If you’re planning a road trip in the near future, there’s good news and bad news. The good news first: Road trips can create some of the most memorable moments of quality family time in a child’s formative years. And now for the bad news (if you can call it that): You have to put in some serious effort and planning to ensure that the kids (and adults) stay occupied and happy.
Here are some awesome car games for kids that’ll go a long way in staving off boredom, kvetching and cabin fever.
Follow the Yellow (Brick) Road
Use Mapquest or Rand McNally to create a map of your trip. Highlight your route in yellow to enable kids to follow along by noting towns or landmarks. Once on the trip, math-savvy kids can try to figure out when you’ll arrive at the next city using your average driving speed and the distance to travel. The mathematically challenged can color landmarks along the route, and enjoy watching as their location changes on the map every few hours.
With their own maps to consult, even the youngest travelers can check in with their big sibs to find out when the next stop will be. And as a bonus for the driver, this game virtually eliminates those dreaded words, “Are we almost there?”
License Plate Hunt
Hand out a paper listing all 50 states with a short line next to each one (to take this up a notch for older kids, hand out copies of this blank U.S. map instead). The kids keep their eyes peeled for license plates from different states, and when they spot one, they jot down the first three letters on the appropriate line or map location.
For added fun, have the kids call or write out a phrase using words that start with the plate’s letters (AYS can be “always yelling stuff”). You can have them play this game for a set amount of time or throughout the trip. When time’s up, see who has the most states filled in or the funniest phrases.
Know before you go: There are some craft supplies that have no place in a moving vehicle. Bypass the glitter, stinky markers, play dough and paints. Stick with simpler art supplies like crayons, pipe cleaners (pack a nail clipper for easy cutting), stickers and stamps.
Dollar stores and craft stores sell small wooden or plastic picture frames. Prepare a bag of the above mentioned supplies along with one of these frames and some scrapbooking decals specific to traveling. The kids can then design their own picture frames with a travel theme for their favorite vacation photo. The pipe cleaners can be used to create small animals or other shapes that can cling to the frame, or used as collectible figurines.
Bingo for the Road
No road trip would be complete without a round or two of travel bingo (practice for their senior years). Mom’s Minivan has a link for downloadable travel bingo boards, with suggestions for laminating or tucking each sheet into a Ziploc bag so the kids can use and reuse with dry erase markers. The kids look out for different types of vehicles, landmarks, animals and things they’d see at the side of the highway. They can use foil stars or a crayon to check off each square on a paper board, or a dry-erase (nontoxic) marker for laminated or faux laminated (Ziploc bag) boards.
Even with tons of creative projects and fun games, many parents rely on electronics to keep the kids happy when the games have run out and some down time is needed. Tech savvy parents can check out this list of the best apps for kids traveling on long road trips. For the old fashioned among us, load up on classic DVDs and portable players (headphones are a must) for boredom backup.
Got more ideas of car games for kids? Share them with us in the comment section below.