Thank you for a very interesting and fun question!
Car games for kids
The common denominator of many car games is to direct attention
outside the car. This not only prevents carsickness, but also
eliminates the feeling of being cramped into a small space. It's also
educational, as kids notice new things, recognize places they have
seen before, and can ask questions when something piques their
A great game for shorter trips, up to about a half hour, is
Prediction. Have each kid guess how many red cars they will see before
you arrive. This will keep them busy the whole way, watching and
counting. All the red cars count for a single total; this is not a
contest to see who can see the most red cars, with individual scores
and arguments over who saw each car first. ("Red cars" is just an
example. You can pick almost anything: forsythia bushes, Christmas
wreaths, American flags, Volkswagen beetles, almost anything except
traffic signals and road signs, which present no challenge, so do not
demand the kids' attention.) Or have the kids pick something to count.
On a longer trip, there is the alphabet or number game. This one IS a
contest, to see which kid can first see all the letters of the
alphabet, or the numbers from one to twenty, in order, on passing
signs. The letters have to be the first letter of a word. So each kid
has to find a word beginning with A, then one beginning with B, etc.,
up to Z. Except the letter X can be anywhere in the word. The first
kid to spot a word gets that word, and the other kids can't use it, so
they have to keep a sharp eye out. Sometimes words are on passing
trucks! As for the numbers, they can be on license plates, signs,
truck identification numbers, or anywhere. They can be embedded within
a long number, so a kid looking for 19 can find it in the number
4919058. You can set whatever target number you want, of course, or
set no highest number; it doesn't have to stop at 20.
When the drive is more rural, whether long or short, a favorite game
is Animals. Different animals are worth different points, and the
first kid to reach fifty, or whatever target you set, wins. The first
kid to spot the animal gets the points. Here is the point system we
birds, one point; flock of three or more birds, three points;
dogs and cats, two points;
goats, pigs, and sheep, five points (or ten for a group);
horses and cows, ten points (or twenty for a herd);
small wild animals (squirrels, chipmunks, bunnies, snakes, turtles,
skunks, or anything under a couple pounds), five points;
medium wild animals (raccoons, oppossums, mink, foxes), ten points;
large wild animals (deer, moose, wolves, bears), twenty points.
For night trips, when it is too dark to play the games above, and
before the kids go to sleep, you can still play counting games or
Prediction with colored lights, e.g., How many orange lights will we
see? Or, Find a group of one light, then two lights, then three
lights, etc. These games really aren't as interesting as Grandmother's
Attic, however, for a nighttime game.
One person starts, "In Grandmother's attic, there is an (word
beginning with A)." So he might say "acorn." The next person in the
car, in clockwise order, says, "In Grandmother's attic there is an
acorn and a bumblebee." In other words, he adds another object, this
one beginning with B. The next person adds an object beginning with C,
after repeating the first two. Not only is it funny to hear what
people find in Grandmother's attic, it can also get a bit tricky
remembering the list as the alphabet progresses. Some people play that
if you forget, you are out of the game, but we find it is more fun to
give a person hints if he forgets a word. This game is usually good
for a half hour or so.
Then you can play it backwards, using the list you just created! "From
Grandmother's attic I removed the zebra." "From Grandmother's attic I
removed the zebra and the yak."
The games above have proven their value through many car trips. Feel
free to make up new ones. Depending on your kids, you might consider
spelling contests or math problems, but these might not appeal if your
kids are not particularly interested in math or spelling. There is
always Twenty Questions (What am I thinking of? You can ask twenty yes
or no questions to figure it out.), but this can be pretty frustrating
if the kids are too young.
Sing. Make animal noises. Play games. Car rides can and should be
treasured memories of family or group togetherness, not dreaded
ordeals. The adults can also play in some of the games with the kids,
you know. That will make them all the more special.
Car Travel Games for Big Kids (Preschool age and up)
Give your kids an allowance for the day.
Tell them that this money is for snacks, treats, souvenirs etc... but
when it is gone, that is all there is. Help them learn to budget their
money and make good choices.
Let your children have a map
Give your kids an opportunity to have their own copy of a map of where
you are going. Show them how far you have come, how much further there
is to go and let them mark it with a crayon. Every time they ask "How
much further? have them take out their map and see for themselves. You
might also like to get a compass and show them how it works along with
MAKE a "map" of where you are going.
Draw your own that has the major stops and cities, and a nice happy
drawing for your final destination. Throw in a few simple drawings of
landmarks you'll see along the way, such as a big bridge you'll or a
mountain tunnel. A home made map is easy for kids to follow and gives
them a clearer picture of how much further there is to go. If your
kids are old enough and it's a trip that you take frequently, have the
kids make their own map!
The License Plate Game
Print a U.S. map off the computer and color in the states as you see
license plates from each one. See if you can get all 50 states
between Memorial Day and Labor Day. You might even record the time and
date and the state where you saw it. This can be a family project as
you build your "collection" of license plates together.
ANOTHER LICENSE PLATE GAME
Spot a license plate and call out the letters on it. Then everyone
tries to come up with a different phrase using the letters in the
order they appear on the license plate as the first letter of each
word. For instance KEW could be "kittens eating watermelon" or "kiss
Count the cows you see on your side of the car. If you pass a field
full of lots of cows, you'd better count fast! If you pass a cemetery
on your side of the car, you lose all your cows, but only if the
opposing team calls "your cows are buried!". This game gets
interesting when distraction tactics are used to either cause your
opponent to miss cows on their side of the road or to miss a cemetery
on your side of the road. A white horse can count as a bonus. The team
with the most cows wins.
