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Travel Fun: Easy, Screen-Free Games to Play When You’re Travelling with the Kids

It’s the holiday season and many families are probably travelling or planning to travel. With all that time in transit for the kids to get bored, I thought it would be great to compile a list of “screen-free” activities and games to play so that the kids don’t have to be glued to their iPads or portable DVD players to keep themselves busy. To keep it simple, this is a list of activities and games that do not require messy bits or extra stuff to pack…

1. I Spy

An all time favourite, who could forget this one? It’s easy to play – even for the younger kids.

“I spy, with my little eye, something beginning with the letter …”

Everyone else has to guess what that thing is and the person who guesses correctly is the next person to spy an object.

2. I Went to the Moon and I Brought…

Aristotle learned this game at school and it’s another terrific game for the car that will also exercise your memory. It goes like this…

The first person says, “I went to the moon and I brought…” That person has to think of something they want to bring to the moon. For example, a dog. The second person then says, “I went to the moon and I brought a dog and…” The second person adds their own item that they want to bring after stating the item the first person is bringing. And it continues with each person listing all the items said before them and adding another item of their own at the end of the list. It keeps going until someone gets it wrong.

When we play this game, Hercules doesn’t like the moon so he’s going to Mars instead except that no one else is allowed to follow him to Mars.

There is another variation to this game that we used to play. It follows a song from Signing Time called “The Silly Pizza Song“:

In our version, we would make up our own silly pizza toppings – which were usually the names of the trains from Thomas and Friends because that was what Aristotle was into. In its own way, it’s kind of like an oral linking memory activity.

3. Names Beginning with the Letter…

When I was in school, we played this game by taking turns to state all the names we could think of beginning with a certain letter. For instance, list all the names beginning with the letter A – each player will take turns saying a name that begins with the letter A until someone can’t think of a name.

For younger children, you can play a variation where you can name any word beginning with the letter. It’s also a great brain game for expanding your child’s vocabulary and word skills. It’s similar to the game “Word Bubbles” on Lumosity.

4. Take the Last Letter of the Previous Word

Another word game involves taking the last letter of the previous word and thinking of a word that begins with that letter. For example, the first person says “apple”. The next person has to think of a word beginning with the letter “e” – the last letter from “apple”. This keeps going until someone runs out of words they can think of beginning with a certain letter.

5. Sing Along

Sing along to music in the car or just sing favourite songs.

6. Tell a Story

Make up a story to tell. This was one of Aristotle’s all time favourite activities in the car when he was younger. Back then, I was the one who had to make up all the stories. Now, we get to take turns making up stories so I get a bit of a break.

7. Crazy Mixed-up Story

A variation to “Tell a Story”, this one involves everyone in the car adding one line to the story so it ends up being a pretty crazy mixed-up story. If you have a practical joker with a quirky sense of humour like my DH, you can end up with some really crazy stories.

8. Let’s Play Pretend

Kids have wild imaginations and any scenario can be created anywhere. You can get the ball rolling by starting a scenario and let your kids take off with it. Recently, my boys have been pretending to be the foodimals from Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 – Aristotle is Barry the Strawberry, Hercules is the Chesspider, I’m the Tacodile, and Daddy is the Peanut Butter Jellyfish Sandwich. Before this, we have been ninjas from Ninjago, characters from Star Wars, birds from Angry Birds…

9. Re-enacting Stories

Hercules’ favourite stories in recent times have been Robin Hood and Zorro. He likes to pretend he is Robin Hood or Zorro and re-enact scenarios from the books. He’s heard the stories so many times, he’s got the words verbatim.

10. Counting Cars

Pick a car colour and count all the cars you can see in that colour. Another easy game for the younger kids.

11. Discuss a Book

My SIL shared this one with me that she read from the internet. Before the trip, everyone reads a book so you can talk about it on the journey. It’s more suitable for older kids, but you can simplify it for the younger kids by discussing an easier book you have read together.

12. Discuss a Movie

Movies also provide great discussions for long journeys.

13. Tell Jokes

Aristotle is really into jokes lately. They’re usually pretty cheesy, but it has got him thinking up his own jokes. Here are a couple of my favourites that he came up with on his own…

Q: What do you get when you cross a dragon and a pig?
A: Roast Pork.

Q: What books do dinosaurs like to read?
A: Books by “Roar”ald Dahl.

14. Taboo

Taboo is a game where you have to try to get the other person to guess a word by giving related word clues. For instance, for the word “shoes”, you could say, “what you wear on your feet”. In the board game Taboo, there will also be a list of words you cannot use but if you are playing with very young children, you can omit this.

15. Who am I?

You can play a child’s version of this game by picking favourite characters they are familiar with or have read about in their stories.

It is hard to keep the kids from driving you nuts on a long journey and maybe these games won’t cut it for the entire journey, but they will provide some temporary entertainment that involve family bonding time and a break from the screens.

More Activities:


Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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