My family plays this game. We play it in line at the grocery store (no endcap candy bars for us), at the doctor’s office (keeps kids off the floor), and on hikes (kids can walk much further than they think).
This is how it works. One person pretends to be an animal, item, or place and gives clues to describe himself or herself. The other players try to guess what that person is. The first to guess correctly becomes “it” and gets to give the clues next. We call it “What Am I?” and it is the ultimate play-anywhere kid’s game. (It’s also an excellent opportunity to share all of the useless information you’ve been hoarding.) Add it to your bag of tricks for how to keep kids busy in the car.
Want to know what other car activities for kids I recommend, including how to entertain kids on a road trip, the best travel equipment to invest in, and what to pack in DIY travel kits for toddlers? Then read on.
Travel kits for kids
How can you distract young kids without allowing them to distract you from your driving? A kids’ activity pack! You can find premade activity packs, but the best ones will be those you make yourself. You know your kid and what will keep his or her interest. You want your child to actually use the items.
What to include in your DIY kids’ travel activity pack
Pack items that you know your little ones will enjoy and can use independently. These are my tried-and-true suggestions.
- Books-Books can truly save the day when you’re on the road with your kids. Interactive board books will have your toddlers flipping through the pages non-stop, and older kids will get lost in their favorite picture or chapter books. Try the Melissa and Doug Poke-a-Dot books (kids can’t resist pressing the plastic pop bubbles, similar to giant bubble wrap, and counting the animals) or a slider book like one from the Usborne’s Slide and See collection.
- Audiobooks-The music and sounds along with the stories keep kids engaged. Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault and the Frog and Toad Audio Collection by Arnold Lobel are my picks. A 30-day trial of Audible is a great way to get started and cover your road trip.
- Activity books-You can find activity books for kids at most grocery or discount stores. They’re usually filled with mazes, coloring pages, puzzles, and games. Don’t forget the crayons or colored pencils.
- Handheld toys-Allow your kids to bring along their treasured figurine, doll, Matchbox car, finger puppet, or stuffed animal travel companions for comfort and fun.
- Games-Pack car games for young kids, like a magnetic doodle board and Etch-a-Sketch. For older travelers, magnetic travel puzzles or board games and card games like Uno are good choices.
Family road trips
On a family road trip, activity packs are especially helpful. During longer trips with kids, car entertainment equals fewer interstate interruptions.
In addition to a travel activity pack, these are some items I suggest for family road trips:
- DVD player-You can find an AC adapter single or dual DVD player at your local electronics or big-box store to play your family’s favorite movies in the car. The Leap Frog learning DVDs and Baby Einstein DVDs are some toddler favorites.
- Snack bag or cooler-Sometimes, snacks are the key to happiness. They prevent meltdowns triggered by low blood sugar and can also act as a distraction when needed. Keep the car (somewhat) clean by storing snacks in a reusable bag and offering age-appropriate and healthy snacks in no-spill containers. Use a cooler for perishable foods.
- Car seat travel tray-You wouldn’t want to have to pull over or reach for items while driving, so a car activity table that keeps all of the items your child might need in one place might be an excellent addition to your travel gear. This travel tray from Lusso Gear Kids fits on your child’s lap and has pockets for books, games, toys, and art supplies. Good as a surface for snacking or activities, the tray is also a dry erase board.
Car games for older kids
Although these games can be played at any time, you’ll get the most mileage out of them on longer drives.
- The alphabet game-Using only stationary road signs, be the one to find the letters A through Z in alphabetical order the fastest. You must announce your letter and the word that you found it in. Once your vehicle passes a sign, its letters are out of play. Only the first person to call the letter from a particular word gets credit for the letter. However, a word may be used more than once if for multiple letters. See the word repeated? Go ahead and call it.
- The license plate game-Kids will need a piece of paper and a writing implement for this one. Check the license plates of other cars on the road. Each time you see a new state tag, write it down. See how many states you find.
- 20 questions-One person is “it” and secretly picks a celebrity. The other players are allowed up to 20 yes or no questions in order to determine who the mystery celebrity is. The first person to guess the name gets to be “it” next. If the players still haven’t identified the celebrity after 20 questions, the “it” person gets to go again.
Car activities for preschoolers
Whether used to nip a tantrum in the bud or stall a sooner-than-expected snooze, these activities will delight your preschooler.
- What am I?-This game, which I described in the beginning, is great for little ones, but older kids and adults will love joining in, too. If the players are stumped and can’t work out the answer after a while, the person who is “it” gets to take another turn.
- The humming and whistling game-One person hums or whistles a familiar tune while the others guess the name of the song. The person who guesses correctly hums or whistles the next song. Mary Had a Little Lamb and Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star are ideal songs for toddlers. As kids get older, you can include more modern songs.
- Road trip bingo-Use images for your preschooler to search for during your travels. Stop signs, motorcycles, construction signs, police cars, and train tracks will keep them on the lookout. To make it more exciting, offer a reward for getting a bingo or filling the card. Fruit snacks, anyone? With older kids, expect them to observe more specific things, like bike racks with more than two bikes, motorhomes towing a car, a passenger picking their nose, or a driver jamming to the radio.
Final road travel advice
It’s not your job to entertain your little ones at all times, but it is your job to ensure they learn how to cope, including in a car. Your kids will get bored. Let them! It forces them to look around and see their world, get creative, or take a nap. The better your kids acclimate to travel at an early age, the better travel companions they’ll be as they grow.