Road-trip activities and games for kids

Mar 20, 2015

For me growing up, road-trips were our main type of holiday, as we made the yearly trip from Melbourne up to visit relatives in NSW and QLD. 

I have many fond memories of great playgrounds along the way, endless stretches of highway and beautiful scenery, eating Callipos (the least drippy frozen treat my parents could buy from service stations), singing in the car (anything from my obsession with Phantom of the Opera after seeing it live, to Peter Combe and his bubble-gum-teeth-bushing antics) and countless rounds of "I-spy." 

Back then (I'm talking the mid 80's to mid 90's), we certainly didn't have any movie playing capacities in our car, and whilst it was usually hard to pry a book from my hands, my travel-sickness when looking down for long periods meant them and the hand-held games my younger brothers sometimes played, weren't an option for me on our road-trips.

These days, there are portable dvd players and they can be good for road-trips. I don't mind a movie here or there, but personally, I don't want my children watching a screen the entire road-trip as there is just so much more fun to be had! 

There are so many great car games you can play. According to a recent RACV survey, 5% of Australian families say they play games like “I-spy” in the car, with more than 5 times that amount relying on the ipad to entertain the kids instead. What has happened to our Aussie tradition?

For us, singing to music will probably always be our number 1 favourite road-trip activity so I would definitely load up on great music before I go. 

In addition to that, I like to be prepared before I go with a few bits and bobs that are going to make the journey that little bit more fun, engaging and exciting. 

Here are some of our other favourite road trip games and any printables that you need to go along with them.

Road Sign Bingo

I love activities that involve the kids looking out the window. The conversations that we end up having from questions the children ask due to things spotted out of the windows are priceless. 

Also, as someone who often felt car-sick, looking out the window tended to help so I am sure to include activities that don't involve staring down for long periods of time. 

Playing Road Sign bingo is also a good way to talk about and learn more about road and safety rules.

To play road sign bingo, you can easily make your own bingo cards using road sign clipart from your country, off the net and adding them into a simple table format in Word.

If you're in Australia you can print out the printable Australian Road Sign bingo cards that I made and pop them in a glad bag with some markers. (For reusable road bingo cards, laminate and use with a whiteboard marker.)

Depending on the age of the kids and how long you want the game to go for, you can have winners for spotting all the signs in one row or have players spot all the signs on their board first to win.

LEGO I-Spy Bag

For those kids that don't get sick looking down, this easy to make I-Spy bag should keep children hunting for a while. 

I tend to hold on to this sort of activity until you really need it. 

If a child is getting upset or someone needs to be distracted, it's easy to pull out. 

You could make multiple bags for multiple children and add an extra challenge with a stop watch to time how long it takes each child to find all the items in the bag.

For younger children, you can use larger and fewer LEGO pieces. You could also make a similar toy in a plastic bottle for extra durability.

You will have to make your own printable for this one as the items each person has at home will be slightly different.

Just assemble any little LEGO items (or any small items, they don't have to be lego at all) and take a photo of them. 

Print out the photo and attach it to your I-Spy Bag so that you know what you're searching for.

Alphabet I-Spy

Similar to the classic "I-spy" where you search out the window for objects starting with a particular letter, this Alphabet I-Spy takes the learning up one notch by challenging children to spot at least one item starting with each letter of the alphabet.

Some letters are very simple whilst others will take quite some time to spot.

Give the children their own copy of these printable Alphabet I-Spy check list so they can cross off each letter as they find it. 

You can also print off this Alphabet I-Spy Cheat list for suggestions for each letter of the alphabet. Laminate them for durability and to make them reusable.

You can also try a variation of this game, using the same alphabet check list by challenging children to find the written letters themselves along the journey. Look out for signs and going through towns with shops as these will be full of letters and different items that could help you on your quest.

Shopping Trip Memory Game

A classic memory game that we used to play as a child that is perfect for playing in the car. I know there are many variations but here is how we play.

One person starts by saying "I went to the shops and bought ________ (eg. an apple).

The second person repeats the same as the first person plus adds in their own item, eg. "I went to the shops and bought "an apple" and "a giraffe."

The third person repeats all that has been said so far and then adds their own item, eg. "I went to the shops and bought an apple, a giraffe and a blue pencil" and so on and so forth.

The game continues with players going out if they can't remember the items until there is just one player left, the winner.

We generally don't focus too much on the winner of the game, more the hilarity that can ensue from trying to think of the craziest and funniest items that you could buy at the shop.

You could of course mix it up by saying "I went on a road trip and I saw _______" instead.

Group Story Telling

As a fun creative thinking game, we enjoy making up a story where each person takes turns to add a line.

One person might begin with, "Once upon a time there was a little girl called Maddie" the second person might continue with, "who had a pet dragon that was purple with yellow spots" and so on and so forth.

You never know where the stories are going to go and they usually result in lots of laughs and further conversation.

Licence Plate Games

There are lots of great games that you can play from looking at license plates. Here are a couple of ideas.

  • Search for licence plates covering all letters of the alphabet. The letter you are hunting for must be the first letter on the licence plate. The first person to spot a license plate starting with each letter of the alphabet is the winner.
  • Make up words from licence plates by rearranging the letters to give passing cars a name. You may need to add some vowels (a, e, i, o, u) to make proper names.
  • Win points for every interstate license plate you see. If you're driving through a different state to your own, win double points for spotting a licence plate from your state and 1 point for licence plates from states other than the one you're driving through. Keep tally and the person with the highest score at your destination, wins.
  • Try and spot numbers, in order, as high as you can go. You can find multiple numbers on the same licence plate but all 2 and 3 digit numbers must have the numbers in the correct order. For example, if a licence plate had the numbers "123 in that order, the numbers that you could spot are 1, 2, 3, 12, 23 or 123. 

Do you have any favourite road-trip games? Let us know in the comments. We love adding more ideas to our stash.

Happy playing and safe travels,
Debs :)

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