Car Games

Dashboard with interstate highway visible out the window

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Passing the Miles and the Time

Dashboard with interstate highway visible out the window

  • What: Games to play in the car
  • When: The batteries die on their electronics
  • Why: Keep the kids from whining
  • Where: On the road

Emergency stashes of toys and busy boxes will only buy you so much time. If you prefer non-electronic entertainment or you just can’t handle listening to Dora the Explorer as background noise for the third straight hour, break up the monotony with some of these classic road games.

Close up from Where's Waldo book
Limit I Spy games to the interior of the car to keep everyone happier.

I Spy: I Spy works anywhere, but for cars you have to set some specific boundaries. As much fun as it can be to spy something outside the car that no one will guess for the next twenty miles, only one person gets to enjoy the thrill, not the whole car. Limit spied items to those contained inside the car and the game will last much longer for everyone involved. Even the youngest talkers can play this game, though their items will probably not be as original or hard to guess.

wooden abc letters on white background
Take turns coming up with items that start with each letter of the alphabet.

Alphabet Fun: You can also take turns coming up with animals or other items following the letters of the alphabet. You can use names, like Alice, Barney, and Cecelia. Or limit the names to one gender for more of a challenge. You can go the animal route, too, but watch out for N and X! Or you can try and name vehicles that start with each letter of the alphabet. Airplanes, balloons (hot air, of course), and cars all fit the bill for that version. Food works well, too, from fruits and veggies to anything else your heart desires. If you want the advanced version or for the game to last even longer, trying combining them all: Alice the alligator took an airplane while eating apples. You get the idea.

Kentucky Horse Park sign
Bingo! I spotted a horse. Unlike I Spy, in this challenge items outside the car are fair game.

Car Bingo: This game requires a little more prep in general (or a willingness to share your phone if you have enough phones per child), but you can make it work on the fly, too. Each kid needs to complete a row or column of things you might spot along a drive, from the easy stuff (trucks) to tougher items, like flags, all the way down to sandwiches and fish. It encourages kids to look out the window and notice their changing surroundings. If you don’t have a bingo board handy, you can simply see who can spot an item first and keep score. Bonus points for hard to find items, like chickens or turtles. You can also play the same game with different car brands: Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen, etc. The possibilities are only as limited as how much time you have left to kill in the car with kids.

When all else fails, stop the car, run around, use the bathroom, and get a bite to eat. When you get back in your vehicle, maybe everyone will be ready for another round of all of the above.

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