Hide the DVD’s and put away the iPads! It’s time for you and the kids to play games together in the car – whether it’s for a day or – aaarrgh! – a week. The games we suggest here can be as simple or as complicated as you want to make them. And although the games might seem more suitable for older kids, even your toddler can take part with a little tweaking here and there.
How long you play depends on their ages and attention spans…assuming you haven’t stopped in the middle of Frozen or How to Tame Your Dragon 2. In which case, they’ll have the attention spans of gnats!
It’s not only about coming together as a family, it’s about unplugging! All of you! Tuning into the world around you and using your brains and imaginations to challenge yourselves and each other.
Games like family journaling can be ongoing…as the kids see something they want to draw, they can do it at any time during your trip. The most important thing is that the kids are learning how to pay attention and focus on things and events outside of their immediate car environment.
Before you start your trip and depending on its length, make an Activities Paper Chain (instructions here) of all the different things the kids can do on the way.
In addition to the activities we’ve included below, there are probably other family favorites that you know will keep your kids entertained!
Some activities take longer than others, so approximate how long you think each one might be – you know your kids and their attention spans - and make your chain/activities long enough. Once an activity is completed, go to the next “link”, but not more than one per hour. This way the kids have something to look forward to and it helps the smaller ones begin to get a sense of how time passes.
Before you leave, make sure you have a large notebook and enough loose blank paper to take along. Or you might want to print out sheets with 6 or 8 boxes for the kids to draw in (one item per box). It wouldn’t be a bad idea to give each kid a clipboard – they can continue to use them for a variety of things later on.
Have your kids draw pictures of what they see along the way. At the end of the day, have them cut out the pictures and name and date each one, just in case you aren’t able to organize them in the Journal until a later date. Also, be sure to bring a separate big envelope to collect the pics.
As for the narrative, that’s up to you – but if you take the time to read aloud what you’ve written about the previous day, you might be surprised to learn details that those sharp little brains picked up even when you thought you had it all covered!!
Save space in the Journal for a few pix – they can be printouts from your iPhone or iPad – it doesn’t have to be fancy.
For older kids, get them to “remember” each day and write it down before dinner and then reward them with a special dessert when they do!
Who hasn’t played this one in the past? Get their imaginations going to come up with the wackiest things they see – depending on the countryside you’re travelling through. They have to be real, though, and things outside of the car. Each kid gets a turn whether they have been able to guess the object or not.
For the younger ones, keep it simple and if they have a harder time “spying” things outside of the car, include the interior.
Depending on the kids’ ages, songs (find printable lyrics here) like Found a Peanut or like Row, Row, Row Your Boat can occupy them for hours and while the miles away.
Singing songs – especially repetitive ones – is important memory training for little ones. It also teaches them an appreciation for rhythm and cadence, as well as the discipline of singing together in a group and sets the stage for any musical training down the road.
A great game for school age kids! Have the kids look out their side of the car and find each letter of the alphabet either in signs, license plates or objects, ie. a boat being towed = B is for boat. First one to get all 26 letters wins. Someone - probably you or an older sibling - could act as neutral referee to keep things civil.
For the younger ones, have them name objects or things, ie. A is for? B is for? etc.
Who hasn’t played this game at one time or another – especially on a long trip? It can be an ongoing with a prize for whoever has the most license plates at the end of the trip.
Or play it as a family and take turns crossing the states off the list as you all see them. If you’re really lucky, you might even spot Canadian plates as well.
Do these activities sound familiar? That's because they have proven to be family favorites for decades and we're guessing that they'll stay favourites for years to come!
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