This young mom was well prepared…or so I thought. I had a blue plastic bin overflowing with toys and books, and we had plenty of snacks and drinks. We were ready for the loooong trip to Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
After being on the road for a little bit, I reached in the bin and handed my little one a toy. Minutes later, that toy was tossed to the floor and I was reaching for another toy to pass back. Only an hour and a half into the day-long trip, every toy and book was emptied from the bin.
Ugh! Now what?
So, how can we keep our kids busy while on deputation, furlough, or long trips to Grandma’s house?
Books, music, videos, and tablet games are helpful in keeping kids entertained, but it’s also great to have some fun interaction!
I’ve created a list of ideas – some we’ve used, some from friends, and others from here and there. Some are for younger kids, some for older, and some will be fun for all ages!
- Cookie Sheet and Magnets – Our little ones had a cookie sheet in their lap and played with colorful shaped magnets and letters to create all kinds of scenes and designs. You can also add magnet strips to the back of puzzle pieces, matching games, and cardboard “paper” dolls for more magnetic fun. Many of these items can be purchased at a dollar store.
- Count Cars – This a simple yet fun way to keep the kids busy. Give each child a color and they keep a tally of how many cars of that color they see. (Suggested by Melody Moses)
- Alphabet Game – How can we not include this popular game in the list? Look on road signs, billboards, and trucks to find the letters of the alphabet in order. Our kids would play this over and over.
- Road Trip Scavenger Hunt – Keep the kids busy looking for items on these free printables:
- Travel Scavenger Hunt Card Game – This fun little game is a spin off of the printable ones mentioned above, and it has kept our whole family entertained for quite a length of time on car trips. Each player gets 5 cards with items to look for along the drive such as “man with a mustache,” “flower,” “dog in a car,” “gas station,” “chimney,” and “really dirty car.” Discard a card when you find the item and then draw another card. Who will be the first to find 10 items in the Travel Scavenger Hunt Card Game?
- Travel Bingo – Remember Bingo? Your kids can have fun looking out the window to find vehicles, signs, and animals so that they can mark their Bingo card. Use magnets as markers and use on a cookie sheet mentioned above, or use sticky tabs to mark the squares.
- Math Problems or Spelling Words – Some kids love the challenge of math facts or spelling! Give an addition, multiplication, or whatever math problem or spelling word is at their level. If they get it right they get a point. Keep track of their points and the one with the most points at the end of the challenge or trip is the winner. According to the missionary who submitted this idea, “Many times I was ready to stop before they were!”
“Many times I was ready to stop [playing] before they were!”
Missionary to Yap, Micronesia
- License Plate Numbers, The Hard Way – My mom got us started on this game when the kids were young. Start by looking for a license plate that has the number “1” on it with no other numbers. Then look for one that has the number “2” on it, and so on. This is not a fast moving game, but it is a game you can continue for years, picking up wherever you left off the last time you were in the car. The hard part is always remembering what number you are currently looking for the next time you get in the car! Maybe you could keep a sticky note in your vehicle to remind you.
- Drawing Paper & Supplies – Bring along plenty of paper and crayons, colored pencils, etc. We never seemed to have enough paper for our little artist. Oh, and be sure to have plenty of ideas for what they should draw. We were constantly asked, “What should I draw now?”
- If your kids love to draw animals. This step-by-step drawing book makes learning to draw animals easy!
- My artists were kept busy for a long time with The Boys’ Doodle Book and The Girls’ Doodle Book, which have part of a scene on each page to help get those creative juices going so they can complete the scene however they want. These are a great way to avoid the question, “What should I draw now?”
- Boxes, Hangman, Tic-Tac-Toe – You can draw out these popular games on your own paper, or if you prefer, you can use these printable versions.
- License Plate Game – Can you find a license plate from every state?
- Here’s a free printable to help the kids keep track of which states they’ve found.
