Traveling with kids can be just like the road you are driving on- smooth sailing one moment, frustrating traffic jam the next. As any seasoned parent knows, a pleasant peaceful trip can, at the turn of a bend, become a loud and frustrating experience. To prepare yourself for the moment when one kid looks at another the wrong way or any of the myriad of seemingly insignificant moments that turn into backseat World War III, you need the power of distraction in your bag of driver’s seat tricks. Here are my tried and true favorite car traveling games that will take their bored minds off of each other and into some good old-fashioned family car trip fun.
The Alphabet Game
This game is great for kids ages 6+. It takes about 10-15 minutes to play and all you need is a piece of paper to keep score. To play, kids look out the window and find something that begins with each letter of the alphabet, starting with A. The first person to call out a word beginning with the letter you are on gets a point and everyone then moves on to the next letter. Once you get through each letter, the person with the most points wins.
Tip: For tougher letters like X, the word just has to have the letter in it.
Trick: Give double points for being creative and using adjective + noun combos. For example, if you are on the letter C and someone spots a yellow car, saying “canary car” will score 2 points.
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Alphabet I Spy Bingo
The same as the Alphabet Game above, this adds a twist by scrambling all the letters on unique bingo cards. First, print Alphabet I Spy bingo. Play like the Alphabet Game, but instead the first person to find a word beginning with, say, the letter A, is the only one who gets to mark that space on their bingo card. You can also mix it up by allowing letters to be called out of order. See something that begins with D? Call it out and mark the space with D on your card. Just need something that begins with a T to win? Spot it, call it, and Bingo!
Tip: Be sure to decide before playing what will constitute a bingo for that game. Row/diagonal/column? Cover all? X?
Trick: Laminate bingo cards before the trip or place them on magnetic sheets. Then bring along dry erase markers and old socks to use as erasers or colorful magnets. Not only do you save paper, but you now have a game you can use again and again.
The three variations of this game is perfect for long highway trips and depending on how you play, it can take 15 minutes for a regular bingo to several hours to find all of the items on the card. These games are great because there are many ways to play as well as rule variations that keep them interesting. Here are some of the most popular car bingo games as well as tips and tricks to keep it interesting for the long road ahead.
50 States License Plates Bingo
This game is good for an elementary-aged audience. Print 50 States License Plates bingo cards at the beginning of the trip and explain what constitutes a bingo (row/column/diagonal or cover all). Kids then look at license plates of cars that go by, calling states that they see and marking their cards accordingly.
License Plate I Spy
This game is a challenge for older audiences- teens and adults included. Print License Plate I Spy bingo cards from BingoCardCreator.com before leaving. To play, participants must find on license plates the letter or number combinations listed on their bingo card. Just like 50 State License Plate bingo, they call it when they see it and mark their card accordingly.
Tip: Use traditional bingo cards or make your own. Play the same way by finding bingo combos like B5 or G54 in license plate numbers.
Trick: Set a timer and have a prize. These games can be very engaging but because they will take a little while, motivating with a set amount of time or a prize will help keep everyone in the game.
Perfect for the youngest passengers, these smaller 3×3 cards have just the right size and colorful content to engage little ones during a long car ride. Simply print I Spy Colors bingo and bring them along.
Tip: Instead of crayons to mark cards, try using mini-stampers. Better yet, laminate the cards and use crayons to mark with an old sock or glove for an eraser.
Trick: Use the words-only color bingo cards for a fun game for older children.
Finally, these games make a great DIY gift. Use any of the premade cards or create your own set based on your child’s special interests using Bingo Card Creator. Use the trick of laminating bingo cards or placing them on magnetic sheets. Throw in some dry erase markers or magnets and even some prizes. You now have a truly unique and personalized family gift.