Car journeys and children – let’s just say they rarely make the best travelling companions… To avoid the cries of “are we there yet?” or fighting siblings in the back seat. Here’s a few ideas to keep them entertained so you don’t need to resort to handing them the dreaded tablet – at least not too early in the journey!
With a little imagination and the minimum of preparation, there are a whole range of fun – and funny – ways to keep the kids entertained in the car, whether you’re on an epic road trip or just doing the school run.
1. Back-seat bingo
An oldie but still a goodie. Before leaving, draw up a grid for each passenger and fill the squares with sights for them to tick off – from the easy (“a lorry”) to the more tricky “two cows lying down next to each other”). As the kids spot them, they mark off each box – and the winner is the first to get a full house. Remember to include landmarks… but don’t make it too easy and don’t give each kid the same grid!
Especially useful in traffic jams, this has the feel-good side effect of actually having some educational value, too. Have the children create three-word phrases out of the last three letters on the license plates of each car you pass (or that passes you). For example, ILC – I love cricket, DBF – Daddy’s big feet or MES – Mummy eats sweets etc.
3. Motorway snooker
Another old favourite, this game uses the rules of snooker to make motorways a little more interesting. Each player has five minutes in which they have to build the biggest break they can – using cars instead of snooker balls. So a red car must be spotted first, followed by a colour (black for seven points, pink for six, blue for five, brown for four, green for three, yellow for two), followed by another red, and so on. And, of course, the same car cannot be potted twice.
4. Car Cricket
On similar lines to above and recently taught by some family friends. Colours of cars become runs – ie Yellow car is 6 runs, Green is 4 runs, Red is 3 runs, Silver 2 runs and White 1 run. Then decide on your “Out”, for example a Volvo. Each car must be moving towards you and past. First car member goes “into bat” building their innings until a shout of “howzat” as the Volvo is spotted. Great for maths skills!
5. Easy as ABC
This game appears simple – but gets deceptively tricky, and should keep the back seat entertained for a while. Taking it in turns, they have to spot things out of the window beginning with A and going right through the alphabet (in order) all the way to Z. (Depending on how kind you’re feeling, or how many hospitals with x-ray departments you’re likely to pass, you can let them bypass X.)
6. Mission: Achievable
Another one that involves a little preparation, this is especially good for long journeys. Before you set off, each child is handed a “file” with their secret mission for the trip. From spotting landmarks to doing funny impressions to trying to get the passengers in another car to wave at you… be as imaginative as you dare.
7. I Spy
Not forgetting this old favourite… Best for: Age 2 and up Preschoolers and young school-age kids love this simple guessing game that is great for car trips. We also play I Spy Colours, so looking for something Green – slightly easier for the younger members.
8. Yes, No Game
Together think of a category. Animals is a favourite in our car. Player 1 thinks of an animal and then everyone asks questions (must have a yes or no answer) to deduce what animal you are. E.g. Are you a mammal? Do you live on land? Are you smaller than a horse? Do you live in England? etc.
9. In My Suitcase I Packed
One person starts with the phrase “In My Suitcase I Packed” and names an item they would pack. Each person starts with that phrase and then repeats the previously packed items and adds a new one. It’s fun game and works the little grey cells!
10. Lorry food
Making meals from the food you find pictured on lorries! Can lead to wonderful and weird suggestions. Then maybe make them when you get home!?!
Another top tip a friend told me was to wrap up the things you are giving to the kids, ie whether it be a snack, new stickers, activity book etc. That way they get to open the present and this passes a bit of time not knowing what is coming next!
With special thanks to our wonderful sister site, Ryedale Mumbler for this super blog.