How to Play the Name Game

A classic category game for kids ages 6 and up

Kids playing name game in a car
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The name game is a fun category game that is great for all ages and can help with road trip boredom and constant complaints of "Are we there yet?"  It's especially great for kids who've learned to read and can spell a large variety of words. The beauty of the game is its flexibility; it can be made easier by choosing a general category or more difficult with a more specific category.

You don't need a game board or any materials, so it's perfect for long family road trips, train trips and, of course, picnics. This is one of our go-to car and travel games for young school-age kids.

How to Play the Name Game

You need at least two people to play, but the more the merrier.

Before the game begins, the group has to decide on a category, such as animals, foods, TV shows, cities, and states, movie titles, celebrities, or any topic of interest.

Let's suppose the category is animals. The first player names an animal, perhaps "chimpanzee." 

The next player has to name another animal that begins with the last letter of the previous animal—in this case, E. For example, "elephant."

The next player needs to name an animal that begins with T, as in "tiger." The next player has to pick an animal that starts with R, and so on.


Once an animal (or food, TV show, movie) is named, it may not be repeated. Each player has 60 seconds (or any reasonable amount of time) to take his or her turn. Younger children may need assistance or longer turns.

If a young pre-reader wants to join an adult to form a team, this is permissible if agreed by the other players. The team members can huddle together and give one answer from the team, not one answer per teammate. 


The game can easily be refreshed by making this a spelling game. Choose a category, such as animals. The first player names a word in a category, such as "chimpanzee." The second player names an animal starting with H, the second letter in the word, such as "hippo." The next player names an animal beginning with I, such as "iguana." And so on.

Another variation calls for staying on the same letter until options are exhausted. For example, if the category is animals, and the first player chooses "chimpanzee," all the players, in turn, choose animals that start with C, including "cat," "crayfish," and so on until a player can not think of another animal beginning with C. The remaining players continue until there is only one player left. The player who wins the round begins the next round with another animal that starts with a different letter.

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