Morning car rides can be daunting if you’re not a morning person, and sometimes even if you ARE a morning person. Although I believe it’s perfectly ok to let your kids be bored, I also believe it’s important to use moments together wisely. So we tend to spend our morning car ride having conversations, and playing kids car games that help wake them up and keep them on their toes, AND it’s all done sans technology! Here I delve beyond “Punch-Buggy Charlie” and the license plate game for some good no-tech car games for kids.
Car Games for Kids
20 Questions – We each take a turn coming up with a person, place, or thing. Then the other participants take turns asking yes or no questions to figure out what it is. If we figure it out before the 20th question, we win; if not, then the person answering the questions wins. This is a good exercise in making deductions and also figuring out good “category” questions.
Name that Tune – We hum a song and the other players have to figure out which song it is. Typically, the songs have been current hits on the radio (or classic hits they hear on 97.1 The River), Bible School songs, church songs, or songs from their preschool days. The tricky part of this game is picking a song the other players will recognize. Occasionally, my daughter will pick a song from a commercial she’s seen on TV and I’m not familiar with it. So it’s also a good exercise in perspective.
Guess My Number – First, I give them a range (1-20), and they have to guess a number within that range. I tell them higher, lower, or if their guess is correct. This game helps with making deductions, and helps younger kids get a sense of where numbers fall on the number line. If you have a child school-age child struggling with this game, keep a number line and/or a 100 chart handy in the car for reference. You could use dry erase markers and a sheet protector to help them visually deduce which number to guess. For my five year old son still working on the concept of number range, I simply shorten the range. For example, where my daughter can handle a range of 1-20, or even 1-100, his range is typically 1-5 or 1-10, and we will keep building it up as he masters the concept.
Time Predictions – Because we take the same route to school everyday around the same time, we have picked out a land mark and make predictions as to when we will arrive at school. This helps give the kids a sense of time, how long it takes to get from point A to point B, and also helps them to work on winning and losing graciously. You can do this not just during your daily route, but during road trips to new places – making it a game. Essentially, you’re playing “Waze” without the technology. 😀
I Spy – The classic kids’ game. The tricky part of playing “I Spy” in a moving vehicle is the item you spy may quickly be out of view. It works decently if you’re stuck in slow-moving traffic (hello, Atlanta!), and you can take in the scenery around you; otherwise, you’ll need to make it a rule that the item spied must be within the car itself. You can have “I Spy Themes” to mix it up: one day you state what you spied by telling it’s shape (“I spy something triangular.”), other days by color, by proximity to a stationary object (“I spy something far away from the steering wheel.”), and so forth.
Rhyme Time – Just as it sounds. Play rhyming games. Start with a word, and do a round robin of how many words you can come up with as a team. For example, the first person says “cat”, then the next player says “bat”, the next player says “hat”, and so on. This is a great game for preschoolers (starting around age 3 or 4), all the way through 1st grade to really help work on phonemic awareness. Older kids will enjoy the game, as well, and can put their own spin on it – perhaps multi-syllabic rhymes as they get older.
Add It Up – Just as it sounds, give kids a set of digits and have them add them up. Kids as young as 3 or 4 can count on their fingers to add numbers up. Older siblings can help younger siblings in this game, too. As kids get older, give more complex numbers (double digits, three or more addends, etc) or mix it up to include subtraction, and then later multiplication and then division. Just keep the number games going – it’s a great way to build math fact fluency, and a great auditory alternative to simple flash cards. (I’m not opposed to flash cards, for what it’s worth. I adore these for addition and subtraction, and these for multiplication and division.)
Other Activities to do With Kids in the Car:
Audio Books – So not so much a game, but a great way to keep everyone engaged during long or frequent car trips. We plan to start listening to the first Harry Potter book this summer. Did you know you can snag the entire Harry Potter series on audio?? The beauty of audio books is, when done as a family, you can introduce books slightly above a child’s reading level, and still help them dive in to it, without letting decoding or fluency foul you up. It’s a great way to mix things up, and offers similar benefits as reading aloud to your child. Ok, fine, so this involves technology, but this -in my opinion- is a good use to supplement reading with technology.
Spell it Out – make spelling less of a daunting task. Ask your kids to spell random words – and have them quiz you, as well. Or keep their spelling list handy in the car and have them do something silly, like SING as they spell to you. You can even keep dry erase markers in the car, and have them write their spelling words on the window. (Yep, I promise it wipes right off!) Or keep a handy dry erase board in the van, or one of these most awesome boards for zero cleanup!
Handheld Puzzles and Mazes – yep, I’m going to endorse a few toys. My son has been absolutely mesmorized by these maze balls – he will spend hours shaking it, and working through it. And it’s a no-tech toy, which makes me happy! Check out this neat maze cube for added fun, too. Of course, there’s always the original game cube, too, to bring back the 80s!
You can also snag simple word search, crossword puzzles, and coloring & activity books at the dollar store for easy entertainment, too. Just be aware if you have a child who is susceptible to motion sickness.
What games does YOUR family play in the car? Please comment below with your no-tech car games that your kids (and you) enjoy!
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