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Car trip games for kids

Christina Holt is a blogger and freelance writer who lives in Southern California with her husband and three boys. Christina uses her love of design, adventures in parenting and teaching background as inspiration for her writing on numer...

Keep your kids busy in the car

Are we there yet? How much longer? I'm bored! These are just some of the things you might hear your children say while on a family road trip. But with these fun car games you can reduce the boredom, interact with your kids and make the trip feel shorter for all of you!

Mom on road trip with kids

Car games for little kids

It's no secret that preschoolers have a ton of energy. A preschooler seated in a car seat for longer than 20 minutes at a time is usually long enough to make you rethink road trips altogether. So how do you keep a young child's attention? Try Interactive, short, easy and fast-paced car games — and change it up frequently!

Car game ideas for toddlers, preschoolers and younger children.

  • Magna DoodleDraw it: Call out letters, numbers, animals and places, but instead of dealing with messy markers, use a Magna Doodle.
  • Nursery rhymes and songs: Brush up on your nursery rhymes and toddler songs! Little ones love to sing their favorite tunes from preschool and playgroups.
  • I Spy: Before you embark on your road trip, strategically place large, colorful items around your car and within your child's view from his or her car seat.

Tip

Stickers work the best for I Spy play while in the car, as they don't become a projectile object in the event of an accident.

Surviving long car rides with young children >>

Car games for older kids

Older kids enjoy learning new things, being active and being creative — even while in the car.

  • Travel memory: The Melissa and Doug Flip to Win Memory Game is perfect for the car because it has no loose pieces.
  • I Spy: Challenge your kids with a game of I Spy while on the move.
  • Travel Bingo: Bingo is a classic road trip game. The Flip to Win Travel Bingo set makes playing in the car fun and easy.
  • travel version of license plate gameAlphabet game: Encourage your kids to explore their surroundings to find the letters of the alphabet on road signs, license plates and other signage visible from the road.
  • License plates: Make a list of the U.S. states and silently check off each one as you see a matching license plate. Then set a number and the first person to reach that number wins. Melissa and Doug makes a travel version for children older than 8.
  • Name that tune: Make a playlist of your family's favorite songs and ask your kids to guess the name of the song and the artist.
  • Finish the song: After guessing the name of the song and the artist's name, stop the music to see if your kids can finish the rest of the song on their own.
  • Punch buggy: Punch buggy is a more physical car game where you punch your neighbor (lightly) whenever you see a VW Beatle. Theresa Seid and her husband travel with their 5-year-old daughter often: "We play punch buggy! It helps to get our aggression out."

Why do kids need parent-interactive car games?

Road trips are a perfect excuse to get your kids away from anything with a screen. According a study published in Pediatrics, television and video game exposure has been associated with attention problems in children. Currently, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a maximum of two hours per day of screen time — that includes TV, computers, video games and handheld games. But even then, researchers found that children who were using their two hours of "screen time" each day were up to two times more likely to be above average with attention problems.

What else can you do in the car with kids?

When you've run out of games, let your child choose from two new age-appropriate books and have him read out loud to you or play an audiobook — if your child gets carsick while reading in the car.

How vacations make kids smarter >>

More travel fun for kids

Top travel toys for kids
Travel kits for kids: 15 ideas
Travel with kids: Give a kid a camera

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