy game with me.


  • At least 2 willing players.


  • Ask your tot if they would like to learn how to play ” The Category Game”.
  • When your tot agrees, say, “I am going to come up with a category and then we are going to take turns naming all of the items we can think of that belong in that category.”
  • Next tell your tot, “For the first category we are going to each name a different type of food.  I’ll go first.”
  • Pretend to think about about a food item, “Let’s see…. hmm.. What is something we eat?  How about an apple?  An apple is a type of food!  Now it is your turn.  Can you think of a different type of food?”
  • At first, you may have to help your tot to name the items.  For example, you might need to point to something or say, “What did you eat for breakfast this morning?”
  • Especially for younger tots, you may want to name more obscure foods on your own turn and leave the easier ones for your tot to think of.
  • Continue taking turns naming foods, until your tot runs out of ideas and then start all over again with a new category.

Observations: Sweet Pea liked naming foods, but really had fun when we started naming engines from Sodor and Sesame Street characters.    We have also named types of animals, flowers, My Little Ponies (Warning: Annoying Music), vehicles, people we know and, at Sweet Pea’s suggestion, “Things with windows” (which I am fairly certain was inspired by the fact that Thomas has windows).  Usually the person who can’t think of another item is the one that gets to pick the new category, but you will probably need to help your tot at first.   Obviously you know what things would catch your own tot’s interest and should suggest those categories.

Sweet Pea loves this game and often asks to play it now.  We frequently play it at dinner, but it is a great little game to help keep your tot from melting down while you are waiting in line or driving in the car.  I love how it sneaks in learning and encourages taking turns.  I highly suggest you give this game a try with your tot.

Notes from the Trenches: Never say “Elmo” (or “Thomas” or whatever your tot’s favorite character is).   I quickly learned that if I named an item that was especially dear to Sweet Pea, she would get upset and beg, “Can I say Elmo, too??”    And of course, I then had to let her use it for her turn also.  🙂

Rating: 3 Stars * (Fun, Easy, Frugal)

2 comments to The Category Game

  • Seems similar to our game of saying words that begin with a specific sound. A game I learned while working at a Montessori. I say, “I hear ‘mmmmm’ when I say ‘mmmoon,’ ‘mmmonkey,’ etc” and then I get the girls to name some things that also start with that sound.

    • admin

      Oh yes. We play something similar to that also. I think that is referred to as the Eye Spy game in some of my Montessori books and I have been thinking about doing a post on it too.

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