The Best Games for Kids On Car Journeys

kid on car

Long car journeys with kids can be a nightmare. But the endless cries of ‘are we nearly there yet?’ aren’t inevitable. If you want to distract your children or just want to torture the driver then here are some great games to play whilst in the car. Some of these require a little preparation in advance, but it’ll be worth it when you’re on the road.

I Spy…

with my little eye, the grandfather of all car games. We’ve all played it even had fun with it sometimes. Unfortunately there’s only so many times you can choose tree, sky, or shudder… car. If you’re unfamiliar here is how to play:

1. Choose a spy (e.g. oldest, youngest, next birthday).
2. The spy chooses a secret object.
3. The spy sings the rhyme:

“I Spy
With my little Eye
Something beginning with (insert first letter of the object)”

4. The group then has 3 chances to guess the object
5. You should give hints between attempts to help the child.
6. If the spy wins, they choose the next spy. If the group wins, a new spy is chosen.

It’s simple enough, although can be quite a challenge for young children. It’s always a great idea to mix up the rhyme with silly voices and actions, which provide a lot of little giggles.

Travel Bingo

This one requires a little planning ahead.

1. Draw a 3×3 grid, or 4×4 if the kids are a bit older.
2. As you are getting ready to leave, you ask the kids to think about what they might see on the car journey. Will they see a yellow car? A policeman? A tree?
They then fill the boxes with what they think they’ll see.
3. As your journey goes on your little monsters in the back will be crossing off squares all the time or at least be gawking out the window in silence.

Beware of winners, expect a lot of sudden shouting during your ride. To avoid these shrieking contestants get an update from them regularly about what they’re still looking for. This can give you an extra moment to compose yourself the next time they spot a Taxi or sheep.

The Picnic Game

A great opportunity for a family sing-along whilst also letting the kids learn something. This game is a great way to train the brain with it’s challenging memory problem. Here’s how to play:

1. Someone starts with the rhyme:

“I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing a (something beginning with A)

2. Going clockwise, the second person then says:

“I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing an (A word) and a (B word)

3. This pattern continues around the group and can be quite challenging.

You can put time limits on the answers but remember there are only so many words starting with X in a toddler’s dictionary. The game can be mixed up by changing the destination. Instead of a picnic, you could be going to the moon or the actual destination of the journey. You may also find that the children prefer to draw all of the objects out.

The Packing Game

This delightful game can be very useful when packing, reminding you of any clothes you might have forgotten. It can also be very creative by choosing odd locations like the moon. It’s similar to the Picnic game but a little less complicated. Here is how to play the packing game:

1. Pick a destination
2. The first person (the most excited to go there) says an item they’ll need to pack into their suitcase
3. Each person adds another item to pack
4. You lose when an item is repeated

Thanks to Lisa from TravellingFamily for telling us about it.

While You Were Sleeping

This little prank is great for creative kids with sleeping babies or toddlers the unwitting victim.

1. A member of the group falls asleep.
2. When they wake up the rest of the group tells a story of what happened while the person was asleep.
3. Each person then takes a turn to add to the story.

An adult version of the game tries to make the story convincing, to rope in the sleeping beauty to the story. The kids version can’t have this level of complexity as it’s nowhere near as fun. Children will create stories of dragons and pirates, and other kids will believe it.

The Count

No, not the Sesame Street character, but the surprisingly fun counting game. Anyone from 5 up should be able to play. It’s simple, so here are the steps:

1. Without assigning an order, someone says 1.
2. The next person says 2.
3. This carries on until 20
4. If two people say the same number then you reset to 1
5. The goal is to get to 20 as a group, without saying anything except the next number.

I’d suggest you count from 1 to 20 as a group, to make sure everyone is familiar with the numbers involved. Stem any arguments by resetting the game. It’s a game that demands silence, which builds up tension and a lot of laughter after.

The Car Counting Game

This game is all about spotting cars, so it’s best played on a motorway, but can be played just walking through a city. It’s great for kids first learning addition in maths but you might also need to keep a scoreboard handy for younger kids.

Whoever spots the car first gets the points. First person to ten points wins!
White/black/grey 0 points too common
Red 1 point
Blue 1 point
Yellow 2 points
Green 2 points
Pink 5 points
Purple 5 points
Orange 5 points
Thanks to Lynn from MrsMummyPennyfor telling us about this game.

The Alphabet Game

This is a super competitive version of I spy. Here’s how to play:

1. Each person starts at A
2. They must spot objects that start with A
3. This carries on through the alphabet (although you may want to skip some letters)

This game might be a bit more difficult to play with your young toddlers as their vocabulary is limited. It’s quite a good game for inner city driving as there will be a greater variety of things outside the window of the vehicle.

The Cloud Game

This relaxing experience involves a lot of cloud gazing and creative thinking. Make sure to get your sunglasses out!

– Get the children to spot interesting clouds
– Tell you what the cloud looks like
– Have them invent a story for the clouds
– Repeat as you move along

‘Spotting cloud shapes is our favourite car pastime. I love this one, no rules to argue over and it is very soothing. Look at the sky and tell me what shapes you see in the clouds kids!’

Given to us from Penny at Parent Shaped

For those of you electronically inclined, here’s a list of kids apps we recommend!

Animani – Learn about animals!(Free)

LEGO® Juniors Create & Cruise(free)

Think & Learn Code-a-pillar™ (Free)

Disney Crossy Road (Free)

Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame (Free)

Peek-a-Zoo (Free)

A Parcel of Courage free interactive book for kids(Free)

Name the Animals(£0.89)

MIXIMAL (£1.99)

Little Digits (£2.99)

Artie’s Magic Pencil(£2.99)

“We try to limit electronics in the car, only using them as a last resort for bribery. The reason being they are totally addicted and would be on them constantly if we didn’t limit the screen time.”

Nicola from Jet lag and Mayhem warning against the growing trend of cell phone addiction!

If you need other ways to control the little ones then have a look at our other guide.