Keeping the family happy during traveling can be challenging. Car games can be of great help and hopefully the list below might give you a few ideas that you can use or expand on.
-- SNACK AND PLAY TOY/TRAVEL TRAY: Some activities and travel games require a little tray to set toys and snacks on. This great product is available at various places online. I wish I had something like this years ago for their when our kids were smaller. Might even work for older tweens/teens for their projects or crafts they bring along.
-- KLUTZ products: Creative kid-friendly instruction books along with the supplies needed each activity. They've expanded their line of fun products over the years and often available at toy stores and novelty/card shops. They have 'kits' of some activities listed below like knots, friendship bracelets, and much more that are great fun, whether traveling or not. My redheads loved them and me too! See KLUTZ.com.; also available from Amazon and Barnes&Noble.com.
FAVORITE SECURITY 'ITEM'
Don't forget their favorite toy, car, doll, security blanket! My redheads HAD to have their special stuffed animal or blanket...The car games won't be much fun if you forget the 'Blankie' or 'Bunny'!
STRING GAMES Cheap and fun for 1-2 people as not only a car game but also for sleepovers and parties. Just need a length of string or yarn. Old favorites include Jacob's Ladder and Cat's Cradle. KLUTZ has a great kit on this.
CARD GAMES Classics like Old Maid, War, Slap Jack, Go Fish, Crazy 8, Concentration, Solitaire, and more. Can use specialty cards from toys stores or even a regular deck of cards.
ORIGAMI Consider colorful ORIGAMI (paper folding) using colorful paper. Local library may have books on this as well as KLUTZ to make paper animals, airplanes, etc.
SING SONGS TOGETHER You can record/burn your own CD collection of favorites tunes, bring along your own iPod or cassette tape/CD. There's also a collection of recorded songs by "Car-I-Oke" that includes a CD, available at bookstores and online like Amazon.
PLAY-DOH If you happen to have a travel tray for the kids to use in the car, a bit of Play-Doh can help keep them occupied while traveling. Also great to have on hand when in the hotel room or at your final destination. [Note: Apparently in the mid-1950s Play-Doh was originally a wallpaper cleaner that people rolled up and down their walls to remove soot deposits. But a preschool teacher's brother-in-law sent her a sample to use in her classroom to replace the hard modeling clay they had been using -- it was a big hit and entered the toy market soon after.]
BINOCULARS Look at stuff closeup with kid binoculars or telescope. They can check out animals, birds, people, signs, houses, etc.
BOOKS ON CD or TAPE Bring along a CD or cassette player to listen to books on tape. Libraries often carry recorded stories so check out the children's section or ask librarian. They have records for adults too.
CREATE A SCRAPBOOK / TRIP JOURNAL You can use anything from a simple spiral notebook or binder to special journal books. Be creative about what is added, depending upon the age. Can keep a log of time left, mileage, road number, what motel/RV park stayed at, food eaten, people you met and liked or disliked, funny things that happened, pet peeves, most boring sights, favorite stops. Add postcards, small souveniers.
READ ALOUD Read aloud comic books, joke books, Bible stories, riddle books, the latest story books, etc. Use different voices for characters or take turns. Kind of depends on whether someone can read in the car without getting motion sickness...
ELECTRONIC GAMES Hand-held electronic games include Nintendo, Gameboy, and others. Bring extra batteries. Some car games have come a long way!!
BOARD GAMES Magnetic travel bingo is an car game from way back... The old travel bingo with the little red shutters might still be found at novelty stores, souvenir shops, or dollar stores. Small board games (Junior sizes or often magnetized) include like Monopoly Jr, Scrabble, Battleship, chess, checkers, etc., may be found at toy stores as well.
MAPS Let the kids follow the route on their own kid-friendly map. Rand McNally has a 'Kids Atlas' so they can follow along and learn to read maps. This car game can actually teach them something! Could also buy a regular map that they can draw on and mark during the travel. You could also make a map with your own paper, colored construction paper and simple line drawings of the route with fun landmarks marking the way.
SPELLING BEE Have a spelling bee with words from a local newspaper, magazines, books, cities on the route, tourist spots, etc. Why not have a car game that teaches a little?
PUPPETS Bring along a few puppets. You can make cheap sock puppets beforehand with an old sock, sew a button on for eyes or draw them, and draw mouth with markers and stick on yarn for hair. Name them. Make one for each person on the trip. Make up silly stories about the trip or what you see on the road. Our redheads loved their puppets and always had one handy; we laughed a lot.
STICKER BOOKS Have fun with various sticker books suited for boys (pirates, action figure) and girls (paperdoll, fashion, cartoons). Check out Barnes&Noble on my "Shopping Mall" page!
WORK BOOKS Try kids' versions of things like "Sudoku For Kids" and similar age-appropriate thinking books. Even basic crossword, word searches, etc., can be fun...just be sure not get car sick reading.
ROLE PLAY Have a theme for part of the trip and have everyone dress the part. For instance if the family has a favorite movie, dress as characters (Harry Potter, Star Trek, Star Wars, X-Men, Pirates of Caribbean, etc.) Could even be favorite music groups or musicals. Make conversation 'in character' speaking lines from movies and the voices. Bring along the music to match to play in the car/RV. If your car/van has a DVD player or if you have a portable DVD/CD, play the movie. We always enjoyed doing movie lines and songs.
MAKE BRACELETS Make friendship or hemp bracelets. Buy the supplies yourself (Wal-Mart or Hobby Lobby, etc.) or from KLUTZ.
