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Kid riding in a car.

Hitting the road with the kids means hours in the car listening to them complain about being bored. Well, never fear, the old games we used to play are still around and, to top it off, you can create some new car fun. Who needs the car video player or hand held games?

  1. Get ahold of an old road map; you can typically find an old atlas at a thrift store or second hand store in your area.

    With the map you can help your children to learn the capitals of each of the states, then work on their alphabetizing skills if they are old enough. Have them list the cities in alphabetical order.

  2. Do they want to be able to write down the information. Create a wipe board. All you need is a large old picture frame with the glass still in it, dry erase markers and a rag to wipe it clean. You can decorate up the frame with some old funnies from the newspaper or gift wrap that you have been saving.

    The kids can also play tic-tac-toe on the board, or the connect the dots game, they could even use it like a small lap table to eat off of.

    If you don't have an old one to use, or can't find one at the local thrift store, go to the nearest dollar store, you can find one for $1.00. Add on tax and it will be around $1.10 or so depending on your sales tax.

  3. Hit your local thrift store before your trip and stock up on some little items that the kids can keep and play with in the car. For example, little toy cars can be driven on their little play table, how about some building blocks, you don't have to keep many in the car for them to have fun with.

    How about a craft project? The kids can learn how to bead, sew, and oh, so much more while traveling. Remember you have their full attention, use it to your advantage.

By TxBluEyes from Kerrville, TX

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By Deborah Weightman05/29/2009

I like the idea of the frugal wipe board, however I don't think glass is a good toy for children, especially in a car. It would be too easy to get hurt on the glass if something dropped on it. If there was even a minor accident the glass could go flying and break and there would be shards all over. I just don't think that glass is a good idea in a moving vehicle.

By Julie [49]05/25/2009

Replace the glass of the frame with plexiglass instead. Sold at lowe's you just use your glass as a a pattern for size and cut it out and put in the frame instead. Safe, will not break, and can be marked on then wiped dry.

By Janel05/20/2009

I think I would use the picture frame but tape up the back with duct tape to make it smooth on the lap and prevent flying, broken glass if, God forbid, there was a crash. Sounds like cheap, multi-purpose entertainment.
Beware....dry erase markers are permanent! I bought washable, vivid dry erase markers at Walmart.

By Lee Anne Guryn [2]05/20/2009

I would not recommend using a glass picture frame in the car. In an accident it would cause shards that could kill a child, not to mention it could break in the car under normal circumstances causing an unsafe situation. You can use dry erase on the windows and the kids can decorate or draw. I would spring for a real dry erase board.

By Cyinda [214]05/19/2009

I have 3 things I use to do when we traveled with my kids when they were young:

1) $1 store toys: Go to a dollar store before you leave (without your kids knowing) & pick out 3 or 4 different quiet toys per child then stash them away & give these toys out slowly when the kids are being good (as a prize!), or when they beg you for a pricey toy at the register at a gas station. You may spend $10 or $20, but in the long run you'll save money by not buying them other pricey toys.

2) Family Driving Games: We also played the "Alphabet Sign Game". We'd look for a sign with a word that begins with "A", then we'd look for another sign that began with "B" & so on. With each family member racing to find the next letter in the alphabet. We had lot's of fun as a family doing this!

3) The Quiet Game: When the kids started fighting among each other or when we could no longer stand their excessive noise we would play "the quiet game". (at the time we had 3 kids). We'd say "whoever doesn't talk for any reason (except for "I have to pee, or an emergency) will get a prize & we'd hand out first place, second & third place "prizes" of One dollar, 50 cents & a quarter. This way each child could win. This means the child who didn't talk & was totally silent for the longest would get one dollar, then the child that stayed silent the next longest would get 50 cents & so on. (You could end the "game" at an hour or at one half hour & if each child is TOTALLY quiet that WHOLE length of the time, then they could EACH get the grand prize of the dollar (or whatever it is). When my kids were young we did a whole LOT of driving & sometimes the kids would be loud or fighting & we'd say "We're playing the "Quiet Game" & Everyone's playing! You have no choice!" Sometimes they'd not care about the money & want to talk anyway - then we'd make them play for free by saying, you can play the quiet game for free or you can play for money, it's your choice, but you're playing anyway! But the money would usually work to keep them quiet... that and the competition of beating their sibling for the grand prize! Oh sweet peace & quiet for a half hour, it's absolutely the best!
* A hint. Watch out for "cheating" like one kid pinching the other to make them talk first!

* Another hint is to think ahead & buy water toys like air mattresses & sand buckets, bug spray, candy, etc, etc at a dollar store before you leave for your trip. We used to save all kinds of money doing this because this way we didn't have to pay 4 or 5 dollars for an air mattress from a resort or a motel!

