If you’re traveling with kids of any age (my biggest little one, M, is almost 5), you know that it really helps to have a few tricks and creative ideas up your sleeve to make the trip enjoyable for the whole family.
Recently, we took our longest car trip to date: 8 hours. And let me say, 8 hours (even if broken up!) is a long time for any young children to stay entertained. But, with some cheap pre-planning and fun games, it actually turned out to be a super fun time with minimal whining! Here are some of our favorite car games for kids.
I picked up a red cardboard box at Target’s dollar spot. It fit perfectly in the backseat, between the carseats, to put a bunch of things in.
Activity Bags for Long Car Rides
Workbooks and Notebooks
I also picked up some workbooks from Target’s dollar spot, along with a new pack of colored pencils and her monthly subscription to Highlights magazine. Your best bet is to get workbooks that are slightly too easy for them so they won’t get frustrated or need your help.
Make Your Own I-Spy Jar
Magnets and a Cookie Sheet
Bring a magnetic cookie sheet and a few bags of different magnets. Your child will spend a good amount of time moving them and talking about them.
Stickers are pretty much my go to in every situation where I have a bored kid. They stick them on themselves and I also buy mini notebooks for them to stick them in. I hand my son a page of stickers and a miniature notebook and tell him to make a sticker book. Older kids can use crayons to draw a scene that goes with each sticker.
Finish My Story
When all of the activities have been used I have a few quick games that we love to play. The first one is to tell a story without an ending and ask your child to finish it.
For example, one day there was a girl who was walking down the street with her new puppy. All of a sudden the puppy ran into a puddle and started to roll around and got all wet. The puppy got up and shook the water off of his fur. What do you think will happen next? Can you finish this story?
Listen for the Mistake
We love this game and my son laughs and laughs when we play it. I don’t know what it is about hearing their parents make mistakes, but they love it. Believe it or not, this game helps with reading skills such as self correcting and comprehension! I like that you can play this even when your child is in the back seat and you are driving.
Tell your child a sentence with a mistake in it and have them tell you why the sentence is wrong.
- I write with an eraser.
- My cat is hard and furry.
- A clock tells color.
- I turn lights off when it gets dark.
- A mouse is huge!
- Or for more of a challenge tell a story with a mistake in it.
- John went to the beach. He went swimming, sat in the sun, hunted for shells, and built a snowman.
The old standby version of I-Spy (eye spy with my little eye) can get boring in the same car hour after hour so we came up with this version (inspired by Dora).
One of us says “If you see a __________, yell _______”. (If you see a flag, yell flag.)
I guess it’s a younger version of I-Spy. It has turned out to be a great distraction for B and keeps him alert. It also is a great game to enhance vocabulary. He’s learned the difference between the American and Texas flags and has learned to read various store signs. I guess it’s time for me to learn the different types of trucks instead of saying “If you see a big truck, yell big truck”. This game helps with observation skills.
If You Could Be A….
If you could be a __________, which one would you be?
- If you could be a super hero, which one would you be?
- If you could be an animal, which one would you be?
- If you could be a color, which one would you be?
- If you could be a character from Toy Story, which one would you be?
- If you could be a food, which one would you be?
What Goes With It?
This is a great classification game for young kids!
I’m thinking of a __________. What goes with it?
- I’m thinking of a garbage truck. What goes with it? (garbage, trash can, etc.)
- I’m thinking of a flower. What goes with it? (vase, bumble bee, water)
- I’m thinking of a soccer ball. What goes with it? (goal, player, field)
A Game of Numbers
Why not work on Math skills while you travel?
- I’m thinking of a number that comes between 2 and 4. What is it
- I’m thinking of a number that comes after 3. What is it?
- I’m thinking of a number that comes before 7. What is it?
- I’m thinking of two numbers that add up to 10. What is it?
A Game of Letters
This is a great game for critical thinking.
- I’m thinking of a letter that comes between C and E. What is it?
- I’m thinking of a letter that comes after M. What is it?
- I’m thinking of a letter that comes before S. What is it?
- I’m thinking of a letter that is at the beginning of cat. What is it?
- Let’s think of everything we can that starts with A. Now B.
Car Games for Older Children
These fun car games are great for family members of all ages. Road trip games are a great way to pass the time and provide hours of fun on family road trips.
License Plate Game – In the license plates game, find as many different states as you can. This is the perfect game for long car trips because you will have the chance to see a lot of cars.
Road Signs Bingo – Mark the bingo cards as you find the road signs.
Keep track of any unique cars you see. Write down the different cars so you can keep track of what you’ve seen and decide which one was the most unique.
Category ABCs – In this alphabet game, start with a category (for example “foods”). Take turns naming different foods in alphabetical order. The first player says a food that starts with A (apple). The next player names a food that starts with B (burger). Play continues as you name something in the category that goes with the next letter of the alphabet. The first person to not be able to think of something is out.
Story Starters – Start a story and each person adds a sentence. Continue until the story reaches the end. For example, “I was walking down the street and saw a gold box….”
Movie Game – Someone names a letter and everyone tries to think of a movie that starts with that letter. Keep taking turns. If you can’t think of a movie, you are out.
Which of these games will you try on your next family road trip? These are the best car games that we’ve played and we know that you will have a good time together.
Resource: Games for Reading: Playful Ways to Help Your Child Read by Peggy Kaye