Long car journeys with kids can be difficult, as you try to keep them occupied while doing your best to concentrate on the road.
But there’s a simple, tried and tested solution: family car games.
They’re fun, help get your children’s creative juices flowing, and as an added bonus, they’re free. If you - or even better, another adult in the car - can entertain your kids with them, it’ll make for a happier and safer journey.
You might need to brush up on some of the classics. So here are eleven of the best.
1. I spy
You probably know this one. In brief: “I spy with my little eye something beginning with…. (insert first letter of an object within sight)”. And everyone attempts to guess what it is.
If your kids are really little, they can take part by inserting a colour rather than a letter, such as “I spy something green”.
2. Guess the animal?
“I’m black and white striped and lions try and eat me. What animal am I?”
You can make this game as simple or tricky as you want.
3. Who can stay quiet the longest?
Yes, it’s a cop out, but why not? Your little ones are likely to play along because it’s a competition. Bliss.
4. Car bingo
Your child has a list of either the names or pictures of objects to spot. Think the likes of tractors, horses and helicopters - there are plenty of free printable sheets online.
When they see them, circle or tick off the item on the list. The first child to complete a row or column wins the game.
Alternatively, provide your child with a piece of paper with the alphabet written on it. They then look out for an object for each letter and write it on there. It’s great practise for those learning to write.
5. Name That Tune
Try humming a nursery rhyme and seeing who can guess what it is. Getting young children to take their turn and try and hum one themselves can be a recipe for hilarity.
6. Counting games
Challenge the children to see how many red cars (or cows or planes or sets of traffic lights) they can count in one minute. Or alternatively, the first person to see 10 red cars wins.
7. I’m going on a picnic
There are many variations on this memory-testing game, which can turn into a lot of silly fun. But it basically goes around like this:
“I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to take a plum”
“I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to take a plum and a turkey sandwich”
“I’m going on a picnic and I’m going to take a plum, a turkey sandwich and an Easter egg”
And so on, reeling them all off until someone forgets one of the items and it’s game over.
You can tweak this game to introduce rules about what can be brought along, or only allow items starting with a certain letter.
8. Invent a story
Take it in turns to invent a story. The first person starts with a simple line such as “Once upon a time, a brave knight was riding through the forest on her trusty white horse…”, and then everyone takes it in turns to add another sentence.
You can take your story in all sorts of random directions, the wackier the better.
9. Quick-thinking word association
Made famous by Timmy Mallet, there’s no time to dwell on this one. Start with any word you like and the next person must quickly say an associated word. For example, ‘pancake’ could be followed by ‘batter’, which might be followed by ‘fish’. And so on. If you’re too slow, you lose. No “umming” and “ahhing” allowed.
10. Musical alphabet
This game is good for ending squabbles about what music to play in the car.
All you need is an extensive music library (whether that be Spotify, Apple, Amazon or a huge number of CDs). The first person chooses a song or artist to play starting with the letter A, the next person B and so on, taking it in turns to choose which tracks to play all the way to Z.
It’s an opportunity to have a bit of a laugh about each other’s taste in music. Time will fly and before you know it, you’ll be minutes from your destination.
11. One good thing about today
After some games and giddiness, this is a calmer option, especially if you’re driving at the end of the day. Take it in turns to share one good thing that happened to you that day.