Road trips with children need not be stressful ordeals punctuated by endless “Are you there yet?” These 21-car games will keep your kids entertained. A bonus? They will be engaged in car activities, which will give them the cognitive, emotional, and social benefits of playing. It’s a win-win situation.
There are 10 types of play that can be used to help children develop their skills.
The License Plate Game
You can make a group effort and spot all 50 state tags together. The first person to call out the state’s license plate gets a point. Bonus points are awarded to the person who first spots a Canadian plate. The family member who has the most points at the end wins.
Prepare a list of trivia questions that will be relevant to your children’s interests. To get their brains firing, ask them questions throughout the ride.
Create a family fairytale! The first person begins with “Once upon a time” and then adds a sentence to complete the sentence. You can add sentences to the story until it reaches its conclusion by taking turns.
Either set a time limit (say 15 minutes) or wrap up the story after each person has had a chance at three sentences. You can record the story on your smartphone and have someone transcribe it afterward so that you won’t forget it.
The Alphabet Game
The right-hander chooses the road’s right side, while the other takes the left. Each person then looks for letters from the alphabet on license plates or signs on their side.
The object of this game is to identify all letters in the alphabet, starting at A and ending at Z. The winner is the first to spot all letters of the alphabet in order.
The Animal Name Game
One person must name an animal to start the road trip game. The next person must then name another animal. That begins with the last letter from the animal that was named before. For example, “elephant”, ends with “t,” so the next person might name it “tiger,” then the next person might call it “raccoon”, and so forth.
It can be endless and the kids love that no one loses or wins. You can swap your children’s animals with other animals, such as TV shows, cities, and foods, if they are older.
One person may secretly think of a place, person, or thing. The other players take turns asking yes or no questions such as “Can it fly?” Or “Does it grow in the ground?” After the players have answered 20 questions each, each player has a chance at guessing.
Designate a storyteller. The storyteller whispers a tale to another person in the car. The storyteller whispers the same story to another person in the car, trying to get as close as possible to recreating it word for word. The story is repeated loudly so that everyone can hear it. It is likely that some stories are lost in translation. The resulting miscommunication usually causes a good laugh.
The Theme Song Game
One person hums the tune of a favorite TV show and the rest try to guess the show as quickly as possible. The game is then restarted again if the first person correctly guesses the song.
Name That Song
Sing a single song lyric in turn. Then, each person in the car will guess the title or singer. Bonus points for those who get both! This game is best for teens and older children.
This one will require some planning. Make a list of things you might see while on the road. This could include a blue billboard or cows. These items can be shared with your children, who will keep track of the things they find. They win a prize if they find all the items on your list. Perhaps some candy at the next stop?
The first person states, “A is For __”, filling in the blanks with any word that begins with the letter “A,” like “apple”. The second person must come up with a word that uses the letter B, such as “book”, but they must also repeat “A” words: “A is to apple, B is to book.”
Continue to go through the alphabet. Each person will take several turns and continue reciting more words and letters. The letter Z will be reached. Each player must recite the entire alphabet along with the corresponding word. You can use a letter earlier than “Z” if you are playing with younger children.
Secret Place Race
One person examines a road map and sees a small village, lake, river, or town. The person who has chosen the location announces their name. The second player has 60 seconds for the map to be viewed and to try to locate the secret location.
Each player picks a fast food restaurant such as Taco Bell, Burger King, or McDonald’s. Points can be earned by players spotting the restaurant on the street, on billboards, on exit markers, or hearing about it on the radio. You can set a time limit, such as 20 minutes. Then add the points.
This activity, while not a car game, is great for long road trips. Children can compete at rest stops in an athletic challenge to offset the slow pace of the journey. The 20-yard sprint will be staged by the fastest person who can complete push-ups, jump jacks or sprints in under a minute.
18 Fun Outdoor Games for Kids
Would You Like to?
Start a round ” Would you Rather?“, where everyone gets a turn to ask the most bizarre questions. You could ask, “Would it be better to eat pizza or chocolate for a whole day?” Or, “Would it be better to fly than become invisible?” You might be surprised at the answers of your family!
You can choose a broad category such as cities, movies, or meals. Players take turns naming items in the selected category in alphabetical order. If you choose cities, you can say Athens Boise Charleston Charleston Detroit and Edinburgh. A player is out if they don’t answer in 10 seconds or can’t correctly follow the alphabet. The last person standing wins.
The first player says a random word aloud. The next player quickly repeats the word. This cycle continues, going through all the players. Here’s an example: mustard and hot dog, barbecue (Fourth of July), fireworks …). If someone takes too much time to answer, gives an answer that is not clear, repeats a word, or provides an answer that does not make sense, the game will end.