Why is Traveling and Game Playing with Kids While Traveling a Great Thing For Kids?
I mean, isn’t traveling with unplugged kids a sure way to drive everyone crazy? Shouldn’t we just plug them in if we’re going to be in the car for longer than five minutes?
Well… yes and no. But mostly no. (I like travel games and so do the kids.)
I agree that one of the most likely places for our kids to get bored and drive us completely insane is in the family vehicle. Sometimes it is much easier to hand our kids a movie, personal game system, personal music selection, and let them zone out. Electronics are definitely a handy tool to have in our parenting repertoire. But do we really need to plug in our kids to go a few blocks?
As parents, we need to keep in mind that the more time kids play on computers, with video games, and watching TV/movies, the greater the negative impact on their attention spans and the more likely they are to engage in bullying type behaviour when they reach preadolescence.
So what can we do in the car other than plug in our little munchkins? Playing games like the ones listed on this page are a great way to keep our kids happy and occupied while secretly developing their creative thinking skills, boosting their problem solving abilities, increasing their memory and attention skills–all a direct benefit from engaging in some good, old-fashioned free play. Time spent in the family vehicle is also a fantastic opportunity to have great conversations with our children, spend a little time laughing and bonding which not only boosts the resiliency of our children, but ourselves as well! (And as a bonus, it makes the time fly by a little quicker.)
As well, traveling with kids gives them an open-mindedness, a greater appreciation and acceptance of other cultures and norms. Travel also helps children appreciate diversity which, in turn, increases their diversity of solutions when solving problems. Plus, travel is interesting, engaging, and increases one’s spatial awareness, geography skills and so much more!
The next time you find yourself in the family vehicle with the kids whether it’s commuting, running errands, or taking a road trip, here are a few ways to let your kids play, as well as snag a little interaction and bonding time.
P.S. Also be sure to check out the Word Games page as those games can be played in the car as well.
These activities are just the beginning. There are more travel games and activities on the It’s All Kid’s Play blog as well as Pinterest. And sometimes I share activities on Twitter, too! Oh! And be sure to check out the book I wrote, too. It includes even more travel games as well as over 1,000 other play activities so no matter where you are and what your interests or age, there is something in there for you–guaranteed! Check it out!
Wave at Everyone You See From the Car
I used to love this one as a kid. I’d wave at everyone who passed us or we passed and see how many people waved back. (And of course, break into embarrassed giggles when they did!) You can make this one into a huge game by creating a point system–pick a car and wave to them. If they wave back, you get points. Compete with others in the car.
Pick and Count
Pick something to count (like trees, red cars, dumpsters, signs, telephone poles, cows) and see how many you find. You can set a time limit, like two minutes to make it more challenging. You can also play against someone on the other side of the car. In this case, see who can find the most by only looking out their own side of the car.
Find where you are and where you are going on a road map. A *real* one. All paper and everything! Old school cartography skills, yessiree, Bob! Can you guess how long it will take to get there?
Great to play in the car or anywhere! One player spies (sees) something without telling anyone what it is. They say, “I spy with my little eye something that is _______ (and they name the colour of the item that they spied).” Then everyone else tries to guess what it was that they spied. If you are traveling in a car, it is best to choose items that are in the car that everyone can see and the car won’t pass by.
Driving where you can see animals? Let’s make a game! 20 points for a moose, 15 points for elk, 10 points for deer, 50 points for a bear. Or, if you are in an urban area, how about 20 points for a squirrel, 15 points for a cat, 10 points for a dog, 5 points for a bird… Driving through a farming area? How about 20 points for a horse, 5 points for a cow, 10 points for a dog, 30 points for a sheep, 40 points for a donkey or mule. What else can you add to the game?
–This game was sent in by the Coatney family. They made up the “Moose” version of the game during a recent trip to Canada. (They didn’t see any bears.)
Whenever you see a Volkswagen Beetle you yell “Punch buggy, _______” (name the car’s colour). Then lightly punch (or nudge) the person beside you on the arm. My mom and I played this in Southern California once where there were a TON of punch buggies. My dad wasn’t impressed at the way we were punching each other in the arm all the time. So we started nudging each other and just saying the colour. 🙂
Look for the items listed below (or make your own list). You can play against someone else to see who finds all the items first, or you can work together. For an extra challenge you can play where you have to find the items in the order that they appear on the list. Good luck!
