Heading off on a family vacation is a perfect opportunity to switch gears, leaving schedules, work and school behind to re-connect with our kids. Sometimes we need a little ice breaker to get the chat going. So don’t forget to tuck a few great games in the backpack to start the conversation. These kid-tested, PAL Award winners are loads of fun and exercise language learning too.

“Buzz Blast” by Discovery Bay Games is a winner with kids, delighted with the timed task of coming up with original answers to four challenges: describing the differences between two pictures in “Check and Double Check,” filling in the blanks on “Silly Sentences,” answering abstract questions in “Brain Play” or blurting out their “Tongue Twisters.” Kids fed on each other’s creativity as they gave an answer, passed the Buzz Blast timer to the next player, and continued generating original answers until the buzzer went off—oops, you have to talk fast so you’re not left holding that buzzing buzzer! (Age 7 and up)

“Who Am I?” by HABA Toys comes in a little tin to keep the fun contained. Who am I? An astronaut? Rain boots? Or a fried egg? Ask the right questions and you’ll discover the answer. The “Guesser” straps on the headband, while the rest of the players select a picture card and attach it to his forehead with a cute question magnet. Through a series of yes and no questions, the child determines what picture is on his forehead. Guess your picture card before you use up your 10 tokens from “no” answers. Asking and answering questions, thinking in categories and deductive reasoning all play into a great language building experience which is a load of fun. (Age 5 and up)

“Rory’s Story Cubes,” by Gamewright offers nine dice-like cubes with clever images on each of the six sides to roll out for story telling. Add on to the group story, as kids of all ages interpret the drawings and get creative. An image of a flashlight can be taken at face value “to see in the woods,” or can represent a situation where “the power went off,” as older children interpret the drawings at a more abstract level.  Clever kids teach parents as a hand represents strength or an arrow stands for taking a new direction. (Age 8 and up)

The above opinions are solely those of the author. The 3 games were provided by their companies for review.