Quiet Paper Games for Church

There is a delicate balance between making your kids listen during church, and just hoping that they are quiet so that they don’t distract others who are trying to listen.

This is the strategy for how to keep your kids distracted while you listen.

When I was younger, I remember when 3-year-old brother disappeared underneath the pew in front of us. We didn’t get to church early enough to get a good seat, so we were pretty far back. After a little while, I saw my brother’s head pop up in the very front row. Some nice people had him sit by them while my mother scrambled up to get him.

To avoid this situation in your future, I’ve compiled a list of quiet paper games to help you.

  1. Dots and Boxes
  2. Tic Tac Toe
  3. A little better (modified killing game)
  4. Telestrations
  5. Counting to 21
  6. Random Drawing
  7. Drawing with your eyes closed

Dots and Boxes

The classic dots and boxes game can take as long as you need and can be done very quietly. Start with ten by ten dots like below. Take turns connecting dots. If you complete a square, write your initial in the box and get another turn. Refer to the Dots and Boxes strategy on how to win.


After a few times of the regular version, it gets pretty monotonous. At that point, you can change things up by changing the rules. Here are some suggestions.

  • Reverse Tic-Tac-Toe. If the other person gets three in a row, you win.
  • 4 in a row. Make the board 4 by 4, and you have to get 4 in a row to win
  • Multiple playing areas. Make 2 or 3 Tic-Tac-Toe boards and on your turn, you get to play on any of them. You have to get 3 in a row twice to win.

A Little Better

My older brother and I made up a game called the killing game. Basically, you start by drawing someone or something and the next person draws a new someone or something that has to be strong enough to kill the thing you drew. This goes back and forth until there is an argument about whether the Death Star can be defeated by Voldemort.

Needless to say, my mom hated this game.

I since adapted the game to make it church appropriate. Instead of killing, you just have to draw something a little better. It works best with categories like; bad guys, super heroes, or Pokemon. We have even played the faster version around the dinner table where you just have to say someone a little worse. (The bad guy one got a little tricky with our kids because the worst guy they knew about was Bowser.)


There is an actual Telestrations game, but you can play it without all the extra frills. Take a piece of paper, and one person draws a picture. The next person writes what they think they are seeing in the picture and folds the paper so that you can only see the words. The next person draws a picture of the words etc.

You can have multiple papers going along the pew. You can even make it church themed by requiring the first picture to be scripture heroes.

Counting to 21

This is the same as the counting up game referenced here, except that you write it on a piece of paper. The game is pretty fast so it won’t last long, but you can change it up by adding multiple players, or changing what you must add up to. This is good for a few minutes of peace.

Random Drawing

I don’t mean just draw something random.

This is where one person draws a quick squiggle on the paper and the other person has to make something out of it. We often would each draw a squiggle so that both players could be drawing. I’ve seen the youth play this, and some of them get really good pictures out of it.

Blind Drawing

One player names something that you have to draw, and both players have to do it with their eyes closed. Whoever has the most complete picture wins. You can judge yourselves, or rope someone else in afterward.

What ideas do you have to keep kids distracted in church?

Counting to 21 Strategy

21 is a simple game that you can always win if you go second. The goal of the game is to be the first person to say “21”. The rules are that you can only add 1 or 2 to whatever the other player says.

For example, the first player can say “1” or “2”. If he said “2” the second player can say “3” or “4” and so on.

There is a strictly dominant strategy in this game. You can use backward induction to figure out what to do. Try to figure it out yourself first, but below is the strategy.

  1. You need to get them to say 19 or 20; therefore, if you say 18, you win.
  2. To say 18, you need to get them to say 16, or 17, so if you say 15, you win.
  3. Continuing on, if you say 12 you win
  4. if you say 9, you win,
  5. if you say 6, you win,
  6. if you say 3, you win
  7. So, if you go second, you can guarantee that you will say 3, and win every time.

When playing this with people, the secret is to not let on that you are doing a strategy against them. To win the most times possible, act like you are thinking about what to do on every turn, even though you know what you will say.

If you go first, just hope that they don’t know the dominant strategy and mess up one time. Once that happens, you can get back onto the winning track and win every time.

There are different variations where you lose if you say 21. Can you figure out the dominant strategy in that game?



Rock, Paper, Scissors Strategy

Rock, Scissors, Paper feels like a simple game of luck. This is great, because most of your opponents will feel the same way. Although you can’t always win, there is a way to increase your chances of winning. It is all about Psychology.

When I was younger I often lost the first play. It was frustrating because my winning probabilities were way worse than 50%. So, I started watching what people did. Here is what I found.

  1. Plant suggestions in their mind
  2. Randomize if you win
  3. Choose the odd one if you lose

Psychology of first play

Growing up, I called this game, “Rock, Scissors, Paper” but most people call it “Rock, Paper, Scissors”. When I didn’t have time to think about what to play, I would play paper, and they would play scissors.

What was happening here? Our brains have two parts, the thinking part and the feeling part. When you use logic and reason, the thinking part is active and we logically choose what to do. This is much more slow and methodological. The thinking brain needs time to process.

That is why we have a feeling brain. The feeling brain reacts quickly to stimuli and makes quick decisions or knee-jerk reactions.

In Rock, Scissors, Paper you can trigger the feeling brain by doing the following.

  • Say to your opponent, “What do you call this game?”
  • They will say “Rock, Paper, Scissors”
  • You then quickly start the game.
  • They will automatically play Scissors because that is what their feeling brain is thinking.
  • You should play rock.

This strategy works more than 80% of the time! (unless they read this blog, then they will be expecting it, then you have to go back to random play)

Randomize when you win

Some Cornell researchers found that people often play the same thing if they win, and play the next down the line if they lose. (if they lose with Rock, they play Paper, Lose with Paper, play Scissors, etc).

So if you win with Rock, play Paper more often, but don’t get predictable. Randomization is key because if you follow a pattern, they will figure it out.

Switch if you lose

If the other player isn’t following this blog, then they will tend to play the winning strategy again. In that case you should  play the odd one. (the one no one played last time.)  But, if they are following the recommended strategy above. You will often tie.

Once again, randomizing is key.


Or, if you are like this guy. Always play rock.


Try it out and let me know how it works!