We’ve had some long car trips recently and have had to come up with ways to keep the kids engaged and occupied. Here are some easy do-it-yourself car games that we’ve used recently that have been successful!
What to bring:
So a great shortcut is to have an awesome sister-in-law (sorry, mine is taken), who sends your kids great presents including the car kits to the left. Basically paper, stickers, and Crayola Twistable Crayons, which are my new favorite product because the kids can’t break them, I don’t have to sharpen them, and they can press down enough to draw in the car but can’t accidentally draw on themselves. Also these cool pouches that I tried to search for so I could tell you what they’re called, but no luck. They are great because each kid got their own, they don’t weigh much, and the sliding tab is easy to open (again, let me reiterate that my sister-in-law is taken!) But really you could just bring a ziploc bag with some paper, dollar store stickers, and crayons.
Car Game 1: DIY Bingo
Do-it-yourself car bingo was born out of necessity once the kids had finished coloring, singing, etc. For the first round, I tore some paper from their notebooks, drew columns, wrote the names of some common items we’d see out the window (house, sign, store, car, truck) and used their Twistables to color in the top headers in different colors. For my youngest I drew some terrible little pictures of a car, a house, etc., since she can’t read, and she sort of got the concept that a brown house meant to put a mark in the box with a picture of the car in the row and the brown scribbles at the top of the column. Mostly she was happy to just play and made random marks when she saw something. Everyone else had words in the rows and colors in the columns, and then had to look out the window to find the different combinations and yell out and mark the right box when they saw something. And of course five in a row meant you got to yell “BINGO!” and do the Bingo dance (don’t ask).
The beautiful bonus to this was that my kindergartner loved it so much that she wanted to play again and make the “special Bingo sheets”. So for round 2 I did the grids and then she carefully wrote five common objects in the rows on each card, and then she and my youngest picked and filled in the colors at the top. I totally felt like Tom Sawyer getting his friends to whitewash the fence by positioning it as a great privilege. They spend a ton of time working on the Bingo cards and talking about what to choose – I think they had more fun making them than playing the actual game. It led to some funny goals, like needing to find purple and green dogs, but even that started them off on conversations about what colors dogs could be and asking questions about why animals have different color fur and other random good stuff. So I highly recommend doing this with your kids in the car – we probably filled a good hour with all of the car Bingo activities before hearing “I’m bored”.
Car Game 2: Vehicle stickers search-and-find
We had some vehicle stickers in the bags (I think I bought these on Amazon and stuck them in), so we also did another search-and-find game with those stickers. I gave everybody part of a sheet and said we were all going to try to find the vehicles on our sheet, and when we did they could put the stickers on their special notebooks. It didn’t end up working this way, but the car stickers still were fun and ate up some miles – this was great for kids who are too young for the license plate game. One of my kids found an index card (who knows what is in our car) and decided that to put the stickers on as close together as possible once they’d been found. Whatever works. . .
You can also buy versions of these things online, which I discovered after the fact when trying to figure out the exact car stickers that I bought (apparently they have disappeared. Also if you search for car stickers you will get a ton of results related to the movie “Cars”, which is not what I was looking for!). Crayola has basically done what my sister-in-law did, which is to make a nice case with paper, twistable crayons, and stickers, although I’m not sure what kind of stickers they are. Seems pretty reasonable, though.
For the car sticker game, Melissa & Doug makes a Vehicle-themed Reusable Sticker Pad, which for less than five bucks is probably a pretty good bet. It’s got 165 stickers and a bunch of reusable backgrounds, but it’s also fairly big (we have this same product with other themes at home), and I liked the way the game could evolve with just stickers and paper. Still, may be up someone’s alley.