1. Once upon a time
Take turns creating your own tale. Let the youngest set the stage by making up the first sentence. Each line can be as long or as short as he wants. Go clockwise through the car with each person adding a new twist. For shorter car rides, aim to have the story end just as you arrive at your destination. Have a passenger use a smart phone to record the fun — you might end up with a new classic!
2. Beginning to end
Using road signs, licence plates and billboards, have everyone look for letters of the alphabet. Begin by searching for the letter “A.” Once you find it, move on to “B” and so on. The first person to get through the alphabet (in order) wins. Try and do the same thing with numbers. Too easy? Have kids start at “Z” and go backwards. Another game you can play with license plates is trying to spot every Canadian province or all 50 states. First one to spot them all wins.
This is the perfect game for a country drive, but you’ll need a sharp eye and a quick tongue. The first person to see a field of horses and call out “HORSES” gets one point per horse. If there are too many to count, use the honour code and guess (parents can help the younger kids). But watch out: The first person to see a cemetery and call out “Graveyard! Bury your horses!” wipes out the other players’ scores.
4. Imagine that
Great for creative kids, this game sets their imaginations free. As you travel, pick an object you can see outside of the car and have each person take turns coming up with different uses for it. For example, a silo could be a rocket ship or a baby bottle for giants. Make sure the object is visible to everyone in the car. If there isn’t much happening outside, use items that are lying around inside the car.
5. Karaoke masters
Before you leave, burn a CD or create a playlist with recognizable songs. Play the first few seconds of each song, then pause it and give everyone an opportunity to guess what tune it is. Whoever correctly identifies the song gets to sing along. Mix it up with silly songs too, like “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” or a tongue twister like “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.”
6. I Spy
This is the classic “I spy with my little eye, something that is red” game. Sometimes sticking with an original is the best way to keep the little ones occupied for a long period of time.
7. I’m going on a picnic
Another classic, this game can be played with two players or more (it’s the most fun when the whole family joins in). The first player starts off with “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m bringing…” followed by an item that starts with A, like apple. The next player will have to say the same sentence, but this time saying they will bring an apple and a banana (for the letter B), then so on with the rest of the alphabet. Whoever can remember all of the items in alphabetical order wins.
This article originally appeared in our June 2012 issue with the headline “Are we there yet?” (p. 22).