The Alphabet Game
Start with the letter "A" and find one on a sign, truck, building or
license plate, say the word and then move on to the next letter. You
can do this as a competition or together as a family for the younger
beginning readers. The first one to get to the letter "Z" is the
Road Trip Math
Help your children figure out the gas mileage you've been getting.
Have them calculate how long it will take to get to your destination
given your average speed. Have them predict how much it will cost to
fill up the tank at the next gas station based on the price per
gallon. Have them read a map and figure the distance to your
destination by road vs as -the-crow-flies.
Practice a Foreign Language (not free but tapes aren't that expensive)
The car is a great place to practice speaking a new language,
especially since you have a captive audience and lots of stuff to look
at for learning vocabulary. Try this -- For the next 10 miles,
everyone in the car may only speak Spanish (or French, or whatever)!
Point out things you see in Spanish, say please and thank you. And if
you don't know any Spanish, you may not speak (this will inspire your
kids to learn some, or give you your very own version of the Quiet
Have a Spelling Bee
See who can spell the most words correctly. Choose words that match
the correct difficulty level for each age of your children and don't
forget the grownups. You might like to bring small dictionary for word
ideas and definitions.
Look around and pick an object you can see either in the car or along
the road. Then give others a clue such as, "I spy with my little
eye... something green.", or "I spy with my little eye .. something
brown and furry" Continue to give more clues until they can guess what
Think of an object, it can be anything as long as it is general. The
first question the players will ask is: "Is it classified as Animal,
Vegetable, or Mineral", or you can do "Person, Place or Thing". The
players can then ask anything they want about the object as long as
you are able to answer "yes" or "no" to their question. They try to
ask questions that will help them narrow down their ideas until they
are able to guess the object. If they can do it in less than 20
questions, they win!
"Guess how far away that is"
Pick an object and have everyone guess how far away it is, then clock
it on your odometer. Take turns picking the object or let the winner
This game helps teach kids to look at the bright side of things in a
silly way. For example, you say, "Unfortunately, there's a tiger in
the car." Your son says, "Fortunately, he doesn't eat boys." Your
daughter says, "Unfortunately, he's looking at me and licking his
lips." You say, "Fortunately, I brought along my tiger-jaw-clamper."
And so on, alternating between fortunate and unfortunate things. An
added bonus - it's a real hoot to hear a 2-year-old use the word
Choose a color or an object and then count them until you find 100 of
that item. Popular Find 100 items are American flags, statues, rivers,
water falls, churches, red cars, etc. A competitive variation has each
person choose a different item or color of car that passes you, and
have a race to 100.
Car Travel Games for Toddlers (and Preschoolers)
Use some colored construction paper to cut out some "tickets" for your
trip. Give your child a pre-counted baggie full of tickets. Every half
hour (or every 30 miles) they can turn in one ticket to you. When
their tickets are gone, the trip has ended! This really helps young
children get an idea of how much time is left on the journey.
Make animal sounds and let your children take turns naming the
animals. If your children are able to do so, let them take turns
making the animal sounds and have you guess the animal.
The Animal Game
Play it sort of like 20 Questions. Take turns thinking of an animal
and giving everyone else clues about it until they can guess it. "I'm
thinking of an animal that has a long neck and eats leaves", or "I'm
thinking of an animal with sharp teeth, a long tail and spots...".
Tailor it to fit all ages of kids in your car.
Name the clouds
What do they look like ? Find as many different shapes as you can.
Car Travel Activities for Babies (Toddlers might like these too !)
Bubbles (not educational but fun!)
Keep some bubbles in the non-spill container in the car, and blow some
bubbles for baby when someone else is doing the driving. This calms a
baby right down, and the big kids think it's pretty fun too. Tiny
bubble containers sold for weddings are fun and so are regular
non-spill bubble containers.
Where is your nose?
An older baby can practice learning all the parts of the body. Ask
baby to show you where they are starting with his nose. Then help him
find his head, mouth, cheek, ear, chin, hand, foot, tummy, shoulder,
neck, teeth, etc.
Travel Games for Kids By Amanda Formaro
Where Are We Going? -- Write the name of the place that you are going
on a piece of paper (i.e. Grandma's, Disneyland, Orlando, etc.). Try
to make as many words from that word as you can. The winner picks the
I Am Going On A Trip -- Following the letters of the alphabet, have
one person start with A and say for instance, "My name is Annie and I
am going on a trip to Alabama. In my suitcase I have an alligato." The
next person would begin by saying, "My name is Bob and I am going on a
trip to Boston. In my suitcase I have a bug and a baseball." On to the
letter C. Keep adding to the number of items in that suitcase. This
can get really silly, and it really helps to devleop memory!
If I Were... -- If I Were an ..., I Would Be a .... Because ...'. This
is a game that can really stretch creativity. One person picks a
subject. If, for example, you began with the subject animal, the first
person would begin by saying,"If I were an ... animal, I would be a
... cow, because ...I would like to enjoy long sunny afternoons in
green pastures." Others follow with their answer to what type of
animal they would be. Another person picks a subject (i.e., cars) and
would begin by saying, "'If I were a ...car, I would be ...an older
Model A car, because ... my family would take me out only on special
occasions." Try subjects like food, birds, famous persons, etc.
Opposites -- Mom and Dad give a word and the kids give the opposite.
Simple, but it can really make you think! We started with hot/cold,
dry/wet, laugh/cry and worked our way into some pretty tough words!
This was the kids' favorite!
free educational car games for kids