Once upon a time, a girl named Jenny went to college in a big city far, far away. It was fun. She made many new friends. They went to classes together and studied together and had all sorts of fun together. Then one day, Jenny and all of her friends realized that they were broke. No one had any more money for movies, or shopping, or any of the things they usually did for fun. Jenny’s friends were very sad. They had all studied very hard and needed a break. They wanted to go have some fun. They wanted to go shopping at the mall, but they had no money to buy things.
Then Jenny had an idea. “Let’s play BINGO!” said Jenny. “Oh, that’s boring,” said her friends. “I know how to make it fun!” said Jenny, and she disappeared into her dorm room. When she came back out a few minutes later, Jenny was holding several small cards. The cards were divided up into squares like Bingo cards, but each square had words written in it, instead of numbers. “Now let’s go to the mall, and I will show you how to play,” said Jenny.
When they got to the mall, Jenny gave each person a card and a pencil. “We will all walk around the mall like we always do, but you have to find the things written in the boxes. The first person to find all of their things and cross them off will win the game!” said Jenny. “Wow! This sounds FUN!” said her friends. Jenny and her friends had so much fun playing her new game that they played it over and over. They loved to go the mall and play Jenny’s Mall Bingo game. Jenny and her friends were happy again, and they did not have to spend any money. That made them extra happy.
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You do not have to be in college or live near the Mall of America to enjoy Jenny’s game. Your children may enjoy doing this during long car trips or during grocery shopping trips with Mom. Adapt your bingo cards to the area that you will be visiting, and keep your children occupied in boredom-free bliss.
MOA Bingo consisted of a patchwork block of random items to spot during study-break trips to the Mall of America. Suddenly, instead of meandering through the mall, bemoaning their lack of money for shopping, the students had a mission — finding all the items on their bingo cards. Each trip yielded more bizarre items to include on the cards for the next visit.
The Mall of America houses a travel store with posters of far-away places and stuffed toys of exotic animals, in addition to the usual mall-fare of sports shops, clothing stores, and a wide variety of shoppers. The bingo cards contained a balance of hard-to-find and easy-to-find items, along with common, everyday, household objects that can be hard to find in the shopping mall setting. Gift wrapping counters, vending machines, and First Aid Stations are often overlooked while shopping, but become of vital importance in the strategy of Mall Bingo.
Players had to become creative in finding their listed items, especially if their opponents craftily steered them away from the obvious sources. Your card might list “Mickey Mouse,” but your opponent has carefully kept you away from the Disney Store. Now is the time to improvise by heading into a bookstore and looking in the collectibles section. However, the same strategy will work for “Ronald McDonald” if you are trying to steer your opponent away from the Food Court.
Sample items from Mall Bingo cards:
Notice how the easier-to-find pyramid is balanced by the harder-to-find tree frog. The obelisk is hard to find, but snakes (oddly) were easier to find. Random numbers could be spotted on sports jerseys or price tags. Two or three players stayed together in one group with each individual working to steer the group in favorable directions, but larger groups could split up and work as teams with one card per team. The objects were not purchased, and did not even have to be for sale, but someone besides the player had to witness the object before the college student could check an item off of his card.
My son used the same concept to stay alert during a particularly monotonous college class: Professor Bingo. The squares listed the professor’s many habits, turning them from repetitive mannerisms into delightful antics. Would the prof misplace his chalk, would he hitch up his pants, would he argue against his own notes, or would he emphasize a statement by flicking imaginary water from his fingers?
This game can be adapted to your personal needs. Use more or fewer items, depending on the skill level of your players. On your food-buying trips, teach your little ones to recognize fruits, vegetables, or other items by using pictures from the grocery ads instead of words on the cards, or play it like the Alphabet Game by challenging your kiddies to find a grocery item for each letter of the alphabet.
Having fun does not always have to mean spending money. Our family has invented many enjoyable activities from whatever our circumstances were, and Mall Bingo is a prime example. Now, who wants to go to the mall?