There is something about being a kid that makes games like Rock-Paper-Scissors and I Spy still interesting. In the case of my youngest daughter, its her evil competitive streak (that my wife claims I’ve bred into her) which prompts her to demand I play such games. And boy, is she evil at I Spy. We were travelling on the continent last year and she stumped me with “beginning with E”. At every wrong guess she taunted me with “Give up yet?” until I finally had to surrender to learn it was “Earth” which of course was all around us.
Anyway, if you’re in the same boat/car/plane/train, here are 27 games you can play to break the monotony (or put your kids back in the box with by beating them into submission – Mwoah ha ha ha) courtesy of Travelhacker.
- The Grocery Game: Whether you want to challenge your memory or just whet your appetite for lunch, the grocery game is a great way to pass the time on your drive. One person starts with naming something that can be bought at the grocery store that starts with the letter ‘A’, such as “apples”. The next player would have to repeat the first person’s answer as well as add on a food that begins with the letter ‘B’. If you mess up, you’re out, and the game continues until only one memory-gifted player remains. If you get bored with groceries, try using another topic.
- The Geography Game: Help your kids refresh their geography lessons while on the road with the geography game. The game begins with a person naming any place in the world, London for example. The next person then has to come up with a place name that begins with the last letter of the first location. So in this case, the next place would have to start with an ‘N’, like Nepal for instance. The game continues on until someone gets stumped, and no place can be used more than once. The game can be played with any topic, so give celebrity names, movies, animals or anything else you can think of a try.
- License Plate Bingo: To play this game you’ll need to bring along a few writing utensils and have paper to use for game cards. If you’d like, you can print out game cards ahead of time here. There are a few variations of this game, so you can either write down the names of states as your bingo squares or random letters and numbers. As players see the states or letters and numbers on passing license plates they cross them off. First player to get 5 in a row wins, and it might be a good idea to keep a few prizes on hand for the lucky winner.
- Card Games: Never underestimate the power of card games to keep your kids entertained. Bring along a set of cards from home and challenge kids to play their old favorites like old maid, go fish, and rummy. If you want to find new games, check out a book on card games at your local library or print out instructions for kids games here.
- Family Spelling Bee: See who is the best speller in the family by having an in-car spelling bee. Make sure words are appropriate for the age level of the kids in your car so no one gets discouraged. If spelling isn’t your thing, there are a number of other contests you can have as well. Try challenging your family to trivia or singing competitions as well.
- 20 Questions: An old favorite, 20 questions is a great game for inquisitive little ones. The game begins with one person choosing pretty much anything they can think of. The first question for the guessers is usually “animal, vegetable, or mineral?” though it doesn’t have to be. Players then go through a litany of questions trying to determine the nature of the mystery object and answers must be yes or no. The winner is whomever guesses the object first or can stump the other players with their object.
- I Spy: Similar to 20 Questions, I Spy is another classic travel game. One person in the car looks around and chooses an object. The guessers are given one clue: “I spy with my little eye something that is (insert first letter of objects name, objects color, or other clue of your choice)”. Players can’t choose something that is whizzing by too fast; objects must be within the car or far enough in the distance to be within sight for a few minutes. Guessers attempt to figure out the nature of the object and the winner gets to create their own mystery object.
- Team Storytelling: Inspire your family’s creative side by creating a group story. Someone begins by creating one line to a story (for example, “There once was a prince under a curse…”) and each person must add one line to the story as you go. If simple storytelling is too dull for you, spice it up by making the lines have to rhyme, or by pointing at players out of order to come up with a line on the spot. You can extend the game by writing down the story and having your children create illustrations for it.
- Word Play: Have your kids write down words they see as they’re traveling from billboards, bumper stickers, restaurants, etc. Once they get a certain amount, have them write a story, poem or song that includes all of the words they have found. When they’re done, have them read or sing their creation out loud for the rest of the family.
- Counting Cows: Rural countrysides can make for pretty dull window viewing, so make it more interesting by turning it into a game. Create a set distance within which players have to find as many cows on their side of the road as possible. If you have the misfortune of passing a cemetery on your side of the road, then you have to start over. If you’re not in cow country, try counting something else, like phone booths, mailboxes, or houses of a certain color.
- Rock, Paper, Scissors: This classic game makes it easy to keep kids occupied. Players put their hands behind their backs and pull one out to reveal either rock (closed fist), paper (flat hand) or scissors (first and middle fingers in a “v”). Scissors beats paper, paper beats rock and rock beats scissors. Kids can get creative and think up three other competing things (cowboy, ninja, and bear for instance).
- License Plate Lingo: You can use the license plates of the cars around you to provide entertainment for your kids. The goal of this game is to come up with a phrase using the letters on passing license plates. For example, if you see a plate with the letters “EIC,” your phrase could be “eat ice cream.”. You can make this game as silly or as serious as you’d like.
