How To Entertain Kids (Screen Free!) On Long Car Rides

by Lucy Baker July 08, 2017 6 min read

How To Entertain Kids (Screen Free!) On Long Car Rides

Traveling in the car for hours is boring for adults, so it is no surprise that our kids need rather a lot of entertaining on such journeys. In this post we hope to give you some fun ways to get the whole family involved in a variety of time-passing car ride games.

I will start off by sharing five all-time classics before giving you some of my own unique car ride game creations.

1. I-Spy

This has to be the ultimate car ride game for generations old and new. The most common version involves the player saying 'I spy with my little eye..... something beginning with the letter t'. All other passengers have to guess the object, with the winner being the next one to make the I spy statement. There are a few ways to vary the game if you are travelling with younger children. In our family we often play I spy colours which simply involves the player naming a colour and the passengers guessing objects of that colour. We also sometimes play I spy shapes and numbers depending on how diverse the scenery is that we are passing.

2. The Alphabet Game

Simply choose a topic (e.g. animals, sports, countries, foods etc.) and take it in turns to go through the alphabet one letter at a time, naming something from the subject beginning with that letter. If travelling with younger children you can always play this in teams so that you can give them some hints. With older kids why not put a timer on to add some pressure and competition to the game. You can also vary the subject to suit the age of the players.

3. Word Association

If you have a toddler in your family I urge you to play this purely for some giggles. My son came up with some hilarious answers. One passenger decides on a starting word. The next passenger in the car then says the first word that comes into their mind that is related to the starting word. You are not allowed to pause or hesitate and you lose if you repeat a word. This game perfectly reveals the bizarre and endearing ways that a toddler's brain works! 

4. I'm Going on a Picnic......

This is a fun memory game that works well with children of about 3 plus. The first player says 'I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing a cake'. The next player says 'I'm going on a picnic and I'm bringing a cake and a sandwich'. Each time the next passenger has to remember and repeat the other picnic items before adding a new one. To make this more challenging for older kids you can implement the rule that food items are added in alphabetical order (e.g. apples, bananas, cakes, donuts etc.). Alternatively you can add a number to each item (e.g. 3 apples, 1 banana, 10 cakes, 2 donuts etc.) that also has to be remembered.

5. What if......

This game is great for developing creative minds. Simply start with a bold statement such as 'what if the car grew wings and flew up into the sky', or 'what if we saw a shark on the road'. All passengers then get to comment on the statement and you can even develop elaborate stories as a family based on the statements.

1. Vehicle Tally

My son loves all things that go so I made him a vehicle tally game to keep him occupied in the car. It was so simple to make. I added some vehicle stickers to white card stock and then next to each sticker I put a strip of dry erase tape. I put the card on a clipboard and gave him a whiteboard marker. All he had to do was tally every time he saw each type of vehicle. That was enough to keep him entertained for a good hour! It also provided a nice link to learning about counting and how to tally.

2. Can you Get a Wave......

This is just a silly little game and to be honest my husband and I love it just as much as my son does. One passenger says 'can you get a wave from..... a bus driver?'. We then all keep our eyes peeled and frantically wave at bus drivers until we get a response. You can seek waves from different types of vehicles or you can describe the colour of the car or even a feature of the driver. For example, 'can you get a wave from.... someone wearing sunglasses?'. Obviously make sure you do this only when you are stopped at lights to avoid distracting other drivers!

3. Draw a Map

My son loves doing this. Simply put a starting spot and end destination on a piece of paper and ask your child to draw the driver a map of how to get there. We then take the map on the journey with us and ask my son to read out the 'directions'. I sometimes put it on a clipboard and give him a crayon so that he can add landmarks as we go (e.g. bridges, tunnels, gas stations etc.).

 4. Story Switch

Anyone else got a little one who is obsessed with story-telling and being told stories? They will love this game for sure. Decide on a passenger to start telling a story, it can be about absolutely anything. With my family we play that whenever we stop at a red light a new passenger takes over telling the story. The new passenger can take the story in any direction they wish. You can make different things cause the story to switch such as turning left or turning right, passing a blue or green sign, or changing lanes. There have been some epic stories created as a result of this game. The only problem is that my toddler wants them all to be re-told as bedtime stories and I can never remember all of the details!

5. My New Best Friend

This game is great for slightly older kids. All it involves is the player saying 'I have a new best friend'. The new best friend can be anyone- a tv character, a pop star, a relative, a superhero etc. The only rule is that the new best friend must be someone that all passengers recognise. The aim of the game is for passengers to ask questions to try and guess who the new best friend is, but the main player is only allowed to answer yes or no. My son has got a little predictable and usually chooses a Thomas the Tank Engine character. My husband and I will ask questions like 'does your new best friend have wheels?', 'is your new best friend big?', 'is your new best friend fast?', or 'is your new best friend blue?'. With younger kids it works well to stick to a theme that they are very familiar with. Older kids will love choosing more challenging best friends that will keep you guessing for miles in the car.

I would love to be able to time warp you to your final destination but unfortunately those super powers aren't yet in my repertoire. So for now you will have to accept the above list of screen free car ride games as my best offering. Embrace the opportunity to Make Time Together instead of relying on screens. I promise that you will have lots of laughs along the way.


Creative QT designs quality + innovative toys that declutter homes and inspire creative play. Founded by parents of five, Adam and Dana Sue Hinkle, Creative QT’s vision is to empower parents and encourage a culture of families that Make Time Together. All products are designed to enrich families’ lives through active, creative play and play based learning. Creative QT products are laboratory tested for compliance with CPSC requirements and are free of lead, cadmium and phthalates so you can play with confidence. So, go ahead … today is the day: be your kid’s hero.

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Lucy Baker
Lucy Baker

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