If you’re prepping for a long road trip with the family, here are a few games that will make your vacation a little more enjoyable by occupying your kids for at least a few hours … without devices.
1. Counting Cows
Divide the car occupants into two teams — left side and right side. Count the cows you see on your side of the car. If you pass a field full of lots of cows, you’d better count fast! If you pass a cemetery on your side of the car, you lose all your cows — but only if the opposing team calls out “Your cows are buried!” As a bonus, every white horse along the way adds 20 points.
2. What Can You Do With…
Bring a bag of everyday objects in the car — maybe a wooden spoon, a paper clip or a roll of toilet paper — and have players take turns thinking up possible uses for it. These can be as bizarre as you like. Children are encouraged to use their imaginations.
3. Auto Tag
Assign each player an object. It should be something you’ll encounter with regularity on the road such as a fast food logo, a car rack or a cow. As in the more active version of tag, one player is “It.” But in this sit-down game, the person who is “It” has to find someone else’s object, call it out, and tag another player. That player then begins to search for someone else’s object. Play continues ad infinitum — or until the next bathroom break.
4. License Plates
See how many license plates from different states you can find on your trip and add them to your list. Work as a team in the car, or individually. This game can work for one trip, or for a summer of traveling. You might even record the time and date and the state where you saw it. This can be a family project as you build your “collection” of license plate sightings together.
5. Tin Foil Fun
Give each child a few sheets of aluminum foil and have an art contest. Encourage them to use their imaginations by making everything from zoo animals to jewelry to masks. If they are having trouble coming up with ideas, get them going with a theme, perhaps making the goofiest sunglasses or a pirate’s hat.
6. I Spy
Come up with 10 items you’re likely to see on the next stage of your journey — perhaps a police car, a bridge or a natural landmark — and challenge the kids to spot them first. Award small prizes to the winners. Cheap items such as ring pops or dollar store army figures work well.
7. Pipe Cleaner Creatures
All you need is an inexpensive pack of pipe cleaners and lots of imagination. Use pipe cleaners of different colors to create all kinds of creatures. You may want to bring a nail clipper and pencil to make things a little more interesting. The nail clipper is for cutting the pipe cleaners into different lengths. The pencil is for coiling them. Encourage your children to make everything from a favorite animal to a superhero.
8. Odds, Evens
Two players pick “odds” or “evens.” Then they make a fist, shake it, and say, “One, two, three…shoot.” The two then stick out their fingers. If the total of all of their fingers is an odd number, the player who picked odds wins. Same goes for evens.
9. The Name Game
This game works well for celebrity-conscious preteens. The goal is to link famous people by the letters of their names. The first player picks someone famous, then the next player picks a celebrity whose first name begins with the same letter as the previous person’s last name. The person who is able to keep the chain going the longest wins.
10. Tell Me A Story
Have players take turns coming up with a story one sentence at a time. One person begins with a line such as, “Once upon a time there was a dragon that lived in a far away castle.” The next player continues with another sentence such as, “And that dragon loved to listen to rock ‘n roll.” The story goes on as long as players like.