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Fun Car Games for Kids to Play on a Road Trip

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

 
car activities
 
 The first thing I did was to fill some activity bags.
These zippered pouches are a dollar at Wal-Mart and hold quite a bit.
 
Here’s the fun things that were inside:
1. Dollar Tree journal, stickers, and box of new crayons
2. Dominoes (fun for the hotel, too!)
3. Fix-it Kit with Dollar Tree eye glass repair kit, calculator, old cell phone (just to tinker with!)
4. Finger puppets from Ikea
 
travel activities
 
 

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.

car games
 

Make Your Own I-Spy Jar

The night before (literally!), I made a quick I-Spy jar, repurposing an old spaghetti container with rice and tiny objects.  I laminated a picture of what was hidden inside and included an erasable marker she could use to cross off the objects she found.
 
travel games
 
 

Electronics

And of course, we utilized the Leapster and the iPod, filling the iPod with lots of new (free!) educational games.  I always go to the App Store and search, “Educational free,” and go from there. The iPad and movie players work well too. I try to limit screen time and use it as a treat. 
 
travel games
 
Everything fit snugly in the box and provided hours of fun.
She could independently access each activity, making her own selections and cleaning up when done.
 
travel with kids

 

Magnets and a Cookie Sheet


Summer Travel

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

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.

Examples:

  • 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.

 

I-Spy

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?

For example:

  • 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?

For example:

  • 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.

Mad Libs

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

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16 Comments

  • Reply Ticia

    We’ve used most of those before as well. I’ve also found the Tag reader to be a big plus in the car.

    February 23, 2012 at 1:54 pm
  • Reply Jen

    Great ideas, Jill. Love the finger puppet idea. I made a dry erase book for my girls one year. I put crosswords, mad-libs, and word finds in plastic sheets and put in a binder. Worked out great for our car ride!

    February 23, 2012 at 3:06 pm
  • Reply Kelley [playgroundlaboratory]

    Fantastic ideas! We are preparing for a 15 hour drive here in the next few months, and this will be great! Thanks!

    Found your blog on Pinterest. Following via GFC

    February 23, 2012 at 6:21 pm
  • Reply JDaniel4's Mom

    These are great ideas! I will now be ready for my next road trip.

    February 23, 2012 at 7:31 pm
  • Reply Anonymous

    These are great! Thank you so much for posting this!

    February 27, 2012 at 2:28 am
  • Reply Amber

    Nice ideas! Thank you! Love your I Spy w/a laminated photo.

    April 7, 2012 at 4:18 am
  • Reply Peggy

    Can I ask where you found the tiny objects for the I Spy jar? That is a great idea.

    May 13, 2012 at 10:25 am
  • Reply Sarah

    Fabulous ideas!!

    I featured this on my blog today:
    http://craftingandcreativity.blogspot.ca/2012/05/things-i-like-thursday-28.html

    🙂 Sarah

    May 17, 2012 at 2:24 pm
  • Reply Unknown

    Great ideas!! One thing we do for our 14 hour drives each summer is this: Before we leave I go to the dollar store, Target’s dollar spot, etc and I find little fun activities like a coloring book or plastic zoo animals, crossword book, etc and I wrap them up. I buy lots of these things because it’s a long trip. Each hour or so (sometimes every 2 hours) they get to open another present. That way they get excited about the next gift, and each gift gives them something new to do.

    May 23, 2012 at 3:46 pm
  • Reply Emily

    Great ideas! What’s your blog name?

    May 28, 2012 at 7:54 pm
  • Reply Becky

    I love the organization. I just throw a bunch of random stuff in a bag and have the kids rifle through it during the trip! Your way looks much more sane! thanks for the tips 🙂

    http://thisfineday.com

    June 21, 2013 at 3:39 am
  • Reply Kids Travel Activities

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  • Reply Sarah Dugo

    Especially love the rice and object “I Spy” game, very clever!

    Re-pinned to http://www.pinterest.com/futuredoll/

    Thanks Sarah

    April 14, 2014 at 8:05 pm
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