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If you travel a lot, car time can quickly add up. To help keep everyone entertained (ie–in less trouble!), and provide some learning fun, try these 5 car games for kids.
The mathematical focus of each will work on key skills–counting, estimating, number identification, shapes, and adding. It’s amazing how fun math can be.
A winning feature of every game here? NO materials are required. Just players, no pencils or paper or paraphernalia. Period. (So sorry, my alliteration kick got away with me for the moment…)
Some of these games are more suited for younger children, and some are fun for the older members of the family. Give them all a try, and see which ones are winners for your family.
1. Number Find
Remember the game described in Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary? Ellen and Austin play it in the car on their way to the picnic. No silly–not the white horse game. Though you are certainly free to play that one as well.
The one I’m thinking of is a letter game. The goal is for each girl to find the letters of the alphabet, in order. If it was up to me to name that game, I would have called it Letter Find.
Thus, as you can imagine, this Number Find game is similar. The goal? For each participant to find the numbers 0-9 in order. Encourage your children to look on license plates, road signs, and buildings. Numbers are everywhere!
2. What Am I Counting?
This game sounds complicated, but I assure you it is not!
Pick one person to go first.
That person secretly selects an object outside, and begins counting every time that object is seen.
It’s my turn, and I pick white cars as my secret object. When a white car goes by, I say “One” aloud. A few seconds later, I spy another white car and call out, “Two.”
The goal of everyone else in the car is to figure out what I’m counting. Until they guess correctly, I’ll keep counting out each white car that passes by.
This one can be bumped up in difficulty by picking more obscure items–how many number 3s can I count on license plates before someone catches on? How many sets of mailboxes AND paper boxes (together) can I count?
We REALLY like this game!
3. Add 2
One person picks a number to begin this game (To keep it simple, make the starting number between 1-9). The next person adds 2 to that number and says the sum aloud. (Be sure to use the word sum–math vocabulary is essential!)
The next person has to add 2, and say the sum aloud.
Continue, until you reach a designated number (we like 100).
Skip counting is a precursor to multiplication, and this game makes it enjoyable.
You can easily change it up. Next round, add 3. Or start with a big number and subtract 2.
Mental math practice via a car game for kids!
4. Shape Search
Have you ever noticed how most drawing books talk about how all drawings begin with basic shapes? It’s so true! Look around, because for this game you need some observation skills.
Everyone looks out a window, keeping their eyes open for shapes. Circular man-hole cover? Shout out, “Circle!”
Rectangle windows on that semi-truck? Call out, “Rectangle!”
Try to find some more obscure shapes like hearts, rhombuses (diamonds), parallelograms, etc.
Challenge your kids to look for shapes inside of shapes. Maybe the rectangle sign has circles, or they find a triangle inside of a square.
5. How Many ___ Before?”
This game is another one that sounds harder than it really is. Honestly, it’ll take longer for me to type it all out than for you to get the rules figured out!
Pick a milestone on your trip. Will you be stopping for lunch in 20 minutes? Is there a rest stop you’ll be hitting in 5 miles?
Ask your kids (and yourself) what they’d like to look for between here and there. Certain cars? Vehicles of a certain color? Tractors? Horses? Encourage them to be creative, and keep their environment in mind.
Now for the math portion. Each player estimates how many of their chosen object they will find by the time the milestone is reached.
Do you think you’ll find 20 convertibles before the rest stop?
Or perhaps 3 snow plows.
Each person picks an object, and estimates a number.
Say, “Go!” and let the counting begin.
When you arrive, see who got the closest to their estimate.
These were simple, but playing games is a great way to engage your children in the car.
Tell Me Your Favorite Car Games for Kids
I’m always looking for new games to play while on the road. What are your favorites?
Do you think you’ll try any of these on your next trip? I’d love to hear what you think!
Photo Credit: Bryan Tanner Photos, Used with Permission