Ah yes, the great American road trip. Pack up the vehicle and head out for your destination, enjoying changing scenery and places of interest along the way. On a long trip, kids will likely get bored and restless, despite stops to let them explore and run around. Sure, these days there are car DVD players, Game Boys, and various other gizmos and gadgets specifically created for the traveling kid. But, even these activities can become tiring for the child or teenager, and when the kids become grumpy or whiny, parents absorb the tension.
So what do you do? Go “old school” with them! Play car travel games!
Car travel games provide hours of fun and an opportunity for great family bonding. You may even learn some new things about each other! They are educational and allow kids (and adults) to improve language, reading, spelling, geography, and musical skills. Many of them can also be played when traveling by plane, bus, or train. Here is a list of my favorite car travel games from my “old school” days.
For kids under 6:
1.) 20 questions–The classic! Have your child (or you) pick out something in the car or something you pass outside, and ask or have her ask yes/no questions to reveal its identity. If your child picks on object, ask about shape, color, texture, and size to help her learn these concepts. Even my 2-year-old plays this one, asking questions like, “Is it fuzzy?” or “Is it messy?” It can be highly entertaining for child and adult and is great food for inquisitive little minds!
2. I Spy–Another classic that never gets old! Someone spies an object inside or outside of the car and identifies its color only. (I spy something red…) Take turns guessing what it is. It’s a fun game for little ones just learning their colors.
3. Name that tune–Like the old television game show (and current similar tv shows), hum a few notes of a song for your child to guess what it is. They can do the humming too! Someone can also sing a few lyrics and let the others guess the rest of the words. You may create a veritable car sing-along while enhancing your child’s musical development.
4. The Rhyme Game–Find a one or two syllable object inside or outside of the car and ask your kids to think of words that rhyme with it. Both my 4-year-old and 2-year-old love this game, and we love that they are working on their language skills.
5. Storybook–Begin with “Once Upon a Time…” and have everyone take turns adding something to the story. The characters and plot can go in very interesting directions. This game really lets your child’s creative juices flow!
For ages 6 and up:
6.) Alphabet game–Start with “A” and find a word on a passing billboard, sign, license plate, vehicle, etc. that begins with it. Work your way through the entire alphabet letter by letter. You may be stumped on “Q” and “X,” but your child’s reading skills will be sharpened! Another variation of this game is to find passing objects that begin with each letter in the alphabet.
7.) Last Letter Game–This game can be played using categories such as famous names, movie or song titles, animals, or cities. Start with a name such as Barack Obama. The next player takes “A,” the last letter of the last name, and names another famous person’s name that starts with that letter, such as Angelina Jolie. Keep going as long as possible. If a player can’t think of anything in a minute or so, he or she is out.
8.) License Plate games–The goal of this game is to find license plates from as many of the 50 U.S. states as possible. Write them down as a list, or seize the opportunity for a Geography lesson, coloring in a blank U.S. map as each state plate is identified. No winners or losers, just lots of fun! There are other license plate games to play such as taking plate letters and creating an acronym from them to describe something about the vehicle.
9.) “My Car” game–As a kid, this game was very popular with my family. It works best on a two lane road that does not receive heavy traffic. Each person in the car takes a turn with each oncoming vehicle. For every turn, the passing vehicle “becomes” yours. It is fun to see who gets the “clunkers” and who gets the desirable ones. At the end of the trip, the players can vote on who won with the nicest vehicle.
10.) Silly sentences–A player calls out a word that has the same number of letters as the number of players. The first player states a word that begins with the first letter of the word, the second player, a word starting with the second letter, and so on. Everybody tries to make a complete sentence from all the letters that may or may not make sense. The more people playing, the longer and sillier the sentences! Like the “last letter” game, players can also use the last word in each made-up sentence as the word for the next silly sentence. This game builds vocabulary and grammar skills.
So this summer, let the drive itself be great family fun and a chance for the kids to learn without even knowing it.