21 Car Games for Traveling with Your Kids

Posted on: 13.05.2015.

Author: Ana G

''Kids in the Boot'' by Ben Francis is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Like most parents, you've probably noticed that traveling by car tends to be unpredictable. Sometimes kids get fussy even on quick trip to the grocery store. Other times, they're perfectly content on longer drives to more far-flung locations. There's often no telling how kids will handle any given car ride, so it's always best to be prepared for anything. With a little advance planning, even the most fidgety kids can be kept content from point A to point B - even if the distance between them is considerable.

Whether you're embarking on an epic cross-country road trip or are just hitting the road for a closer destination, a small amount of planning goes a really long way. By having the right tricks up your sleeve, including materials like coloring books and markers and fast, easy, interactive car games, you can more easily ward off those all-too-familiar road trip complaints. In fact, if you play your cards right, you may banish questions like, "Are we there yet?" once and for all.

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You just need to remember that kids tend to have short attention spans, so having a variety of things to keep them busy is the best way to go. To that end, short, easy, fast-paced, interactive games work like a charm, and most of them can be played without special materials of any kind. Most parents have a few tried-and-true favorites, so be sure to ask around. The Internet also abounds with great car game ideas, so you should never run out of ways to keep kids content on even the longest journeys. As long as you keep your child's age, interests and playing habits in mind and plan ahead a little, your next car ride should go off without a hitch.

Even in the era of tablets, smartphones and other electronic devices, kids can quickly grow weary on long car rides. Familiarize yourself with the following games and have them ready to go to ensure your next trip is the smoothest, easiest one yet.

1. Travel-Sized Toys

''b and k playing in the car'' by jencu is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Round up some small, lightweight toys to bring along in the car. While you should allow your child to choose a few of their favorites, you should load up a bag and keep it hidden from view too. When fidgeting begins, unveil a new toy from the bag. Great options include small stuffed animals, figurines and electronic handheld toys. The latter are especially great because they often teach kids about colors, shapes, letters and numbers, so they are entertaining and educational.

2. Drawing and Coloring

Coloring books, sketchbooks, markers, crayons, pencils and other art supplies don't take up much space, so keep a selection of them in the car at all times. It's amazing how quickly a child can become immersed in drawing and making new creations on a piece of paper. Choose coloring books that include your child's favorite movie and TV characters, and look for sketchbooks with large, sturdy pieces of paper to give your child a great canvas on which to unleash their creativity. Your child will love not only drawing and coloring, but they'll love sharing their creations with their fellow passengers!

3. Travel Board Games

There's a huge market for travel-sized board games. Hit the local toy store to scoop up a few that will appeal to your child. These small, compact versions of popular board games are convenient not only because they take up so little space but also because all the pieces are designed to be stored with ease. Don't forget about card games like Old Maid, Uno, Memory, Go Fish and other child-friendly options too.

4. Books

''Sara in car'' by AnneCN is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Prior to hitting the road, bring your child to the library and allow them to select a few books. Consider getting audiobook versions of them too. That way, your child can follow along without needing you to read aloud to them. For younger kids, look for interactive books with pull tabs, spinning wheels and other fun elements. They tend to be more stimulating and hold kids' attention longer. They also help enhance learning.

5. Sing Along

Nothing breaks up the tedium of a long drive like cranking up people's favorite songs and enjoying a sing along. In the interest of fairness, let each person take turns choosing their favorite songs. One fun idea is to create a family playlist ahead of time. Let each member of the family contribute songs to the playlist. When the mood for a sing along strikes, turn it on and put it on shuffle. Keep in mind too that there's no need to have music to sing along to at all. People can just as easily sing songs from memory. Before you know it, everyone will be having a blast.

6. Name That Tune

Before embarking on your journey, create a playlist that includes songs that are familiar to your child. There are a few ways to play this game. One option is to play the first few seconds of a song to see who can guess it correctly. Another is to play the first few verses of a song and then see who can correctly sing the lyrics that follow. You can also just have people take turns humming popular songs; the first one to correctly guess the song wins.

7. I Spy

''I Spy, free download by yours truly'' by Jodimichelle is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you'll be traveling with younger kids, strategically arrange colorful, large items around the car prior to leaving. When the time is right, tell your young passengers that it's time to play I Spy. The first person begins by stating, "I spy with my little eye something that's..." and then adds a descriptor like a color, size or shape. Whoever correctly guesses the item gets to go next and can choose a different item for others to guess. This game is fun, easy, interactive and can be played by kids and adults of all ages.

8. The Name Game

The premise behind this game is simple. First, choose a category like animals, movies or geography. Next, the first person names an item that fits in that category. The next person names an item that begins with the last letter of the first one that was named. This continues until someone is stumped. The possibilities for categories are nearly endless, so this is a game that can be turned to again and again to keep little ones happy and occupied from point A to point B.

