We’ve clocked a lot of time in the car as a family — whether driving around a screaming infant in the middle of the night, taking long road trips to visit distant family, or just running ordinary errands. Our car has been a familiar setting for teaching lessons, having important conversations, and rocking out to music.
But my son’s fourth year officially became The Year of the Car Game. Whether we’re taking a quick ride to school or a longer trip down the highway, it’s typical to hear a little munchkin voice from the back seat saying, “So let’s play…”
Don’t get me wrong — my kid is no stranger to the “iPhone pass-back.” But when you want to put away the screens and engage in some teaching moments, maybe try one of our favorite car games:
The Word Game
My (teacher) sister starting playing this game at the beginning of my son’s I’m-Learning-to-Read phase, and it significantly helped him recognize the sounds of letters and words.
Here’s how we play: First he picks a letter (which we have to guess). Then we have to guess which word he’s thinking of, starting with that letter. So in order to play, he has to understand that the word “yellow” starts with “Y”, “sky” starts with “S”, “road” starts with “R”, etc. Typically we allow three clues, as well, including “it has a long vowel” or “it’s a color.” He thinks he’s just playing a game, but it’s been an instrumental part in building his literacy skills.
I Spy: The Traditional Game
This is probably the only “traditional” car game that we play — seeing as we haven’t gotten into the License Plate Game or 20 Questions yet. It was also the first car game that we taught him, so it’s a good starter option for toddlers/little kids.
You know how it goes! “I spy with my little eye, something that’s the color…/something that’s the shape…/something that begins with the letter…”
I Spy: Alphabet Edition
To boost print recognition, we also started the Alphabet Edition of “I Spy,” taking turns finding signs that start with A, then B, then C, etc. And now that he’s starting to read, we also practice reading the words that start with each letter.
The Riddle Game
My superhero-obsessed boy initiated this game, coming up with Riddler-inspired riddles that range from simple (“What’s black and white and green all over? … A cow with grass stains!”) to philosophical (“What’s neither here nor there, but everywhere? … LOVE!”).
First, it requires a lot of thinking (read: quiet). And second, it encourages creativity in a way that ordinary car games don’t.
The Story Game
This has been our favorite car game to play lately, as it seriously kills time without being mind-numbingly boring.
Here’s how we play: We create a story together — he comes up with the first line, I come up with the next, and so forth until we have a cohesive story with characters, a plot, a problem, a solution, and an ending. There’s some improvisation practice (“yes, and…”), as well as general storytelling lessons — including the elements and techniques needed to keep a story rolling.
What are some of YOUR favorite car games? Share them in the comments below.