“Are we there yet?”
“His foot is on my side!”
“She keeps looking at me!”
“He’s hogging the crayons!”
“She ate the last cookie!”
“Moooom! I gotta GOOOO!”

Ah, the joys of road trips with kids.

Whether it’s having to sit in one place for an extended period of time or the fact that kids of all ages struggle with the concept of waiting, taking a road trip of any length with your kids can really, well, drive you crazy!

While there is no cure-all to boredom (seriously, if you find one, please share), having some car game ideas to pass the time can definitely make your trip more enjoyable.

Here are a few car games for kids that are free and require very little in the way of preparation or supplies.

Color Tag

As a variation on the classic “I Spy,” try playing “color tag” with the items you can see as you drive. There are a few different ways you can play, but in each variation once an item is tagged, it’s no longer in play.

  • Pick a color, and everyone in the car takes a turn finding something of that color. When they find it, they “tag” it by saying the color and the object, such as “Tag! Red stop sign!” and then play passes to the next person. Once everyone has “tagged” an item of that color, pick a new color.
  • Set a number of items to find of a certain color (such as 3 blue items). The first one to find that number of items wins, and gets to choose the color for the next round.
  • Pick a color for the person sitting closest to you. Once they “tag” an item of that color, they choose a color for the next person.

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Name that Tune

Take turns humming a song that you all enjoy, such as a show’s theme song or a favorite from the radio. The catch is that you can’t sing any of the words to help anyone guess!

Imagination Math

My youngest daughter and I started playing this car game once she started learning some basic math in preschool. What’s fun about it is that you can very easily modify it based on what your child is learning in school, or by using it to practice skills they’re struggling with.

Think of a word problem that they can easily imagine using everyday objects, or characters from their favorite show or book. Use simple addition and subtraction to start, and then increase the difficulty as they get older. To keep your kids engaged in the game (and subtly reinforce the math lesson), take turns and have them come up with questions for you, too!

  • “If you had 5 flowers and I had 3 flowers, how many flowers would we have altogether?”
  • “If the box had 10 cookies inside and Cookie Monster ate 3, how many would be left in the box?”
  • “If Taylor read 3 books, Ryan read 2 books, and Olivia read 4 books, how many books did they read?”

Shape Spotting

Something that both of my girls found to be fun when they started learning shapes was looking for them wherever we went, so we made it into a car game. (We’ve also played it in the grocery store.) Pick a shape and see who can find 3 of that shape first (rectangular signs, windows, etc.). Whoever finds that number first wins, and gets to pick the next shape to find. As your kids get older, expand your options to include 3-dimensional shapes.

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Click It!

This is a favorite car game in our family (though I have no idea where the name came from!). Choose a color that is a common car color, and pick a number to be the winning number (we usually play to at least 10). Anytime you see a car of that color, say “click it!” The trick is to “click” a car before someone else does, because once a car has been “clicked,” no one else can add it to their count. The first one who “clicks” the designated number of cars wins, and gets to pick the next color.

License Plate Games

The traditional game of finding license plates from different states is always fun. Here are a few ways to play.

  • List — Print out a list of all 50 states for each child so they can cross them off as they find them.
  • Map — Add in a little geography lesson by printing out a map (either blank or with the states’ names) and having them color in the states as they find them.
  • Letter/number recognition — For younger kids who can’t yet read state names, see if they can find each letter of the alphabet and each number 0 through 9.
  • Math — My older daughter likes to take the numbers on license plates and add them up, and see what the highest number is that she can find. She has even assigned a number value to each letter to make it more challenging. (It’s handy to have a little notebook available for this one.)

Road Trip Bingo

Beyond your standard coloring books and word searches, don’t forget about the classic favorite, Road Trip Bingo. Plenty of printables are available online, such as these from the Travel Channel. (I have plenty of memories playing this one with my brother on our summer treks between New Jersey and Florida.)

Story Time

Everyone gets to contribute to what is sure to be a wild and wacky story! The first person starts with an opening sentence… “Once there was a girl who…” or “There once was a farm where…” Then the second person adds to the story with their own sentence. This can continue for a set length of time or a set amount of sentences per person. Be sure to record it on your phone so you can play back your wacky story.

Twenty Questions

One person thinks of a person, place, or thing. The other player(s) take turns asking yes or no questions to try and figure out the identity of the item. After 20 questions each player makes a guess. As my kids have gotten older we’ve added in movies, TV shows, and other categories.

“I’m Going on a Trip”

Someone starts off with “I’m going on a trip and I’m bringing a suitcase” (or any item they choose). Player two adds another item saying “I’m going on a trip, and I’m bringing a suitcase  and a banana.” Continue on with each player adding another item to the list. Players are out of the round when they can’t remember items or mess up the sequence.

Rules of the Road

I’ll be honest, I’m not too sure which of these road trip games were invented by my children, which ones they learned from friends, and which are from television, but I can tell you that these have definitely come in handy… whether we’re driving across town or across the state. Take these car game ideas and try them out… and feel free to make up some rules of your own. The main “rule” to follow is to have fun and enjoy making some memories together.

Happy traveling!

Lakeland Summer Activities for Kids

Be sure to check out our Summer Fun Guide for Summer Camps, FREE Movies, FREE Bowling, FREE Library Events & Activities, Swim Lessons, 4th of July Events, Reading programs, Online Camps, and much more!

April Mucci Lakeland Mom
April Mucci Lakeland Mom

About the Author: Stephanie Curl, Contributing Writer

Stephanie is a writer and editor and has worked in the marketing field for her entire career. She has lived in Lakeland since 2005 and loves the family-friendly activities and sense of community that Lakeland offers. Stephanie is married to her high school sweetheart, Edward, and they have two young daughters. She loves classic literature and anything related to Harry Potter…and she’s always up for another cup of coffee! Click here to see more posts by Stephanie.