Every parent is familiar with the tyranny of a long distance drive with young children.

The boredom causes their poor little attention spans to shrivel up to nothing and erupt in a cloud of complaints and pleas for some kind of distraction. Before long, the familiar refrain of “are we there yet?” starts erupting, raising tensions and frustrations and generally making for an unpleasant latter part of the journey.

Well, kids will be kids.

But there are plenty of ways, with a little imagination, we can enjoy these long periods of inactivity and help our children to expand their minds in new and fun directions.

Note: Games 7, 8 and 9 require knowledge of the alphabet so might be more appropriate for other children. Alternatively you can adapt them to use numbers instead of letters.

  1. Spot the Animal!

If you find yourself in a more rural setting, this is a game the kids love. All they need to do is keep their eyes peeled for animals – and when they see one, make the noise that animal makes.

For each noise made, they gain a point; first to five wins!

  1. Make a Story Game

This is a fun one to stretch your children’s imagination. You start a ‘story’ by saying the first sentence. Then, your child continues by saying the second sentence, taking turns back and forth.

With a child’s imagination, it’s always fun where these stories go!

  1. The Rhyming Game

A simple classic, you say a word and then your child says a word that rhymes with that word. Then take turns saying rhyming words until you run out, then it’s your child’s turn to start again with a new word.

This game is great for helping a child’s auditory discrimination and well as developing their language skills.

  1. The Just Plain Silly Game

This game is all about absurdity, so of course children love it. The object is simple – no matter how funny it gets, the first person to laugh loses.

Start with a nominated object; for example, a hat. Then ask your child a series of questions, to which they have to answer “a hat”.

For example: “What did you eat for breakfast?” “Who is your best friend?” “What do you brush your teeth with?”

With the fast buildup of absurdity, your child will find it very hard not to lose this one!

  1. Count the Cars

Another game to keep your children fixated on the world around them, simply name a color and have them yell out when they see a car of that color, scoring a point. The first to 20 wins (or however high your child can count)!

  1. The Curiosity Game

 This is a great game for learning more about each other and the way we see the world. One person poses a question, like: “If you owned a zoo, which five animals would you most like to have?” The others answer in turn.

It’s surprising how the answers can deviate from what you would expect. You can also gain intelligence by asking questions like: “what vegetables do you most like” or, more deeply, “what makes you happy?”

Because it’s part of the game, children are often more open with their responses.

  1. License Plates

This is a game that will really work on your children’s patience, and is probably best played in a more urban setting, where they will be able to see lots of license plates around.

It’s based on letter recognition and played like this:

Either pip your children head to head, or otherwise work together. The object of the game is to find a license plate containing the letter ‘A’; once somebody has found the letter ‘A’, they move onto ‘B’, and so on, until they reach the letter ‘Z’ and the game is over.

If your child is a big younger, you might instead prefer to use the numbers zero to nine.

In any case, this is a simple game that can be played over and over again and will constantly change.

  1. Complete the Alphabet

This is another game where the object is to complete the alphabet from A to Z.

In this case, we do it by identifying an object whose first letter is A (e.g. an ‘Apple Tree’), then an object starting with ‘B’, and so on.

This is a great game for helping your children relate words and letters to objects, as well as – if you include words on signs – their reading comprehension skills.

  1. I went on a Picnic

This is a classic game we often play in the Preschool environment to assist with memory and ordering our thoughts.

Here’s how it goes:

One player says: “I went to a picnic Saturday and I brought…” then names an object, beginning with the letter A, that one might bring to a picnic (e.g. Apple Juice).

The next player says: “I went to a picnic Saturday and I brought…” they repeat the ‘A’ item then add one that begins with ‘B’: “I brought apple juice and some biscuits.”

The process continues, with one object being added each time. How far can your little troopers make it through the alphabet? Feel free to offer hints, but can you remember them all?

This game gets really challenging towards the end, when you need to think of a picnic item beginning with X!

  1. I Spy

No top ten list would be complete without I Spy.

A stalwart for many decades, this game has helped innumerable parents get through the challenge of a long road trip, while stretching their little children’s brains – often to nearly breaking point!

Here’s how it works; look around you and pick an object you can see. Sing the line “I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with [first letter of object]”.

Then, your children will quiz you on what the object is. You are only allowed to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The first person to guess the object correctly become the spy.

Depending on how old your child is, you can simplify the game but playing “I spy, with my little eye, something that is [insert color]”.

Conclusion

Your next family road trip doesn’t have to be a tortuous experience; with these games, you can entertain your children in an educational way and help those hours just fly by.