A tree shorter than the vehicle you are riding in
A driver with white or grey hair
A vehicle that has a company name painted on the side of it
Speed limit sign
A vehicle you think is speeding
A fast food restaurant
A vehicle with an out of province/state license plate
A sign with the letter ‘F’ on it
A vehicle for sale
A child riding in another vehicle
You can add your own rules or change this game to work for what you see out your windows as you are driving. (I live on the prairie where there are lots of cows, so we round up cows. But you might see a lot of billboards and want to round those up. It doesn’t have to be an animal. Have fun!)
Here are a few rules to get you started:
Each player chooses a side of the road. They will try to spot as many cows as they can on their side of the road. That means they can’t count any cows they see on the other player’s side. They get 1 point for each cow they see.
DOG: If a player sees a dog (either side of the road), and says, “cow round-up” first, they add the other player’s cow total to their own (the other player doesn’t lose any points).
COW HAULER TRUCK: If a player sees a semi with a cow hauler, and is the first to say, “cows went on a trip,” the other team loses all their cows and has to start at zero again.
GROCERY STORE: If a player sees a grocery store and is the firs to say, “cows got fed,” they add 100 more cows to their total.
FOOD TRUCK: If one player is behind the other player in points and they see a food truck of any kind (like a grocery truck, fast food truck, pop/soda truck) they can yell “Ketchup” and they will ‘catch-up’ in points and be even with the other player again.
The person with the most points when they get to their destination is the winner.
VARIATIONS: You can change this game depending on where you live. Instead of cows, maybe try gas stations. Each player tries to spot as many gas stations as they can on their side of the road. If they see a gas truck, they say “fill up” and get 10 points. If they see a tow truck, the first one to say, “out of gas” makes the other team lose all their points. Whoever sees a gas station billboard and says, “Gas Bonus”, they add the other teams points to their own, but the other team does not lose their points. What other variations can you think of?
Sign Alphabet Game
While riding in the car, try to get through the alphabet by finding the letters on signs that you pass or see. Start with ‘A’ and work your way through the alphabet to ‘Z’.
To make the game more challenging only take one letter from each sign. In other words you could not take ‘a’, ‘b’ and ‘c’ from one sign. As well, you have to get the letters in order meaning you have to find ‘q’ (a hard one) before you move on to the next letter, ‘r’.
Sign Numbers Games
Each player tries to count to 10 by finding numbers on signs. You can play cooperatively where you work together to get to 10 or play competitively and see who gets to 10 first. You can also play this game alone.
Variations: You can play this game where you have to find the number on different signs, or you can play it where it is okay to get two or more numbers off the same sign. As well, you can play where you can steal numbers out of bigger numbers. For example, you can take the ‘9’ out of ’90’ or the ‘2’ out of ’23.’
How Long Will it Take?
This one is for in the car, bus, subway, or really, anything that you are riding in. Look out the window and guess how long it will take for you to pass something. For example, how many seconds until you pass that tree? That store? That huge red sign? You can play this game alone or with someone else. If you are playing with someone else, see who guesses the closest!
If it isn’t rainy outside, but you have foggy car windows, smear the fog until you get water drops. See which drops reach the bottom of the window first.
Draw on The Windows With your Finger
Cold out? Frosty windows? Draw a picture or play x’s and o’s on the windows.
Alphabet License Plate Game
Try to find the whole alphabet by ‘collecting’ letters off license plates. Start by looking for the letter ‘A’. Once you have found that, go on to ‘B’, and on through the whole alphabet. You can make it more challenging by only being able to take one letter from each license plate. In other words you can’t take the letters ‘a’ and ‘b’ from the same license plate.
License Plate Numbers Games
See how high you can count by finding numbers on license plates. (This is trickier than the alphabet game if you go higher than 10.)
License Plate Places
Look at the license plates on the vehicles around you. See how many different places you can find. Can you find all the provinces and territories of Canada? What about all of the United States? If there are other people in the car who want to play, see who finds the most. (Warning–it might take a long time!)
Hint: This game is best played in tourist areas where you have lots of people driving in from other parts of the world. In our little town we hardly ever see a license plate from out of province. 🙁
Sing Every Song You Know
This is a sure way to drive your parents bonkers. How long do you think it will take? 5 minutes? An hour? My daughter (and husband) once sang “This is the Song That Never Ends” for 25 minutes straight. They changed the lyrics here and there. By the end, I ignored my book and joined in. They got me!
Looking for more? Try these places as well:
Might I also suggest this time-saver…
Never be bored again! All of this website’s great content and MORE!