MYSTERY WRITING For this car game all you need is your hand! Using just your finger or end of capped pen, draw on a person's palm without them looking and let them guess what you wrote. Draw letters, numbers, and then words. Then take turns. Warning: This car game can be challenging for ticklish people...
ACTIVITY BOOKS These can include lacing books, 'quiet books' , sticker books, mazes and puzzles books with dot-to-dot, word searches, etc. Some Quiet Books are homemade and include skills for toddlers like lacing, buttoning, zippers, shapes, braiding, etc. I had sewn personalized Quiet Books for each redhead that they enjoyed taking along during preschool years. Older kids might enjoy the challenges of Sudoku, number games books.
DRAW Use 'Etch-A-Sketch' (old favorite). Also bring along drawing tablets and colored pencils/pens, stickers, markers (if older kids).
DVD PLAYERS Use a DVD player or similar player (iPhone, iPad) to watch favorite DVD movies. Be sure you have headphones!
MONEY Give the child a small amount of money for their trip to get little souvenirs or snacks, and keep a little log / bank account on what they bought and how much it cost. Not really a car game but sort of an early lesson in money management. The amount depends on your family budget but doesn't have to be a large sum.
LISTEN TO MUSIC WITH EARPHONES Lots of young people now had iPod players or similar items to listen to their favorite songs via earbuds/earphones. Be sure to keep volumes low to protect delicate ears and hearing.
ROCK-SCISSORS-PAPER Old classic hand game with 2 people. Count 1-2-3 and each person makes their hand into a rock (fist), scissors (V shape), or paper (flat hand). Rock covers paper (wins), scissors cut paper (wins), rock breaks scissors (wins). A car game that's free.
LEGO Building blocks like Lego to build stuff. Might be challenging with small pieces though unless find the large building blocks.
PIPE CLEANERS Cheap craft item to bend into shapes to make animals, funny shapes, spell out names seen on the road, etc.
COLORFORMS Colorforms playsets have been around forever. Not messy and colorful.
LEARN SIGN LANGUAGE Learn the American Sign Language (ASL) alphabet (or British sign language, German, etc., depending on your country). Once you know the basic letters, practice spelling out license plate numbers and signs. Sign basic words and actions to each other and have the other person guess what you said. Take turns. Libraries may have basic videos to check out to get you started as well. Kids often love sign language because it's like a 'secret language' and they pick it up quickly...even babies/toddlers! One of my favorite car games when learning to sign and great practice for a difficult skill!
LEARN A NEW SPOKEN LANGUAGE Learn to count or the alphabet in a new spoken language like Spanish, German, French, English. Basic books for kids and even CD/tapes can be found at libraries and bookstores. Listen to instruction CD and everyone can repeat it.
TRIP ALPHABET GAME Think of or find something you see that starts with the letter 'A' and then the next person does 'B' and so on..('I see something that starts with 'A'). Others ask yes or no questions to guess it. A variation is to describe what you will bring on your trip and name an item starting with the letter 'A' then next person does B' etc., (On my trip, I'm bringing a Apple. On my trip, I'm bringing a Book...)
I SPY GAME One person picks out an object everyone can see. Give a clue and say
"I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter G" (give what letter it begins with). Then others ask about it and you can only answer yes/no. The 1st person who guesses correctly becomes the next 'spy.' One of the classic car games.
ALUMINUM FOIL GAME Grab a box of aluminum foil and let the kids make fun shapes, hats, bracelets, animals, jewelry, etc.
COUNTING GAME Counting Things: It's nice to have teams but any number of people is okay. Count any number of items such as cows, road signs, bridges, certain colors of cars, police cars, certain license plates. Decide on category and keep track on paper.
EVEN or ODD GAME For 2 people. Each has paper, pencil. Time limit 10 minutes or more (you decide). One player looks for license plates that END in an odd number, and the other player finds those with an even number. (You can change this to plates that BEGIN with odd/even). Each time they see one, make a line. When time's up, add them up for the winner.
LICENSE PLATES GAME Different variations on this. For USA travelers, BEFORE leaving home, you could print out a list of all 50 US states and let them check off state plates they see. Another game is to see if you can make a word out of the letters on plates, which could work for any country.
MAKE A COOTIE CATCHER Sometimes called 'fortune tellers' -- made of a piece paper and just need scissors, markers, maybe stickers...Ask a grandparent or mom, as they probably played this game when they were young. Is a car game, school game, anytime game!
-- You need to start with a square piece of paper. If you don’t have one, get a regular sheet and fold the bottom corner to the opposite side of the page to make a triangle and then cut off the flap at the top – Open up the triangle to see a square. It's easiest to learn now to fold the square by following a diagram (CLICK HERE for a free PDF 1-page instructions) and/or watching someone do it. See the YouTube VIDEO BELOW to watch how it's done. Once you do it once, it's easy.
-- Decorate the outside and inside. Be creative! You can use colorful numbers, letters, colors spelled out (B-L-U-E), different colored shapes, animals, a place, a person, use fun stickers, and more... Use colorful paper too.
-- Fortunes that you write inside can be anything such as: "You will be famous." "You have a secret admirer." "You’ll find something important." "You are very talented." "You will marry a famous person." ...Be creative!
--To PLAY: Slip your thumbs and pointer fingers into the 4 flaps. Have your friend pick a color, shape, etc. that you wrote on one of the flaps. Spell out the word/shape they picked by moving the flaps in and out and side to side as you do. Then open the Catcher to show the numbers and have them pick a number. Again, count out the number they picked in same way. Then pick another number and reveal the fortune underneath that triangular flap.