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Archive: Car Games

We are taking our kids on a long vacation in the car. I need to keep them occupied. They are 6 and 8. What good "car games" do you know? - Leeta


RE: Car Games

For our long car vacations we like to play the state license plate game. What I do is find a small map (lap size) of the United States and make a black and white copy of it. Then I get some colored pencils. The kids each get their own copy of the map. When they spot a license plate then they find it on their map and color the state in. This is also a good teaching aid. The kids learn the locations of the states this way. It make a nice keepsake too. (06/01/2001)

By Cheshire37

RE: Car Games

Our children were 11, 9 and 3 (twins) when we moved the 1800+ miles from California to Missouri. Hubby and I were shocked by how much they enjoyed just watching the scenery! But in addition, we planned a lot of stops for sightseeing, meals and visiting the bathroom. Breaking up the day seemed to help. In addition, while in the car, we had radio programs ("Adventures in Odyssey") on tape, a lot of books and travel games to occupy the kids' time. Some games, like travel bingo, were easier for all of the kids to play together. (06/02/2001)

I should add that we bought out tapes from Focus on The Family, our books from the bargain bin at Bookstar, and our travel games at Toys R Us. (06/02/2001)

RE: Car Games

LICENSE PLATE BINGO : Each player writes the letters of the alphabet on a piece of paper. Then they watch out the window to see which letters of the alphabet they can see on the license plates of nearby cars. Players check off the letters as they find them. The first player to find all the letters of the alphabet shouts "BINGO."

50 STATES OF PLATES: The object of this game is to find each state's license plate or write down the states and mark each time you see a state and see which state does the most traveling.(06/02/2001)

By Gary

RE: Car Games

If I have enough time, I get a bag and put all sorts of fun little activities and wrap them up like gifts. Every hour on the hour, the children would look forward to opening another little thing that would likely keep them occupied for a short time. Stickers, a new small book, a gel pen and ink pad, etc. are some of the little things that can make a trip lots of fun. Have fun on your trip!! (06/03/2001)

By mamachik

RE: Car Games

One fun thing to do especially if it is a long trip is to have a special bag of surprises and open one on every hour. A letter from a friend or grandparent, a travel game to play, a gel pen and pad are just a few of the things that can make a trip like that more exciting! (06/04/2001)

By mamachik

RE: Car Games

We take out children's books on tape from the library. It holds everyone's attention for at least an hour at a time. Take out the book as well so they can see the pictures. Have a safe trip! (06/04/2001)

By Cindy

RE: Car Games

My favorite car game growing up was Mad Libs. You can buy them at the store - it is a small notepad with a short story that has blanks in it that you fill in with nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. My mom would ask us to think of a word like a "noun" and then give us examples of what a noun was (person, place, or thing). She would write our answers on a separate sheet of paper so the Mad Lib could be used again in the future. Once all of the blanks were filled in, she would read the story to us and we would bust up laughing at the silly sentences and scenarios our words had created. (06/04/2001)

By Caricapr

RE: Car Games

One thing I do is look at the license plate letters and make a phrase from them.

EXAMPLE: If the plate letters are GDP-123 that would be good dogs play or God does pardon or geeks do perl or whatever you can come up with! (06/04/2001)

By Alekscat the frugal feline in Richmond, VA

RE: Car Games

A friend of mine moved from Alaska to Arizona and was having to travel with four small children. I made each of them their own travel book. I took regular school pocket folders with the brads down the center. On my computer I found graphics of things they would see on their trip and made a few pages of a scavenger hunt. They had to put an X on everything they saw. (A red car, an American flag, etc.) I also did animal pages for them to mark what animals they saw along the way. I also had drawing pages for them to draw what they saw along the way and other games. I downloaded a map of the United States so they could draw a trail of the states they traveled through. There were xeroxed coloring pages too. In the back I put a 5x7 envelope in the back pocket for souvenirs like postcards, etc. And then I put a few sheets of stationery with a self-addressed stamped envelope so they could write to us with their new address once they arrived and got settled. (05/04/2004)

By Tawnda

RE: Car Games

Try to make words using the letters in license plates. Extra points if they are in that same order! (2sgi543 could be "sign", etc.). also, instead of just looking for out of state license plates, call out the capital of the state that you see. (06/19/2004)

RE: Car Games

With my family we would play alphabet games. We would do the old "I'm going on a trip and I'm bringing..." Something that starts with A. Then the next person goes and repeats what the first person says and then adds the next letter. You have to be able to make it to the end of the alphabet and remember the item for each letter. Eye spy is also a fun one and, of course, the license plate game. It's fun for one person to start out a story and to take turns adding to it trying to incorporate things from your trip. (03/26/2009)

By glaittli