Let the kids make the most of the benefits of play – even when you’re travelling!
Children’s play isn’t just fun and games – it’s crucial for their wellbeing and the development of key life skills that encourage positive behaviour. Playing helps your child to progress along the learning curve and to process and express emotions. Giving their imaginations free rein also plays an important role in making them more creative as they develop.
But how can you let your kids make the most of the benefits of play when you’re on the road?
On first consideration, it might appear that being stuck in the confines of a car makes it impossible for children to have a good time. However, there are many games kids can play in the car that allow them to get all the benefits of play.
Not all children’s in-car play has to centre on hi-tech gadgets. Old-school games can still keep your kids happy, and many of these activities will cost you nothing.
Free games kids can play in the car
Here is our pick of five of the best and simplest free car games for kids.
1. I-Spy. With origins in the Victorian era, I-Spy is easy for kids to learn and is ideal to keep younger children entertained over long periods. It helps them to become more observant of their surroundings and aids comprehension and language development. I-Spy can also improve visualisation and your child’s listening and questioning skills.
2. Noughts and Crosses. This game has been around since the first century BCE, when the Romans used chalk to play it to give themselves a break from maintaining their empire. All you need for this popular standby game are two players, a pencil and a grid. You can get free printable Noughts and Crosses templates off the internet or play the actual game online.
3. Twenty Questions. Like I-Spy, this guessing game for kids requires no tools. It can improve communication skills, develop vocabulary and expand knowledge of geography and understanding of maths. Unfamiliar with how to play Twenty Questions?
4. Road Trip Bingo. This game improves youngsters’ observational skills in the same way as I-Spy. Give your kids a written list of objects to spot on the journey as the scenery rolls by – red van, dog, person on a bike, for instance. The first to cross everything off their list calls BINGO! and is the winner.
5. The Number Plate Game. Great for inspiring creativity rather than competitiveness, the number plate game sparks kids’ imaginations and encourages them to make up stories. Everyone memorises the last three letters of the number plate of a passing car and comes up with a story using the letters as inspiration.
For more car game inspo, check out our roundup of games to keep the kids entertained in the car.
Toys for toddlers in the car
If you have a toddler, buy a few new toys for the car trip, and bring them out as a surprise when restlessness looms.
Toys good for keeping toddlers entertained in the car include:
- Toy cars or other transport-based items.
- Dress-up dolls.
- Mr Potato Head.
- Colouring books.
Turning to tech
If your children get bored with their toys or traditional car games, technology has made it easier to let your kids make the most of the benefits of play when travelling. Phone apps and other electronic games can be a useful resource to keep your kids happy on your journey while teaching them problem-solving skills. One of the most versatile pieces of technology for use in the car is the tablet, which allows your youngster to choose from a multitude of interactive games, as well as read or watch a film.
Take a break!
Making it possible for your kids to enjoy themselves while travelling is not only beneficial for them – although they don’t consciously care about learning curves or creativity development – it can also make the journey a lot less stressful for yourself by banishing the backseat boredom that leads to fractious behaviour. However, there may be occasions when in-car play can only get you so far. Long motorway trips, for example, can be particularly boring for youngsters. When it looks like the entertainment value of car games is starting to wear thin, find a service station where your kids can let off a little steam. Some of our sites even have soft play areas in – so they can really let loose!