Our family takes a lot of road trips throughout the year. Central Oregon, Oak Harbor Washington, and Salinas California are our big, annual ones, and since we most often put the miles on our minivan, the rear entertainment system (DVD player) usually keeps the kids busy. However, there are the occasional camping or boat trips we must take in the much larger, toy-hauling truck, which has no TV. It is on those trips (made even longer by slowly pulling a boat and trailer), we have to get creative with car games.
The kids eventually tire of using their LeapPads, reading books, or listening to music, and that is when I pull out these handy games that can easily stretch boredom out for another couple of hours. Some are tried and true car games I played when I was little and we had NO personal entertainment devices or DVD players in the family station wagon, while others I’ve made up with my kids along the way. Some are different variations of the same game, but entertaining nonetheless! I hope they help the miles of your family road trips this summer go a little smoother!
1. I Spy
An oldie but goodie. We take turns “spying” something that everyone else in the car has to guess. Start off with a hint, like, “I spy something orange,” and if it takes awhile, add some more hints to it until someone guesses. This game can be played with items outside (be careful to choose something that won’t disappear in the 5-10 minutes it might take to guess it) or inside the car.
2. Slug Bug
This is the grandaddy of car games, and one I played in my childhood. When you spot a VW Bug/Beetle, you yell, ‘slug bug!’ and “slug” your neighbor. It can, however, get kind of violent (especially for irritated siblings trapped in a car for hours on end!) To keep it from turning into a ‘mom said it’s okay to punch my annoying little brother’ free-for-all, try these variations when you see a slug bug: tap the ceiling, clap, snap, or just yell ‘slug bug.’
3. Pictures in the Clouds
Not so much of a competition game, this car game works great for your littlest children. Of course, it also requires that there actually BE clouds in the sky, which might be tricky on a hot summer drive down to say, Arizona! Each of us take turns finding and pointing to imaginary pictures in the sky. It’s a long-standing joke in our family that our youngest was only able to spot “sharks” as a toddler, so sometimes we just call this the SHARK! game.
4. Alphabet Game
This is a great one for older kids who know their alphabet already. The idea is to see (and yell out) A through Z the fastest on passing licence plates, billboards, signs, etc. It’s a competition, and a letter can only be used once, so whoever spots it gets it, and the other players have to find another A, J, or whatever letter they’re on. Each person plays for themselves, so sometimes one family member will be on B, another on M, and another all the way to Z, but with tougher letters to find like Q, there is always time for the rest to catch up!
5. Rainbow Cars
Similar to the Alphabet Game, this car game uses colors of the rainbow instead, making it much easier for preschoolers and toddlers who are still learning their alphabets. Start with looking for a red car, truck, motorcycle, or any other vehicle on the road, and shout it out when you see it. Then go on to orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and black, brown, and white if you want, too! Sometimes we’ll go through the entire rainbow after passing one parking lot, so it’s one of the faster car games, but one you can just keep playing over and over again.
6. Counting Game
Kind of like slug bug (without the hitting). Basically, you pick whatever you want to competitively count, like motorhomes, boats, semi-trucks, car-top carriers, or, during the holiday season, we like to count CHRISTMAS TREES! When you see whatever you are counting, shout it out. But keep your eyes peeled and be quick, because like the alphabet game, each one can only be named once. Sometimes we just go and go for hours, other times, we set a limit like 100.