9. Travel Scavenger Hunt

Before heading out, come up with a list of items for your child to find along the way. You can also easily download a list online. Examples include a bridge, a silo, a river, a skyscraper or a bus. For smaller kids, draw pictures of each item next to their names. As kids find each item, they can mark them off their list. The first one to find them all wins.

10. Road Trip Bingo

''Auto Bingo!'' by Jeff is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

This one works similarly to Travel Scavenger Hunt. Kids can fill in squares on bingo cards with pennies, or check them off with a pencil. The first person to make a straight line wins. Most toy stores sell bingo games, and you can repurpose the cards to use for this game. Alternatively, you can also print bingo cards off the Internet. If you decide to use pencils as card markers, remember to print fresh cards for each trip.

11. 20 Questions

This addicting game begins when a person chooses an item that's an animal, vegetable or mineral. They then tell the group which one they've selected, and people take turns asking yes-or-no questions to try and figure out what the item is. Whoever correctly guesses the item first wins. The whole family will have a great time trying to figure out the item in question. Sometimes, it can be guessed within a handful of questions. Other times, 20 full questions are asked without a correct answer. In that case, the person whose turn it is has stumped everyone and can be considered the winner.

12. The Guess Who Game

This is basically 20 questions, but instead of choosing an animal, vegetable or mineral, the person whose turn it is thinks of a person. Everyone else then ask yes-or-no questions to try to figure out who the person is. Most families choose people who everyone in the car knows personally, but you can also choose a celebrity, an important historical figure or even a cartoon character.

13. The Alphabet Hunt

''Road Sign - Victory Blvd. - DSC2554'' by swong95765 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In this game, kids work through the alphabet visually. One player watches the left side of the road while the other watches the right. As they do, they look for letters of the alphabet in order. They can be on billboards, road signs, license plates or just about anywhere. However, only one letter may be used per sign. Kids point out all the letters in the alphabet from A to Z. The first one to make it to the end wins.

14. Riddles

Most people know at least a few riddles. Have everyone in the car take turns telling their favorites to see who can correctly guess the answers. Another idea is to print out cards with riddles on them, pass them out and have people take turns reading them. Of course, the riddles should be age-appropriate to keep little ones from becoming frustrated.

15. The Memory Game

To play this game, come up with a category. Animals you'd find at the zoo is a good example. Next, have one child begin by naming an animal that starts with the letter A, such as an anteater. The next child names the first animal and then comes up with one that starts with the letter B, such as a buffalo. When someone forgets to list an animal in the proper order, they are out of the game. The last person left is declared the winner and can then come up with a new category.

16. The License Plate Game

''50 states puzzle book map5'' by Jimmie is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This game doesn't just keep kids entertained; it's a great way to talk about geography and different states. Prior to leaving, print out a list of the 50 states. As kids spot license plates for different states, they can cross them off the list. The first kid to find all 50 states wins. Of course, this can take a long time - and may not wrap up at all - so you might want to offer small prizes for every 10 states that kids find.

17. The Secret Place Game

Pass out road maps to all of the kids. The first person who's turn it is examines their map to find a place or landmark. It may be a city, town, river or just about anything that appears on the map. The child then announces the name of their place to the group. The first person to find it on their map wins.

18. The Are We There Yet Game

This game keeps little ones busy while imparting lessons about geography, navigation and other crucial skills. Before hitting the road, show your child the starting point and destination on a map. As you move toward your destination, have your child track your progress. From time to time, ask them to point out where you are on the map. Allow your child to use stickers or markers to highlight special places on the map. Have them write a list of the most memorable places and landmarks they see along the way. This will be a great keepsake to remember the trip by later.

19. Photo Memories

''image'' by jencu is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Give each child an inexpensive disposable camera before hitting the road. They can then use the camera to chronicle the things they see along the way. Encourage them to take pictures of unusual things that they can later learn more about by conducting online searches. This is sure to spark a lot of conversation later.

20. Team Storytelling

Get everyone's creative juices flowing with this engaging game. The player points out a vehicle on the road and comes up with a story about the people in it and where they are going. Whether it's a family heading out on a vacation or a construction worker driving to a job site, the story can go in limitless directions. You can also spice things up by taking turns adding to the story. One person starts with one sentence, and then another adds the second sentence and so on.

21. Spelling Bee

Come up with a list of age-appropriate words. You can easily find sample spelling lists on the Internet. Have young passengers take turn spelling the words. When a kid spells one correctly, they continue to the next round. If they misspell a word, they are eliminated from the game.

Turn Drives into Quality Family Time

''Endless Possibilities'' by Zach Dischner is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Fun car games bring many great benefits to the table for traveling families. By keeping kids from becoming bored, they allow drivers to focus more easily on the road. More importantly, interactive, fast-paced, easy car games allow you to interact with your kids in a fun and memorable way. Trips feel a lot shorter for everyone when they're filled with games and activities, and kids benefit by improving various skills too. Turn your next drive into quality family time by enjoying these and other car games with your children.