How many of you find that travel or riding to or from an event, school or camp accounts for some of the quality time you have with your children? Instead of spending that time in silence or frustrated because you are listening to the same child-music CD for the 18th time that day, try a fun car game. These games often lead to laughter and memorable moments. These are also great when trying to keep children entertained in lines, waiting rooms, etc.
Here are a few that I have learned over the years, heard about from friends, or created with my daughter.
Car Colors: Choose a time limit such as 10 minutes or 30 minutes – depending on the length of the drive. Have each rider make a guess about how many cars of a certain color will be spotted during that time. The closest guesser wins. You can also do this in "sprint fashion" by using 3 -minute intervals as your time limit. Whoever is closest gets a point for that time segment. The first one to 5 points wins.
Odd or Even: Each player makes a guess at how many of the next 20 license plates will end with an even number. The one who is closest wins. It helps to have a little tally chart to keep score. You can lengthen the game by increasing the number of license plates.
Spy: You are probably familiar with this one. One player announces something that they see and the other players try to guess what it is by asking questions. The only trick when doing this while driving is that it has to be something that will not go out of view – like the sky, the road, etc. Someone announces that they "spy" something and gives a clue. Example: I spy something blue. The players then take turns guessing until some one gets it. Whoever guesses correctly starts the next spy-turn.
20 Questions: One person thinks of a famous person, place or thing. Everyone else is allowed to ask the player 20 questions which can only be answered 'yes' or 'no.' Whoever guesses correctly becomes the next person to think of something. (We play this without a limit on the number of questions.)
The Alphabet Game: I am sure you know this one! Each player sequentially works through the alphabet looking for something that starts with a specific letter. For example: A might be apple tree or a word on a sign. Once a player finds an A word, they move onto B. (Have fun with Q, X and Z!) The first rider to work through the alphabet wins. Variation: Use only letters found on billboards, or letters on license plates.
The Animal Game: If you are in more rural areas where cars are not abundant, try the animal game. Keep on the lookout for animals and when you see one be the first to make the animal sound. For example if you saw a cow you would say "moooo." The first person to make the animal sound wins a point. Play to a designated number of points. You can make this game a bit more complicated for older kids by adding a designated number of points depending on the commonality of the animal – ie cows are 1 point, pigs are 2 points, etc.
Find it First: Choose an item such as Volkswagen bugs, farms, people taking walks, silos, etc. Then choose a number like 5 or 20 depending on the length of your drive. See who can find the designated number of the chosen item first.
Hum-Along: One rider hums a song and the other passengers try to guess. The person who guesses goes next. The first one to guess 3 right wins.
Radio Game 1: Hit the "scan" button on your radio until it stops on a song. The first person to guess the artist wins.
Radio Game 2: This is not so much a game but a way not to fight over music! The first person to take a turn goes through the dial until they find a song they like. You then listen to that song until completed. Then the next rider does the same, etc., etc. The only rule is that if you go all the way through the dial without finding a song you like then you need to listen to the last song you land on or lose a turn.
Radio Game 3: While the radio is off, each rider chooses a word. Turn the radio on. The winner is the person whose word is spoken or sung first.
Creative Thinking Games
Story-Telling: One passenger starts a story with a single sentence. Then the next person adds a sentence. Continue until you build a complete story.
The Question Game: Take turns asking open and thoughtful questions and allowing each person time to answer. Examples:
If you were on a deserted island and could only take 3 things, what would you take and why?
Who are your mentors / heroes and why?
If you won the lottery what you do with it?
If you could have lunch with a famous person, who would you pick and why?
Note: If you really get into this game, you can purchase small books called "The Book of Questions" at most bookstores that give you a ton of subjects to choose from!
Word Sequence: Choose a topic such as animals, places, television shows, people, fruit, etc. Name something in your category. If you choose animals you might say "panda." The next player has to name an animal that starts with the last letter of your animal. In this example, their animal would have to start with the letter "A" such as "alligator." Play continues until someone can not think of a word. They are then eliminated. When you have only 1 person left, they are the winner. You can not use any animal name twice. (If you are playing with real young children, let them have the handicap of being able to use the same word twice).
The Round Game: My daughter made up this one and we have had great fun with it. Even my best friend who is single and childless enjoys this game over dinner with us. We choose a topic such as vegetables, board games, television shows, cities, types of cereal, flowers, movies, etc. Then we name something within that category. For example for cereal the first player might say "Cheerios." Then the next player names a cereal. Play continues until someone can not think of an item, then they are "out." Play continues until there is only one person left. For young children, let them have three "passes" as a handicap.
The Rhyming Game: Someone picks a word to start with, such as "ball." The next player has to come up with a word that rhymes. Play continues until someone can not think of a rhyming word. As always, give younger players a hint or two. You make the game more difficult for older kids by having each player recite the previous list of words before adding their own.
Tongue Twisters: Choose a person that you all know, example, "Sara." Then start with a phrase about that person that uses only the first letter of her name such as "Sara says strawberries …" take turns adding "S" words with as few "connectors" as possible (a connector is a word that doesn 't start with S) to see how silly of a tongue twister you can create!
My father / mother owns a grocery store: One player begins the round by stating, "My father owns a grocery store, and in it he sells (something that begins with the letter A; eg, ant traps)." The next player states, "My father owns a grocery store, and in it he sells ants traps and (something that begins with the letter B; eg, bananas)." Play continues with each player having to recite the current list and then add something that begins with the next sequential letter of the alphabet. For young players, offer them "3 strikes" where you will help them if they forget the list. Adults – sorry, no handicap for you!
Variation: You can vary this game to match your interests or those of a child. Example:
My mother owns a clothing store and in it she sells ____________
My brother owns a music store and in it he sells -______________
My sister works as a producer and she has produced __________ (insert television show)
My father owns a bookstore and in it he sells _________________
Just Plain Silly Games
Laugh A Lot: Choose a player to keep a straight face. The rest of the players choose a silly answer for the player to use such as "My shoe." Then players take turns asking questions such as,
What do you brush your hair with?
What is your favorite snack?
Who is your hero?
Where is your favorite vacation destination?
The player keeping the straight face has to answer with "My shoe," while trying to keep a straight face. If they laugh then play passes to someone else and a new phrase is established.
Add-it-up: Call out the numbers on the license plate and see who can add up the numbers the quickest. For example D572-43X – players would have to calculate 5 + 7 + 2 + 4 + 3. Whoever answers correctly gets a point. The one who reaches 5 points first is the winner. (No calculators allowed.)
Games that Require a Bit of Preparation
Travel Bingo: Make a bingo board with color names in the squares. Print out several on your home computer. As you drive, players place an X when they see a car of the specific color. You can add to the excitement by letting each car only be used by the first person to "call it." Try 4 corners, blackout (filing up the whole card) making an X on the card, etc.
Variation: Make a "mixed" car board and include different types of items on the card such as:
National Historic Monument
Lake or Pond
Speed Talking: (You will need either a timer or watch with a second hand)
Choose a topic and then talk for 60 seconds straight without repeating yourself or pausing. One point is awarded if you accomplish the goal. Take turns playing to a designated number of points depending on the length of your drive. If someone makes it 30 seconds, award them ½ a point.
Game for a Tired Driver
Statue: On a long trip and need some quiet time? Play a round of statue. The person who can stay still and quiet the longest wins!
Print a copy of this article and store it in your glove compartment! Whenever kids are bored or restless in the car, you'll be equipped with fun ideas to turn long road trips into magical memories!