Studies indicate a certain amount of boredom, especially in the summer when school’s out, can actually be good for children. But a long car ride is probably not the best place for that boredom to happen. 😉 Enter road trip games for kids.

Why Electronics and Reading May Not be Best

Sure electronics are a quick fix, but they may not create the family atmosphere you want to create. Plus, studies show that too much screen time can negatively affect children’s brains, so we want to steer clear of multiple hours in the car on the iPad!

What about reading?

While certainly a wonderful pastime, motion sickness can render reading in the car difficult for some kids. Because the brain depends on information from a variety of sources—sight, touch, joint position, the inner ear—motion sickness (disorientation, nausea, vomiting) occurs when all of the information your senses are processing don’t align. Reading in a car is a common cause of motion sickness, because your senses don’t agree on what’s happening. Your eyes are fixed a still point—the book—but your inner ear thinks you’re moving because of bumps, turns, and changes in speed. (source)

But don’t despair, there are plenty of other ways to pass the time. Here, the best road trip games for kids of every age:

Road Trip Games for Babies and Toddlers

Babies are obviously the hardest of all the age groups to entertain for any length of time, although they are also the ones most likely to sleep for the longest periods.

Since they do have periods of wakefulness, here are some ideas to keep babies and toddlers entertained:

  • Peek-a-Boo: Bring along a car seat mirror to play peek-a-boo or make silly faces at your baby from the front seat. You’ll be entertaining them and mirrors are also great for a baby’s development.
  • Sing: Babies love music, but it’s easier on everyone if you can find songs you also enjoy singing, like these modern lullabies. More old-fashioned, repetitive children’s songs are also entertaining for toddlers.
  • Teethers and hanging toys: Handling toys improves baby’s hand-eye coordination and motor skills. (source) Try toys with contrasting colors to help baby’s developing eyesight, too.
  • Make a baby wallet. Keep an old wallet in the car with various baby-friendly items in it for little fingers and mouths to explore. Mix it up with different textures and colors. You could also make a sensory book to take with you.
  • Sticker books: For toddlers, sticker books are fun and a great way to improve fine motor skills.

Road Trip Games for Preschoolers

As kids age, the road trip activities can get a little more sophisticated. Some of these might even keep adults entertained!

  • I Spy: Whoever starts chooses an object either inside or outside the car and states what letter the object begins with— usually by saying “I spy with my little eye something beginning with….” Everyone guesses what they are thinking of and the person who guesses correctly takes the next turn. If children are still too small to know how to spell, try colors instead.
  • Simon Says: One player takes the role of “Simon” and issues instructions to the others like touch your head or wiggle your tongue. The instructions should not be followed unless they are prefaced with the words “Simon says.” Anyone who forgets is out of the game.
  • Audio books: This is a great alternative road trip activity for kids who get car sick when reading. You can buy or download versions that are narrated in a way to make them especially interesting to younger children.
  • Drawing: While having loose pens and paper in the car can be tricky, the old-fashioned Etch-a-Sketch is still popular with youngsters.

Road Trip Games for Kids

Once kids hit elementary school age, road trip games can become a lot more involved.

    • Memory games: There are many benefits to memory games, including improved concentration, greater attention to detail, and expanded vocabulary. Try a game like I’m Going on a Picnic. Essentially, each person, in turn, chooses something to take on the picnic after repeating what has already been added. Remember: Nothing is too big or too silly to be packed!
  • License plate game: Spot license plates from as many different states as possible. You could award points: one point for every adjacent state, two for more distant states, etc. Bonus points for plates from other countries.
  • Sing-a-long CDs: You can buy books with included CDs that come with the song’s lyrics to allow children to sing along, while also looking at the illustrations. Here are some beautiful examples.
  • Kid-friendly podcasts: These not only entertain children, but many also have educational roots. Podcasts can also help foster discussions about issues your kids might not otherwise know how raise with you. Browse podcasts suitable for kids and families here.
  • Loaded Questions (Junior): If you’re looking for another way to start some interesting discussions, trythis card game.
  • Travel Scavenger Hunt Card GameHighway scavenger hunts: Give each child a list of items to find along the route. The first one to find them all wins. Ideas include someone wearing a hat, a bike on the back of a car, a dog hanging out of a window, etc. If you don’t want to make up your own hunt, you can buy this ready-made version.
  • 20 questions: A very simple, but effective game. Someone thinks of something or someone and can only answer yes or no to 20 questions to help guess the answer.
  • Word association: Someone starts by saying a word, then the next person says the first word that comes into their mind when they hear the original word, and so on. This game is simple, but it can be a good way to get insight into how your children think.

The Road May Be Long, But Remember…

While such a trip can be boring and frustrating, the days are long, but the years are short. You are sure to look back on these trips as very special times with your family!

And hopefully these road trip games for kids will help you prepare for—and maybe even avoid!—those inevitable moments of boredom.

How About You?

Have you ever been on a long road trip with your family? What are your favorite road trip games for kids?