There are few things more taxing than keeping young children occupied on a long road trip. The boredom, the fighting, the threatening and the nagging can make the trip more painful than fun.
What you need are some word games to play in the car on your road trip or school run. Not only will you be keeping your kids entertained, but you’ll also be developing their language and thinking skills.
Here are 24 fun word games to play with kids. Most are suitable for preschoolers and older kids will enjoy them too.
1. Spot the Nouns
As you’re driving, name all the things you see by making a string of nouns. Take turns with your child adding one word to the list at a time, taking care not to repeat any.
See how long you can keep the chain unbroken.
2. I Went to the Shops
This is another game that requires concentration to not repeat a word. It is good for developing auditory memory.
Taking turns, say “I went to the shops and I bought…(grapes). On each round, say the items that were previously mentioned, and add a new item.
Here’s an example:
Mom: I went to the shops and I bought grapes.
Child: I went to the shops and I bought grapes and bananas.
Mom: I went to the shops and I bought grapes, bananas and blueberries.
Keep going until you can’t add any more or someone repeats a word. Then, start a new round.
3. I Spy With My Little Eye
Play ‘I Spy with My Little Eye’ by spotting items in the car or something outside. Here are some examples;
- I spy with my little eye something that helps me see the cars behind me.
- I spy with my little eye something moving in the sky.
- I spy with my little eye something that is going to make us stop.
4. Same or Different?
Say a pair of words and ask your child if they sound the same or different.
- Bear and beer
- Pear and pair
- Pear and poor
- Lemon and melon
5. Which is the Odd One Out?
Say a string of words and ask your child to identify which one is the odd one out.
- Apple, pear, cucumber, strawberry
- Strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, orange
- Broccoli, pumpkin, butternut, carrot
Then ask your kids ‘What is the rule?’ to help them identify the common characteristic that these items share.
The rules are:
- It must be a fruit
- It must be a berry
- It must be an orange vegetable
This will teach your children grouping and sorting skills.
6. Rhyming Chain
Here’s a fun rhyming word game for preschoolers.
Give your child a simple word and make a rhyming chain together without repeating any words. Take turns adding a rhyming word to the list.
Rat, cat, mat, hat, pat, sat…
Younger children can make up nonsense words. The important thing is to identify rhyming sounds.
7. Finding Shapes
Practise shape recognition by naming the shape of each road sign that you pass.
This is a good activity for building visual perception.
8. Story Clap
Tell kids a familiar story or fairy tale. Before beginning, give them a word to listen for. They must clap their hands twice every time they hear the word.
9. Simon Says
Play this game by giving commands that can be done in the car, such as:
- Simon Says open your window and wave at someone.
- Simon Says sing any song you know.
- Simon Says give your brother a high five.
Here are more funny Simon Says commands.
10. Name the Sounds
For this activity, simply listen for sounds outside as you drive. This will teach kids to hear and identify sounds, and is a good exercise in mindfulness and being present.
Simply note and name the sounds together as you hear them:
- Engine, birds chirping, hooter, accelerating, airplane overhead, children screaming, etc.
11. Colour Clap
Ask children to pick a colour and clap once (or twice for older kids) every time they see a car with that colour. With a common colour, this will get funny as they try to keep up with the claps.
Then, choose a colour that is less common so it will be more challenging to find those cars. Keep a score of how many cars you find.
12. Count the Trucks
For the next 5 kilometres, or for the next 5 minutes, ask kids to count how many trucks they see.
Then count motorbikes, lorries and any other vehicles common in the country in which you live.
13. Nonsense Story
Make up a nonsense story together, taking turns to add a line each as you go. Get the whole family involved.
Dad: Once upon a time there was a little bear.
Child: He was afraid of the dark.
Mom: One day he got lost in the woods after dark.
Keep going and see how colourful the story gets.
14. Word Memory
Say a short string of words and ask your child to repeat them back to you, in order. For younger children, start with three words and increase the number according to your child’s age and ability.
This is a good exercise in building auditory sequential memory. Here are more sequencing activities.
15. What’s the Word?
This game is for children who are starting to learn to hear sounds and put them together.
Give riddles such as:
- It starts with a b and ends with ed.
- It starts with sch and ends with ool.
Make this as easy or challenging as necessary.
16. Would You Rather?
Play a fun game of ‘Would you rather?’ by asking your child to think logically and choose one thing they would rather be or do.
Here are some examples:
- Would you rather be a giraffe or a rhino?
- Would you rather be a pilot or an astronaut?
- Would you rather live in a desert or in a place covered in snow?
Here are 100 Would You Rather questions for kids.
Pick a category and take turns listing words that fit into it. Don’t repeat words and keep the chain going as long as possible.
- Hospital – nurse, beds, doctor, injection, operation, sanitiser, etc.
- Cats – whiskers, paws, fur, miaows, cat food, scratch post, claw, etc.
Play these fun category games too.
18. Who Am I?
Give your child animal riddles and ask him to guess ‘Who am I?’
- I have two long ears, I hop and people like to sing songs about me.
- I bark a lot, I’m affectionate and I love to eat meat.
19. Number Plates
Give your child a number and spot all the number plates with that number on them. Make it a competition to see who spots the most.
Here are more number recognition games.
20. Add the Numbers
This game is only suitable for older children. Ask them to add up the first two numbers (or the first and last number) on the number plates of the first car that comes past you.
This is good for practising quick mental calculations.
21. What Does It Do?
This game teaches kids about verbs – or action words. Choose an animal and ask your child to list the things it is able to do.
Take turns and make a string of phrases, taking care not to repeat any, like this:
- A rabbit hops
- A rabbit eats
- A rabbit sleeps
- A rabbit chases
- A rabbit sniffs
See how many verbs you can think of for each animal.
22. Can a Fish Walk?
A variation on the previous game, in this version you ask questions about actions an animal takes and your child must answer if it’s possible/true.
Here are some examples:
- Can a dinosaur stomp?
- Can a deer swim?
- Can an elephant eat meat?
- Can a kangaroo talk?
Ask your child to explain the reasons the animals can’t do the actions. Then, challenge your child to make up some questions for you.
23. Finish the Story
Make up a story or tell a familiar story, such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears or Cinderella.
Only tell the first part of the story, then change a significant event, for example, say that Goldilocks found four bowls of porridge.
Your child must pick up where you left off, making up the rest of the story and taking it in any direction.
24. Name, Place, Animal and Thing
This game is better suited to older children and is an oral variation of the written game.
Pick a letter, such as ‘s’ and have your child think of a name, a place, an animal and a thing (noun) that begin with the letter ‘s’, such as Samantha, Spain, seal and sausage.
These are just a few good games you can play in the car. If you need more ideas it is quite easy to improvise and make some up as you get into it.
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