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Best Games for Kids in Cars

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by May Cross (subscribe)
I'm a writer, artist and keen photographer.
Published August 4th 2020
Keep the children amused on road trips
Are you thoroughly sick and tired of the chant "Are we there yet?" which seems to start as soon as you leave home regardless of the length of the Road Trip. By the way, there is only one answer to this question and it's "Nearly there" even if you have hundreds of kilometres to go! Here are a few suggested games to stop the rug rats and ankle-biters from driving you crazy in the car. A few classics to return you to your childhood and hopefully, a new one or two. Ah, nostalgia ain't what it used to be! What's your favourite car game?

I spy, games, kids. cars
Remember Playing I Spy? (May Cross)

I Spy
This is the classic car game that my family was particularly fond of when I was a child, until we drove our parents insane. It's good for spelling and observation skills. The first person says "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ..." and names a letter. e.g "C", and then the rest of the people (kids and adults) call out possible answers such as cow, car, cloud, etc. The person who guesses correctly goes next. "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ..." If one person is a great guesser then the kids can just take turns to make it fairer and give everyone a go. If the littlies can't spell an alternative is the colour of the object: "I spy with my little eye something ... (insert colour here)". Be warned, it is addictive and they won't want to stop until you have lost your mind (and/or suggest another game).

I-Spy Bottle
A great game for the little ones (but Dad has been known to have a go too). I have previously written an article on How to Make an I-Spy Bottle. They are easy and cheap to make. You can have several for different ages or just for variety, so they don't get bored. Basically you collect dozens of little items to put in a bottle full of rice to be "spied" or discovered. Bring back the innocence of a non-tech game and give yourself some peace and quiet while they find all the tiny treasures.

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Make an I-Spy Bottle (May Cross)

Aunty Goes Shopping
This is a memory game for primary aged children. The first person says: "My aunty went shopping and brought back a ..." Let's just start off with 'chicken'. Take it in turns and so the next person says: "My aunty went shopping and brought back a chicken and a ... " Let's add a pumpkin. The next person thinks of something else to add to the shopping list after quoting all the previous ones in the same order. For example shoes, soap or a kangaroo. It can be absolutely anything; the weirder and whackier the more fun it is. And on and on it goes until only one person can recite all the items in the correct order. It can get up to a couple of dozen items or more depending on the age of the kids.

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What did Aunty buy? (May Cross)

Going On A Picnic
This is similar to Aunty Goes Shopping where sequences are memorised but with an additional stipulation - the alphabet. It is good for kids who have learnt spelling.
"I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing an ..." The first person picks something with the letter A, e.g. 'avocado' or 'apple'. The next person repeats what the last person said and adds another item starting with a B: "I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing an avocado and a bun.[I]" You keep going from A to Z (zebra sandwich anyone?) or until there is only one clever clogs who can remember everything at that picnic.

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A is for Apple, B is for Banana (May Cross)

Simon Says
Another classic which can be played with all ages, but lots of fun for pre-schoolers. Basically, if "[I]Simon says ...
" you have to do it. For example, "Simon says put your hands on your head " (but not if you're the driver!) If an instruction does not start with "Simon says ..." you should not do it. For example, "Bark like a dog." It's pretty easy to play, and the commands can be as silly as you like. You can vary the pace - rapid-fire instructions make it harder. It keeps even the littlest paying attention so teaches them to listen. Which is what all parents and teachers want isn't it?

Lucrative for all ages. When I was younger my father had a variation on this old game. He'd say, "I'll give $1 to the first person to spot a yellow car." Or a 'white horse', or a 'servo', or just about anything he could think of. The first one to spot it called out "Spotto!" and won the cash. It was a fun way to earn a bit of holiday pocket-money. It can be as easy or as rare as you want to make it, depending on how much money you want to part with. Of course, it can be played without the cash, just for fun, but the added incentive will keep the kids engaged. It is not recommended that the kids punch their siblings in this game. Just saying.

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Spot the number plate (May Cross)

Spot Number Plates
Best for kids who can read but even Infants level can play by colour or symbols. A Spotto variation. How many licence/number plates can you spot from another state? Find as many different states as you can. Unless you're travelling interstate, it gets harder to find states which aren't adjacent to yours. Good chance to give an Australian geography lesson. This game can be ongoing throughout your trip and subsequent trips. An alternative is to find a number plate starting with each letter of the alphabet.

Or Caraoke as we call it. All ages can have a go at this one.
If you sing off-key (like me), and like daggy songs (like me) then this is the game for you. Probably all families have their favourite songs to sing, just make sure it's a crowd-pleaser. You can Google song lyrics on your phone if you don't know them. But the kids are bound to know every last word of their fav tunes. Try to get past "The Wheels of the Bus" as a road trip song.

20 Questions
Suitable for Upper Primary and older. This is the famous game that usually begins: "Animal, vegetable, or mineral?" It is popular in cars country-wide and dates back to the 1940s. One person thinks of an object and the rest of the players take turns to ask questions where the answer must be only "Yes" or "No" to try to guess the thing by deduction. E.g. "Is it bigger than a bread box?" There can be up to 20 questions; if it is not correctly guessed by then they reveal the answer and have another go. The one who gets it right has a go next.

Good for teens. This starts with someone asking "Would you rather ...?" (or "Druther" as we call it). Two equally gross options are offered and each person has to choose one. E.g. "Would you rather be ruled by Donald Trump or Boris Johnson?" or "Druther eat a worm or a slug?" It gets disgusting pretty quickly but that's the fun of it.

And no Navman, smartphones, iPods, laptops or DVDs in sight. Just free family fun.
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Why? to beat boredom and have some good clean family fun
When: On any road trip
Where: in the car
Cost: all free
Your Comment
May, great article. I look at number plates all the times trying to work them out and I’m at lot old than kids. I Spy and Simon Says were favourites in my youth. Susan
by Susan J Bowes (score: 3|2022) 284 days ago
Thanks for your feedback Susan.
by May Cross (score: 3|7889) 283 days ago
I spy.
by (score: |) 283 days ago
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