- I’m Going on a Trip ABC Memory Game – The first person starts by saying, “I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking….” He names something starting with the letter “A” such as “apple.” The next person says, “I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking an apple and a b….” He includes something starting with the letter “B.” As each person takes his turn, he repeats all previous items and adds one more, starting with the next letter in the alphabet. Can you get all the way to “Z” and remember the whole list?
- I’m Going on a Trip Guessing Game – This sounds similar to the previous game, but this game is very different and involves coming up with a new rule for each round. For instance, the first player might start by saying, “I’m going on a trip, and I’m taking taking a parrot.” The next person could reply, “Can I go with you if I take a dog?” The first player would answer, “No, you can’t bring a dog, but you could bring a glass.” The next player might ask, “Can I come if I bring a sleeping bag?” “Yes, you can come if you bring a sleeping bag.” Play continues with others suggesting something to bring. If the suggested word doesn’t fit the first player’s rule, he suggests another item that fits the category. How long will it take for everyone to figure out the “rule”? In this instance, the first player’s rule was that the item must have a double letter. Some other possible “rules” to guess might be starting with a specific letter, a certain number of syllables, two-legged animals, things that grow, an “r” as the third letter, etc. There are lots of possibilities for this game, and it can help take up lots of time too!
- Mad Libs – Do your kids love silly stories? With Mad Libs they can help create a funny story by filling in the missing words. With the help of your kids adding a verb, a thing, a number, or an adjective, you just might end up with the craziest story ever!
- Twenty Questions – One person thinks of something, and the other players get 20 questions, or more if you wish, to try to guess what it is. The questions can only be ones that can be answered with “Yes,” “No,” or “Sometimes.”
- Hinky Pinky – I remember playing this game as a child while on car trips! A Hinky Pinky is a rhyming riddle. A definition is given, and the others try to guess the two word rhyming answer with both words having two syllables. So, what is a Hinky Pinky for a silly rabbit? A funny bunny. A Hink Pink will have one syllable words. What is a Hink Pink for a partial giggle? A half laugh. Or….What is a Hinkity Pinkity for the national leader’s house? President’s residence. Hopefully you get the idea! You and the kids can have fun making up your own. If you’d like some more examples, here a few more Hinky Pinkies.
- Travel Yahtzee – Steve’s family played this on trips when he was a kid. Follow the rules and score sheet of the classic Yahtzee game, but use passing vehicles instead of dice. Assign the numbers 1 through 6 to certain types or colors of vehicles. When it is your turn, your “roll” is based on the next 5 vehicles that pass you as you drive. Just as in regular Yahtzee, you can then discard some “dice” and “roll” again based on the next vehicles that pass. You can have up to 3 “rolls” per turn. As you can tell, this will help take up a lot of time to cycle through everyone in order to complete the game. Below are 2 suggested ways to assign the numbers, and vehicles that don’t fit one of the numbers are simply ignored:
- 1=car, 2=minivan, 3=full-sized van, 4=semi truck, 5=pick-up truck, 6=suv/crossover
- 1=red, 2=blue, 3=black, 4=white, 5=gray/silver, 6=tan/brown
- Goodie Bags – “When we had been a certain distance or been traveling a certain amount of time they got a treat – perhaps candy or a little dollar store toy. The deal was everyone had to be good no whining or fussing.” (Shared by Melody Moses)
- Track Your Travel
- To help your younger kids keep track of where you are in your travels, string yarn from one side of the back seat to the other, tying the yarn to the handles on the ceiling. Use clothes pins to attach to the yarn the names of major cities you are passing through. Use another clothes pin to move a picture of your vehicle along this route. See an example here.
- Another option would be to print off a map of your route from Google Maps so your child can track it on his own map. Here’s a great article showing you how to personalize your map.
Hopefully those ideas are enough to keep your kids busy for a while…at least longer than the one and a half hours it took my little one to get through the bin of toys and books!
I’d love to hear what your family does on long trips. Please share your favorites below.