Planning a road trip over the Christmas holidays? Don’t want your kids staring at a screen for the entire 8+ hour drive? Well, I am back from the trenches of spending a total of 18 hours in the car over Thanksgiving break, so I’ve got a few ideas in my bag of low-tech tricks to help pass those seemingly endless hours on the open road.
I can’t guarantee these ideas will conquer all car-induced boredom and restlessness, but mixing a few of these into your ride should help things go a little more smoothly. These road trip games worked pretty well for my kids (ages 5 and 8); you may need to tweak them somewhat for slightly younger or older kids. (As for the 8-month-old…well, that’s another story…)
- Going on a Picnic: The first person starts the game by saying, “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m bringing an apple.” Person #2 takes their turn and repeats, “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m bringing an apple…and some bananas.” Keep going around the circle, repeating each thing the person before you said, moving through the alphabet as you go. This kind of drives my husband crazy—but it’s a good memory game for the kids.
- Auto Bingo: I ordered these boards years ago. The kids are finally patient enough to enjoy playing this game. The boards have a bunch of things you might see out your window while on a road trip—gas stations, power lines, motorcycles, etc. Cover the square when you see the item, and try to get 5 in a row on your board. I also encouraged my daughter to draw her own board of specific sites we see on our route. This concept kept her happily occupied for a decent amount of time!
- 20 Questions: You probably know this one. Think of something—an animal, a plant, a food, etc.—and everybody asks yes or no questions about it. With the kids, we don’t really keep track of how many questions they ask, and we tell them beforehand a broad category of what they’re trying to guess.
- Magna Doodle: This is probably the single greatest purchase I have made in the “keep the kids entertained on the road” category. I’m not exactly sure why, but they are so much more enthralled with drawing on this magnetic board than with crayons and coloring books while in the car. And—thankfully—they’re really good about sharing it. Go figure. It’s a must-have for our all our road trips.
- Play-Doh: This may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re considering automobile entertainment, but let me tell you—it works pretty well! (That is, until they drop large chunks of it under the seat, of course…)
- Books: I always have the kids each pack a bag of books for the car. They can read or look at the pictures by themselves; if your kids can’t read yet, pop-up and flap books are a great option. Reading aloud is also a good way to pass the time—especially if you have a chapter book everyone is enjoying. We just wrapped up the first Harry Potter book on our recent trip, and it was a lot of fun.
- Cows: I’m not sure whether or not my dad made this one up himself, but we used to play this all the time when I was a child while riding in the “way back” of the family station wagon. Look out your side of the window. When you pass a cow field, count as many cows as possible, and keep that number in your head. If you pass a church, double the number of your cows. If you pass a cemetery, bury half of them. Yeah…it’s kinda weird, but it’s great for the kids’ math skills!
- Curiosity Questions: I stole this idea from PBS. We haven’t actually done it, but I’m adding it to the repertoire for our next trip. It looks like a great way to start some interesting conversations and maybe learn something new about your own kids. Just when you thought you had them all figured out! A few sample questions include:
– What makes you happy?
– Where is one place you’ve never been that you would like to go?
– What do you like best about your friend _________?
– If we could open a zoo in our backyard, what five animals would you choose?
– If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would you choose?
After you’ve exhausted all the no-tech road trip games and ideas for your road trip, don’t feel the least bit guilty about popping in that DVD for the last stretch of the journey. Happy Trails!