You know how it goes: “Are we there yet? … How about now now? … Are you sure we’re not there yet?” It’s at this point where you wish you had some car games for your kids to play to stave off their boredom. Whether you’re heading out on a road trip or running a bunch of errands around town, car rides with kids can be a lesson in patience. So how do you keep them occupied when you’re traveling from place to place?
Laurel Regnier, creator of MomsMinivan.com, recommends planning ahead before you head out. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of 53 games and activities to play in the car with kids. The best part? Many of these games are free, and there are several that kids can play on their own.
Safety note: Just make sure these don’t distract you if you’re the one driving.
Car games for kids that require no toys or materials
1. Ask fun questions like “If I were a king/queen …” or “If I could live anywhere in the world …” and see who can come up with the most creative answers.
2. Play What If?: What if this car turned into a spaceship? Where would we go?
3. Share stories about the day the kids were born or adopted.
4. Have a mini-Olympics at rest stops — running, jumping jacks, arm circles — and get the energy out.
5. Try a memory game: A is for Apple, B is for Boat — see how far you can go with each person remembering the letters and words that people said before and then coming up with the next one.
6. Share family history by telling stories about relatives.
7. Play Guess Who Am I (friends, family members, celebrities, characters, etc.): “I’m a bear, I love honey and my best friend is Piglet”
8. Play 20 Questions.
9. Play the telephone game.
10. Celebrate every 100 miles with a “Hooray” and a high five.
Musical and audio car activities kids will enjoy
11. Have a mini dance party — only arm movements allowed.
12. Listen to an audiobook — check out kids’ audiobooks from Tales2Go.
13. Make up your own rhyming or rap songs.
14. Make a family playlist with different songs picked by everyone in the car.
15. Have an acapella sing-along.
16. Hum nursery rhymes and play Name That Tune.
17. Sing your favorite songs in rounds.
18. Invent your own jokes.
Car games your kids can playing looking out the window
19. See how many red cars you can spot in an hour.
20. Create a road trip scavenger hunt — track down the clues as you go.
21. Play I Spy (“with my little eye…”).
22. Play the License Plate Game and see if you can spot all the letters of the alphabet – and the numbers 0 through 9.
23. Count crows or cows, depending on where you’re driving. First person to see 10, 20, or whatever the goal is wins.
24. Learn the welcome slogans for each city, county or state you cross (e.g. “Florida: The Sunshine State, Delaware: The First State, New York: The Empire State”).
25. Count school buses on the road.
26. Elect a toll master to keep track of the tickets, look out for the right exits and get the change ready for toll booths.
Artistic car activities to keep your kids busy
27. Bring a kit so kids can learn to knit.
Where to buy: Quick to Knit Scarf Kit ($22, Imagine Childhood)
28. Pack pieces of yarn and learn string finger games likes Cat’s Cradle or Jacob’s Ladder.
29. Have a sock puppet show.
30. Make a scrapbook with photos and memorabilia from your trip.
31. Bring leftover aluminum foil and make artwork.
32. Make a destination binder with highlights and activities for your trip.
33. Bring pipe cleaners and make colorful shapes.
34. Make friendship bracelets.
35. Bring crayons and coloring pencils.
36. Keep a travel jar with mementos from your ride.
Educational car games and activities
37. Keep a travel journal.
Where to buy: Children’s Travel Journal ($14, Little Writing Company/Etsy)
38. Give kids the map on your smartphone and let them navigate the journey.
39. Learn about your destination — share fun facts and discuss things to do when you arrive.
40. Have a math challenge.
41. Try a name game. For instance, the first person says the name of an animal (like dog), then the next person says the name of another animal using the last letter of the previous animal’s name (like giraffe).
42. Give your kids cookie sheets to use as a travel desks.
43. And, bring magnetic alphabet letters or magnetic poetry so they can practice making words or poems on their cookie sheet desks.
44. Learn the state capitals.
45. Have a spelling bee.
46. Play the Animal Game: “I’m gray, I have big ears and a long nose … What am I?”
A few extra car games and activities that are always fun
47. Pack a few magnetic board games.
Where to buy: Floss & Rock Rainbow Fairy Magnetic Fun and Games ($19, Maisonette)
48. Bring cards and play Go Fish.
49. Play Crazy 8’s.
50. Bring a joke book and make each other laugh.
51. Play travel Bingo.
52. Print Connect the Dots worksheets ahead of time and fill them in along the way.
53. Fill a tote with small “surprise” small games, books and snacks. Every well-behaved 60 or 100 miles, let kids reach in for their next surprise.