We took our oldest son on his first big road trip this summer to go tent camping in the Rocky Mountains. Before we’d reach that place of waterfalls and aspen trees, of adventurous hikes and peaceful naps under mountain rain showers....there would be about 16 hours spent together in the car.
I posed a question to the Simplicity Parenting facebook group and asked you to share your favorite car games, and took several others from a book I got at the library (and very much enjoyed) - Old Fashioned Children’s Games, by Sharon O’Brien. We also took along our copies of “Sparkle Car”, created by Sparkle Stories especially for road trips (audio stories, classic children’s poems, and car games for the family.)
Those 16 hours to and from Colorado turned out to be really, really fun. These games really do work in some great thinking skills (for everyone!) and helped my husband and me see some new (sometimes very funny!) sides of our little traveling companion. Some of my favorite stories from vacation actually did happen...surprise...on the way there.
Most of these games will work well with kids ages 4 and up, but are fun for all ages and easily made more difficult or simple, depending on who you have in your back seat. Have fun!
Animal, Vegetable, Mineral - One player secretly thinks of an animal, a plant, or a mineral. (We often change this third category to “Places” or “People we know”, since our knowledge of minerals seems to be a bit lacking.) That player announces if it is an Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, and other players may ask questions with “yes/no” answers, like “Does it live in the arctic?”, “Does it have four legs?”, “Does it eat meat?”, “Can I see it at the zoo?” …. Until someone guesses correctly. That person gets to start the next round.
Virtual Hide and Seek - One player announces a place for everyone to imagine they are (Maybe back at home, maybe at the vacation destination if it is a familiar one. For older players, the challenge can be increased by only telling what city or region is to be searched.) Other players can ask questions with “yes/no” answers, like, “Are you indoors?”, “Are you in the kitchen?”, “Are you under the couch?” - until someone “finds” the person hiding. That person gets to hide next!
Math Stories - These can be created and adjusted for any level and are a fun way for kids to build confidence about mathematical thinking. We usually make up stories as we go along, including animals we see along the journey. Perhaps there are 5 cows grazing in a field. ...What would happen if 2 of them ran into the woods for a secret cow meeting? How many would be left in the field? What if, at the secret cow meeting, they planned a party and invited 10 other cows? Now how many are in the field? There are many examples of math stories online which incorporate more advanced skills like multiplication or fractions. It's especially fun when children turn these around on adults...our son loves to try to stump us with his "very, very, VERY hard" questions.
I Spy with a Twist - For kids who are learning to rhyme or find starting sounds to letters, adding these concepts in creates a fun twist on “I Spy.” “I spy....something that rhymes with fountain.” (mountain!), or “I spy....something that begins with a “w” sound...” (windmill!) Kids especially love creating their own for parents to solve.
20 Questions - This game is similar to Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, but is open to any category, and those guessing are limited to asking exactly 20 “yes/no” questions to find their answer. With older kids, it is also fun to create a list of things to be guessed before the game starts...allowing everyone to submit ideas written on slips of paper (which will be drawn during the game). We’ve played the “extreme” version of this game with high schoolers who add some good comedy to the game by writing in super-specific or abstract ideas for others to guess, such as “George Bush’s left hand.”, or “The state of contempt." This one is truly adaptable for every crowd and always lots of fun.
...and, finally...a bonus game for ALL ages (this one requires slower driving but it’s a definite favorite of ours!):
“HEY COW!!” ….Each side of the car is on a team together. If you pass a field of cows on your side of the car, you roll down the window, and yell “Hey Cow!!” to your new bovine buddies. Your team scores a point for every cow who looks your way. The cows MUST look, or no points are tallied! You can keep a running score for long journeys.