Because this is not what car journeys with children look like.
1. Car Cricket
Probaby the oldest game of all. Each player takes it in turns to bat. One run for each car you pass, two for motorbikes, four for a van, six for a bus or a lorry. If it’s a red car, you’re out, and the next player goes into bat. Variation: Car Snooker. You get one point when you see a red one, then you have to wait for a different colour: yellow (two points), green (three), brown (four), blue (five) – etc. If you see a white car, it’s a foul, you lose four points, and it’s the next person’s go.
2. The Yes/No game
How hard is it to avoid saying “Yes” or “No”? Harder than you think. Whoever’s ‘It’ has to answer all questions without saying “Yes” or “No”. The classic tactic is of course to say “You said ‘yes’ just now” - to which the inevitable response is: “No I didn’t!”
3. Think of Something
Each child is asked to think of an object with a particular characteristic. The game’s success depends on the parents varying the question to suit the ability of the child. Young children might have to think of something green, or made of wood, say, the older ones might have to come up with something Japanese, or Elizabethan, or soluble. It’s a great learning tool as younger children aspire to the knowledge of their elders.
4. Car-colour bingo
An easy game for younger children. Pick a colour, score a point for each colour you drive past. The winner is the first to reach, say, 20. Insider knowledge: if you want to win, pick silver.
5. Pub cricket
Another classic, more suited to country lanes than motorways. It’s similar to Car Cricket, but players score more ‘runs’ by counting the number of legs on the pub signs they pass. So The Green Man will score two, but The Red Lion bags you four. You can get 16 for The Coach and Horses. There will inevitably be arguments. It’s a nice game to keep ticking over in the background.
Players take it in turns to spot an interesting object, out of the window. Say it’s a cow: they then shout “Cow! 5…4…3…2…1”. The other players have to locate, point to and say the name of the object before the countdown reaches one. Whoever identifies it is the next spotter. You can add to your score the number the questioner reached. Not one for the driver, obviously.
7. Character counting
How many characters are there in your favourite films and TV shows? Each player takes it in turn to name a character, with others helping out if they get stuck. It’s a collaborative game, where you’re all working together. Suggestions: Harry Potter, Star Trek, Star Wars, Disney films, Lord of the Rings and so on…
8. Countries of the world
The first player names a country beginning with A, such as Afghanistan. The next player then has to think of a country that begins with the last letter of the country just named – Norway, for example. You can make the kids think of cities as well if you want the game to be easier.
9. The name game
The first player say the name of a well-known figure, including a description of what they’re famous for – such as “Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister”. The next player has to name someone who shares the same first or second name: “James Brown, singer”. It continues – by specifying the occupations, you prove the person you’ve named is real.
10. Name that tune
Each player takes it in turn to hum the theme tune to a well-known film or TV show: whoever guesses it correctly gets the next go.
11. Alphabet shopping
The first player begins: “I went to the supermarket and I bought an apple.” The next player has to think of something you can buy in a supermarket beginning with B, and so on. You vary the game by visiting other shops – bookshops, record shops and so on.
12. Uncle Bobby
Uncle Bobby reads books but not magazines. He’s a good accountant, although he can add, but he can’t subtract. He eats noodles, but not pasta. He likes the colour green, but not blue or red. Uncle Bobby, of course, only likes things that have double letters in them. Once each player works out the rules, they can take part by saying other things Uncle Bobby likes and dislikes. And if that’s getting old, Aunt Jemima only likes things ending in a vowel.
13. What has an eye but no nose?
The answer, of course, is a needle. It’s a game that can be extended endlessly with little mental effort – you’d be surprised how many body parts are used figuratively in everyday speech. Here are some examples:
What has a tongue but no teeth? A shoe.
What has teeth but no lips? A comb.
What has legs but no arms? A table.
What has arms but no hands? A coat (or chair).
What has hands but no fingers? A clock.
What has a neck but no head? A wine bottle.
What has a face but no hair? A watch.
What has ears but no cheeks? Corn.
14. Celebrity Challenge
You think of a well-known figure – they could be real, or from a cartoon, say; the kids have to ask questions about their lives and accomplishments to work out who the person is. “Dead or alive,” “Real or imaginary”. Make sure you mix things up when it’s the kids’ turn by dropping in random questions like whether they like mashed potato or own a hairdryer.
15. Car Singalong
Try to do it this well.
16. Scavenger hunt
You can actually go the extra mile here and prepare a list of items for kids to look out for on the journey, and print it off. If it’s a route you know well, customise the list by adding things you know you’re going to pass on the way.
- Dog walker
- Police car
- A ‘School’ sign
- A dog in another car
- Someone picking their nose
17. We’ll be there before you can say…
“Sixteen slimy serpents slithered surreptitiously on the silver sand as they sped silently southwards.” Or “On Monday morning I made a model of a magical mouse with many mandibles, and mailed it to a man in Manchester.” It takes a bit of thought to come up with alliterative sentences. Learn the phrase, try to get the kids to repeat it word-for-word.
BONUS: 18. I feel sick!
Not a game – but a couple of tips for when you hear those words. Opening the window does actually help, as does closing your eyes.