Thursday, August 1, 2013

8 No-prep, No supplies needed Car Games for Toddlers & Preschoolers

We have been traveling a lot this summer and, let me tell you, traveling with a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and an infant is not exactly a walk in the park. Our sanity saver is our built-in DVD player. But, because we don't want the kids watching movies for hours on end (cough *we haven't done that* cough) and because sometimes movies just can't beat the "I'm bored" chorus from the back seat, we've come up with a list of games we can play with our little ones in the car. And the best part of all? No preparation, no supplies! These are all games that Reed (who is 4.5 years) can play easily; Asher (2.5 years) can play most of the games easily, and some of the games he can join in on with a little help.

1. ABC game
This game is very simple. You start with the letter "A." You look for the letter on billboards, street signs, license plates, restaurants--in any printed form. When someone spots the letter, they yell out the name of the letter and you move on to the next letter in the alphabet. Our boys also like to spell out words--we'll look for "R" "E" "E" "D" then
"A" "S" "H" "E" "R." If your kids are older,
they can compete to see who can find all the letters in the alphabet first. This game works best in areas that have a lot of signs or billboards around. We generally use it on our drives to California--once we hit San Bernadino coming down I-15 N, there are cities non-stop to Grandma's house! This game is one that Asher has a little more trouble with, but he still loves it. He generally picks out whatever letter he wants (in order or not!) and looks for that letter.

2. Family Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story
This game is a recent find for us. Either Ryan or I start telling a made-up story. We usually give a few sentences and set up a cliff-hanger in the plot. Then Reed picks up where we left off in our story and adds whatever he feels would be exciting. Next, Asher usually adds a line or two to the story. Then Ryan or I wrap the story up somehow. We've come up with some quite interesting tales, and the boys are generally cracking up with laughter by the end.

3. I Spy
This game is a favorite in our car. One person is chosen to be "it." They choose an object inside or outside the car, then say, "I spy, with my little eye,!" (Insert whatever color the object is that they spy). Then everyone else in the car tries to guess what the object is. So, for example, Reed might say, "I spy, with my little eye, something...GREEN!" We'd guess: "Trees?" (NO) "Bush?" (NO) "Exit sign?" (YES!) Whoever guesses correctly gets to "spy" the next object. This game is great because it can be played essentially anywhere, especially if you include objects inside your car as fair game to "spy." Reed can play this game quite well; Asher is good at guessing and, after a few rounds, got the hang of "spying."

4. Freeze Dance!
From the time the boys were little, we've played music that Ryan and I like while we drive in the car. All the songs we play are clean and aren't anything too heavy or loud; they're kid-friendly without being adult-annoying. The boys' current favorite bands are Jimmy Eat World, Dave Matthews Band, Coldplay, and Lost Lander. Luckily, each of these bands lends itself well to a game we all love: freeze dance. The game is simple: everyone dances when I yell, "Dance!" and freezes in place when I yell, "Freeze!" This game is great for all ages and help get some of the wiggles out.

5. 20 Questions
When Ryan decided to try playing 20 Questions with Reed, I thought Ryan was crazy. But Reed ended up loving 20 Questions and now asks to play it all. the. time. 20 Questions is pretty simple: one person chooses a person, place, or thing. The other person can ask 20 yes-or-no questions, and, at the end of the 20 questions, guesses what the person, place, or thing is. We use a simplified version of 20 Questions to help Reed out. First, we always choose a tangible object (no places or people, generally) he can see while we're  playing. Second, Reed generally has a "team mate" who can give him ideas for questions if he gets stuck (e.g. maybe you should find out what the object is made of, or maybe you should find out what color the object is). Reed also likes to be the person who chooses the object and answers the questions. He generally has a team mate for this role, as well, but, honestly, he's really good at answering the questions himself. Asher can't really play this one, but is always game to listen and chime in questions when he comes up with them.

6. Rainbow Game
This game is similar to the ABC game above, but is a little simpler for younger children. One person calls out a color, then everyone looks at objects outside or inside the car to see if they can find an object in that color. For example, if I chose the color "brown" someone might find "dirt" or "mountain" or "tree trunk." Try to find all the colors of the rainbow! If you have a wide age variety, you could require the older kids to find three or four objects of the color while the younger kids are only required to find one.

7. Cloud Shapes
A classic game, right? I had kind of forgotten about this one until Reed was pointing out how cool the clouds looked one day. A light bulb went on,
and we have been playing the Cloud Shape
game ever since. If you haven't played this
game, here are the basics: everyone searches
the clouds in the sky and tries to see shapes
in the clouds. For example, the cloud
pictured could be a whale, a submarine,
a ski-doo, or anything! Kids come up with some fantastic shapes in the clouds.

8. Tell jokes/Play "What if"
My boys love to hear jokes. And they always laugh, even if the joke makes no sense whatsoever. Lately, they have started to make their own jokes, which, truth be told, aren't exactly "funny" yet. (Reed's latest: Here's a joke! Lila can swim by herself! [Lila is currently 6 months old and is not at all close to swimming]) If I don't laugh, Reed says, "Mom, start laughing now." Anyway, you can tell your kids jokes, you can "laugh" at their jokes, you can be generally goofy and your kids will (likely) love it. One sure way to get my kids laughing is to play the "what if" game when we're telling jokes. You say "What if (insert person's name) (insert hilarious situation)" For example: "What if Reed turned into a dog!" "What if Asher ate the car!" Hilarity ensues.

There are, of course, many games you can play with supplies or materials prepared beforehand. But, if you're in a pinch (or too busy/lazy, like me!), these games are fantastic.

For an extensive list of car games and activities for all ages, check out of great ideas there!
Moms - Road Trip games and car travel games for kids!

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