If you’re a single dad, the thought of keeping your kids entertained during a long car journey, while maintaining enough focus so that you can stay safe on the road, might be terrifying. However, whether it’s a family vacation, or a trip to visit the grandparents, the chances are that you’re going to need to take a road trip at some point – even if you’d rather avoid it.
While you’re going through your checklist of must-have items, from luggage, and snacks, to beverages, and emergency car kits, don’t forget one of the most crucial considerations there is for travelling with kids: entertainment. Locking yourself in a car with bored children for several hours can be its very own form of torture, so you need to prepare if you want to avoid the headache-inducing chants of “Are we there yet?”
Fortunately, we’ve put together a list of some of the most effective, and popular car games to keep your kids distracted while you keep your eyes on the road.
1. 20 Questions
A great way to avoid the “Are we there yet?” question, is to give your kids an excuse to ask something else. “20 questions” is a classic travel game that has stood the test of time for families across the world, and it’s simple enough that just about anyone can play it. If you want to add a special twist to the game, you could make a rule that the mineral, animal, or vegetable that your children are guessing about has to be related to your chosen destination. For instance, a trip to France could have you guessing frogs, or croissants. This is a great way to educate your children about the place you’re visiting, and get them excited for the trip.
2. “I’m Going on a Picnic”
Memory games are a great way to get your kids to work their brains when you’re on a long journey. However, if you have to focus on the road, make sure you let your kids know that they’re going to have to play together for a while when you feel you might not be able to join in. “I’m going on a picnic” is an alphabet based game that works like this: one child says “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m bringing”, followed by an item beginning with A, like asparagus, or apples. From there, the other children follow on with an item beginning with B, C, D, and so on, while remembering to include the items the previous players mentioned too. The last player who can recite all the items on the list wins.
3. I Spy
This road trip game is a classic for a reason. Not only does it help to keep your children entertained while they look for interesting items in their surroundings, but it also improves their observational skills, which is ideal for younger kids. The idea is to find an object that everyone can see, then say “I Spy with my little eye, something that starts with…” then provide the first letter of that object’s name. You can also choose to offer a hint about what the object is, such as whether it’s a living creature, or a landmark. Everyone in the car takes turns guessing the object until someone gets it right.
4. The License Plate Game
License plates can form the foundation of dozens of road trip games, so how you choose to play with them will generally depend on the age of your children. For example, with older children, you can ask each person in the car to name a guess of how many different state license plates you’ll see on your journey, then get them to keep a tally as you drive. At the end of the trip, the person with the closest guess wins a prize. Alternatively, for younger children, you can use the alphabet game to point out license plates containing the letter A, all the way to Z, then at the end, start looking for doubles of letters, or numbers.
5. Scavenger Hunt
Finally, a scavenger hunt is a great way to keep your kids entertained while you focus on the road. While preparing for your journey, make a list of everything you think you might see along the way, including random objects, types of vehicle, road signs, and animals. Make a copy for each of your kids, and get them to call out when they see it. The first person to find everything on the list wins. You can even turn the list into a bingo card if you think that more opportunities to win will help your children stay engaged for longer.