We want our kids to be curious about new destinations, to get excited about family road trips, and to look forward to traveling- and as parents, we want to enjoy traveling as a family as well! Keep kids happy with these fun activities and games to play in the car. If I’ve missed any, leave us a comment and let us know your favorite way to pass the time in the car with kids.
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Games to Play in the Car with the Whole Family:
- Find the letters of the alphabet on signs or billboards- let little kids also use license plates for an advantage
- Going in ABC order, name an item (food, places, people’s names, animals, movies/TV shows) for every letter of the alphabet
“I-Spy” or Search Games:
- the oldie but goodie “License Plate” game: see how many different states/provinces/countries you can find on the trip; for bigger kids, try to name the capitals as you write down the states. Here’s one of our favorite purchases:
- Car Search: write down as many different types of cars that you can imagine (sports car, 16 wheeler semi-truck, pick-up truck, minivan, pick-up truck, Mini, etc) and then for 5 minutes count as many as you can of each to see which one “wins”
- 20 questions: players get to ask 20 yes/no questions to a person, who is thinking of an object in their head. Make it easier for the little guys by limiting it to an animal, a toy, a food, etc.
- I-Spy: besides the traditional I-Spy (where players guess what you”re looking at by asking questions) try playing I-Spy by imagining your kitchen or bedroom, and choosing an item to think about from home. Or, play I-Spy by thinking of something you might see on the highway (like a black and white cow). The players get an added point if they then find the item from the car quickly.
- Car Bingo! This retro game is all the rage in our minivan. It obviously works better when you are not surrounded completely by farms- but sometimes are passing through little towns.
- Personalized games! One of my favorite things to do before a long road trip is to create our own puzzles: a word search, a crossword puzzle, mazes, letter tiles, hidden messages. Go to Discovery Puzzle Maker and add in details about your child, family, friends, vacation plans, etc. My kids LOVE these!
- Word Find: write down your destination and have everyone come up with as many words as they can from the letters: “CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, UNITED STATES.”
- As a family, try to think of as many compound words as you can, and have the little ones guess their meaning.
- Try to come up with as many sentences that contain homophone pairs as you can. My daughter’s favorite: “The moose ate mousse!”
- Everyone pick a new nickname for the trip to be used in the car. Start with 10 points, you lose a point for every time you call someone by their actual name.
Activities, Books, Cards for the Backseat Riders:
- My kids really like to follow along the journey with their own personal map- that I make on google maps before we go. See the instructions here!
- If you remember Colorforms from the 1980’s, you will get a kick out of vinyl, reusable sticker scenes by MudPuppy. We have the “rainforest” scene, because we are huge animal-lovers- but there are plenty of others. My girls get completely absorbed in this imaginative play and have the little animals talking in high-pitched voices in no time.
- Rubberneckers: Everyone’s Favorite Travel Game is SO FUN (and so funny) for all ages! It is a race to find certain items on a list- like a police car, or a certain billboard. You can also play it where everyone works together to find the items and accomplish the tasks (like getting another car to wave to you or give you a peace sign). I have heard that there is a Rubberneckers Jr, too. What great games to play in the car and to make the car ride go so much faster!
- National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas: Maps, Games, Activities, and More for Hours of Backseat Fun. As long as you are traveling- have a little geography fun on the way!
- Mad Libs on the Road by Roger Price and Leonard Stern. If you’ve never done Mad Libs (a game I played as a kid!) it’s a word game that requires someone to write down everyone’s suggestions of “nouns,” “adjectives,” adverbs,” “places,” etc. Once you plug them into the story, you have a funny tale that makes everyone chuckle:). Try this on-line version to understand it better.