When I was a kid, we didn’t have DVDs, let alone DVD players in cars. I’m sure that DVDs are a good way for kids to pass time in the car, but I think a more interactive approach would be better. (Note, I don’t have kids. I reserve the right to change my mind when I’ve got two wee ones kicking the back of my seat for six hours.) If you’ve got a long drive and kids, here are a few fun and cheap travel games for you and your family.
Magnetic Travel Games for Kids
When I was a kid, magnetic travel games were very popular. We had a little set with checkers, Chinese checkers, chess, and a few others. We also had a miniature Connect 4. We set them up on the fold-down armrest on the back seat, that also acted as an anti-conflict device. Before you hit the road, visit a local toy store to browse for a magnetic car game set.
We also had a set of Jr. Trivial Pursuit. We didn’t bring the whole game, just a box of cards we used to quiz each other and the pie pieces to keep score. We made a rule that you got a pie wedge when you answered five correct questions. If you have Trivial Pursuit Family or Disney, take the cards on the road with you.
Classic Car Games
You can play classic car games without the violent slapping when Bugs are spotted. Instead, turn them into quests to see how many state license plates you see, or count the number of Priuses on the road. The first kid to reach 20 gets a cookie.
20 Questions is another easy one to play, and you can incorporate things you can see from the road.
Pipe Cleaners and String Games
Pipe cleaners and string are among the cheapest travel games out there, and they keep little hands from sneaking across the seat to poke a sibling. Visit a craft store to buy a pack of pipe cleaners in a variety of colors. They can be bent and formed into all kinds of fun shapes like hats, eyeglasses, and other accessories. String games usually require two people, so buy a book of string games and colorful yarn, then let your kids figure out how each set of instructions works.
Who doesn’t love Mad Libs? I loved making up sentences when I was a kid. The wackier it sounded the better. Mad Libs are still available at any grocery store or drug store. Check the magazine aisle for these and other fill-in-the-blank travel games and books.
Paint by number and watercolor books are tough, but crayons are still safe for the backseat. Give each kid a coloring book of their favorite characters. If you have pieces of cardboard, give one to each kid to place under the book so it holds up better. My sister and I each had a lap desk – a piece of enameled plywood attached to a cushion.
If one of you can read without getting sick, read aloud to everyone in the family. It will help the pass time quickly, and reinforce the importance of reading. Take a family trip to the library to find the right book for everyone.
My family made several successful six to eight hour drives when I was a kid. Sure, there was some hitting and fighting, but these travel games kept it to a minimum. At the very least, we all made it to our destination without injury and without Mom screaming at us to behave. That alone is a worthy accomplishment.