Keeping children entertained during long car rides can be difficult. Sometimes, the usual old travel games just don’t cut it. Here are a few super easy games that have worked for my family. Maybe they will work for your family, too.
On Demand Drawing
I give each kid a notebook and then holler out random stuff for them to draw. (For example: Draw a scary monster or design your dream house.) If you struggle to come up with ideas on the spot, there is no shame in preparing a list ahead of time. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Draw a scary monster
- Design your dream house
- Design a car
- Draw a flower
- Draw a picture of yourself
- Design a garden
- Draw a time machine
- Design a really fun toy
- Draw a silly face
- Draw our family
- Draw a treasure map
- Draw an animal
- Make a pretty design
- Draw a sea creature
- Draw a space ship
- Draw a waterfall
Create a list of items for children to look for while watching out the car window during your trip. Or better yet, have the kids help you create the list. If you aren’t feeling creative enough to create your own scavenger hunt, you can easily find some online by googling “scavenger hunt car game.” Here are a few scavenger hunts created by us that you may use:
- Around Town Scavenger Hunt (pdf document) – Find these items that can easily be spotted while driving around town.
- Car Colors Scavenger Hunt Car Colors Scavenger Hunt (pdf document) – Find a vehicle in each of the listed colors.
- State Scavenger Hunt State Scavenger Hunt (pdf document) – Find a license plate for each state.
Or, try this simpler version of the scavenger hunt. Look at the landscape ahead or in the map, pick something that is coming up soon, and ask the kids to tell you when they see that item. For instance, tell me when you see a…
- Sign for a certain town or exit number
- Sign for the restaurant where you plan to stop and eat
The Quiet Game
Yeah, yeah, I know. We have all tried and failed to get our kids to play the Quiet Game on car rides. (For those of you who don’t know, the Quiet Game encourages all vehicle passengers to be quiet. The winner is the person who goes the longest without talking or making noise.) However, have you tried a reward to entice your children to really want to win? You may be surprised how motivating a candy bar can be to a bored-yet-hungry traveler. Are your kids motivated by money? Offer up a prize of a $5 bill. Or, maybe the winner gets to choose what movie everyone will watch in the portable DVD player next.
This or That
Once out of desperation, I started the This or That Game. And surprisingly, my kids loved it. The idea is so simple. I suddenly holler out “I have an important question to ask you. Which do you like better?” and then I provide them with two alternatives (such as peanut butter or jelly). Each kid hollers out which one they would choose. Then, I quickly provide another two alternatives such as cat or dog, blanket or pillow, porcupine or skunk, Nintendo or Playstation, hiking or biking, etc. There’s no real objective to the This or That Game; it is just a fun distraction for a short while. It may be kind of silly, but as I said earlier, the kids love (LOVE!) it. And, it is so easy to play on the spur of the moment because it requires no additional materials or preparation.
Shapes in the Clouds
One of my children’s favorite books is Little Cloud by Eric Carle. Thus, my children enjoy finding shapes in the clouds. I have found this to be a great distraction when the kids stop getting along and things start getting ugly during the car ride. When the kids start fussing at each other, I will suddenly say loudly “Do you see that? That cloud is shaped like a dragon (or witch or rocket ship or puppy or whatever).” Pretty soon, the kids are happily distracting themselves by pointing out various other shapes in the cloud.
Here are a few other sky-related activities that have kept my small children happily occupied during trips:
- Watch for lightning if driving during a thunderstorm
- Look for rainbows at the end of a rainshower
- When the moon is out, pretend that the moon is spying on us or following us.
What simple games do you play to keep your kids entertained on car rides?