- Travel Scavenger Hunt: Keep children occupied with a travel scavenger hunt. Compile a list of objects for each child to find along the road. For example, you could have things like “brown cow” or “water tower”. Anything that comes to mind that you might be passing will work, or you can use prepared lists like this. You can also turn this game into a form of bingo with a game card like this. The winner is the first one to find everything on his or her list.
- The Banana Game: Single out yellow vehicles with the banana game. Players get points for each yellow car they point out passing. Double points are awarded for buses and larger yellow vehicles. Be prepared, this could get competitive!
- String Figures: You wouldn’t think a simple piece of string could keep a kid entertained for hours, but in some cases it can. Pack a piece of string or yarn tied into a circle for your child and challenge them to learn to make string shapes like Jacob’s Ladder, Kitty Whiskers or to play Cat’s Cradle. If you don’t know much about string games, you can check out a book from the library or print out some instructions from a string game website.
- Fortune Teller: Keep your kids giggling with a fortune teller. Fold up your own using these instructions or use a preprinted version. Once folded, you can write colors and numbers and various fortunes on the flaps or turn them into cute animal puppets.
- Find the Vehicle: Challenge your kids to find a list of different types and models of cars. Children interested in cars will find this game particularly enjoyable. You can make it more challenging by specifying a color for more common models of cars or types of cargo for semis.
- Slug Bug: While the name implies a certain amount of violence, it can also be played much more peacefully. Have your kids count on their fingers or gently tap their seatmate every time they spot a Volkswagen Bug. The specifics of the rules are up to you, but you can make old bugs worth more than new, or certain colors worth more than others.
- Map Monitors: One easy way to keep children entertained on the road is to engage them in the process of travel. Give each child a map of your trip and allow them to keep track of your progress using stickers, coloring or something else your child enjoys.
- Mad Libs: Mad Libs are a fun and silly way to keep your reading-age kids entertained on a long trip. You can make up your own or use free versions from the Web. Give your kids the worksheets, have them come up with nouns, verbs and adjectives to fill them in, and then have them read their new stories aloud to one another.
- Road Trip Math: Have a budding math lover in your car? Entertain them by having them figure out math problems based on your travel. For instance if you pass a sign telling you the next rest stop is 20 miles away, have your child figure out how long it will take you to get there based on your current speed. It might not sound like the most fun, but it will keep your child engaged and learning. Rewards for work well done won’t hurt either.
- Fortunately-Unfortunately: Help your children learn to think positively with the game Fortunately-Unfortunately. One player begins with an unfortunate statement like, “Unfortunately, there is a bat in the car.” The next player has to counter with something more fortunate like, “Fortunately, I brought along bat repellant.” Players continue to alternate between unfortunate and fortunate things until you’ve exhausted a particular topic.
- Treasure Bottle: You’ll need a little preparation ahead of time, but a treasure bottle can be a great way to keep younger children entertained and engaged. Use a 2 liter bottle or large plastic container with a lid. Fill it 2/3s full with rice or birdseed, then add small “treasures” from around your house like paper clips, bolts, pennies, Legos and any other small things you might have lying around in your junk drawer. Keep count of how many items you put in and write the number on the outside of the bottle. Have kids roll around the bottle until they find everything hidden inside. Just make sure the lid is extra secure so there aren’t any mid-trip messes to clean up.
- Who Am I?: Keep your kids guessing with this easy and fun game. Think of someone you and your children know: a family member, neighbor, or friend, and give clues to the person’s identity like their hair color, sex, or whether or not they wear glasses. Let each person guess and if no one gets it, continue giving clues until your kids figure it out.
- Find 100: Occupy your kids with counting using Find 100. Choose a color or object and keep counting until you reach 100. Try counting flags, statues, churches, red cars or anything else you can think of. Mix it up by giving each player a different object to find 100 of and race to see who can finish first.
- Official Count: Change up the usual counting games by taking an official count. Pick out objects to keep a tally of like motorcycles or vans. Keep a tally of what you see, including the color. At the start of the trip, have your kids make their own predictions about what they think will be the most popular colors or styles of these kinds of vehicles and compare the predictions to the results at the end of your trip.
- That’s My Car!: Compete with your fellow passengers to see who can get the sweetest ride. Have each kid choose a car from the next 5 that you pass or that pass by you to be his or her “own” car. All players mutually decide who has the best car of those that are “owned” and that person is the winner.
Bonus game called Ghost;Number of Players: Multiple; Object of game: Don’t be the person to finish the spelling the word.
How to Play: The game is to build a word one letter at a time. But you don’t want to be the person who ends the word. For example: Player 1 says “L”, player 2 says “A” player 3 says “S”. Player 4 says “T”. Since player 4 finished a word (last) he would be out.
It builds spelling a vocab. Some rules we have are: words must be longer than 3 letters to count. A player can also try and bluff if he can’t think of a way to continue but if he is called on his bluff he is out.
Play till only one person remains