preschooler in car seat on road trip

Road Trip Car Games For Preschoolers: How to Survive the Drive!

Do you have a road trip coming up?! We are planning a big family one this summer and so the planning starts now to survive the drive!  Road trip car games for preschoolers are a must to make the drive fun! 

And by fun I mean bearable and arriving at our destination with our sanity mostly intact.  I’m under no illusions of how this could actually go for us!  No matter how you split it, 20+ hours in a car is a lot for anyone let alone a 2 and 4 year old!!  Wish us luck!

Are you the prepared mom who thrives on planning and lists?  Or are you a mom willing to just wing it and hope for the best? 

I’m in between – I love a good list, but at the same time don’t want to spend more time on things than they’re worth.  So yes, I’m making a list, but it’s of EASY road trip games for preschoolers that fit my mom effort vs. kid fun balance rule.  If you haven’t read about this life-changing balance, check it out here!

Road Trip Car Games for Preschoolers: Game Criteria

So given that I’m an odd mix of an overachiever, need to be a prepared mom with a healthy amount of not wanting to put too much effort into it here’s my criteria for the road trip games for preschoolers that I’m taking with us and sharing with you.

Space:

The game must be small.  When you research road trip games for preschoolers you’d think some people are travelling in a luxury limo for all the materials and equipment some ideas require!  No thank you.  If it even requires any materials it needs to be able to fit in one large ziploc bag.

Loose Parts:

Speaking of materials for road trip games for preschoolers…Know what no one wants to hear constantly for hours?! “I dropped it!” – “Can you get it?” – “Waaaaaah I NEED it!”

Yes, there’s the trick of using a claw grabber toy thingy, but that won’t help at this age!  It must be a game that requires very few pieces. 

This list of easy road trip car games for preschoolers keeps it simple: at most the games need a book or a crayon tied to a clipboard!   

Fun:

Not sure what it says about me personally that fun didn’t come first in my road trip games for preschoolers checklist.  But really, nothing else matters if the game isn’t fun enough to get a preschooler’s attention.  Interactive and silly are the goals!

Screen Free:

Gasp! No you don’t need to attempt a road trip with zero screen time.   Hey, if you can then all the more power to you, but that’s not an option for me! Let’s be real, a tablet can provide a huge amount of entertainment while driving – it’s awesome!  Digital games will be played, tv shows and movies will be watched. 

If you’re looking for an affordable, kid-friendly tablet I’ve been researching and it’s looking like this affordable Amazon Fire Kids tablet is going to be the winner:

If little ones spend all day on screens though, getting them to bed at the hotel stop will be a nightmare!!! While normal screen rules and limits won’t apply when in an enclosed space for hours with no movement possible, some balance is needed for their little brains to not be too overstimulated! 

Happy Moments Mom Advice:

  1. Make sure your chil
  2. Plan to use that precious screen time for allowing them to truly ignore the real world of their confined little car seats and live in Adventure Bay or Arendelle for a little while! 

Road Trip Car Games for Preschoolers: The Games

 

Would You Ratherquestion marks

A classic and perfect for a road trip.  There are no materials to keep track of and plenty of preschooler silliness to be found! 

Bonus for you, since I’ve been planning this for my kids I’ve come up with a list of 50 Would You Rather Questions for Preschoolers.  It’s separated into 10 categories, 5 questions each.  Most of the questions can then turn into many more by just using the same idea but replacing the choices!  

Download the FREE PRINTABLE Would You Rather Road Trip Car Game for Preschoolers HERE!!

Don’t do 50 at once though, spread out the fun!  If you’re on a road trip you’ll have plenty of opportunities to play again.  Small chunks of 10-15 are perfect!  If you ask everyone in a car plus talk about why they chose things in between a small chunk can easily take 10 -20 minutes.  

Extend the fun each time by having your preschooler come up with their own questions to ask after yours.

Share-a-Story

Everyone works together to tell a story!  This is so great because it is so creative it can last awhile with a good level of engagement and needs no supplies.  Tailor the story to suit your child’s interests to keep them into the fun.  

How you share the storytelling can vary depending on your child’s mood and ability.  

Maybe you take turns one sentence or action at a time.

Or maybe you tell most of it and they fill in the blanks like this:  “Next, the monster visited the _______!” or “The little girl was wearing ______”.  This keeps even the younger kids involved, not just passively listening!

Mad Libs

No, a preschooler doesn’t know what a noun, verb or adjective is – at least I doubt it!! But they do understand the idea of things, places, actions and descriptions.  You can prompt them with ideas too if you need to – super easy to make this work for a variety of ages!  

I ordered this book online for our trip for $4.49 US on Amazon:

They do come as Mad Libs Junior – but that just provides a word bank for young readers.  Since it’s you reading, not your kids at this age go ahead and order the regular silly ones. 

You can also visit this site online where you type in the words and it spits out a story.  I wish you could see the whole story first to help prompt little ones.  But hey, it’s fun, free and takes up zero space in our car!! 

Scavenger Hunt

Another classic – and for a reason! Do you have memories of doing this as a kid? I  have so many memories of playing this with my sisters on long drives.  My mom would just bring a paper and write a list for each of us. 

road trip car game scavenger hunt list

Now of course it’s easier to be fancy – in fact, you can download my cute FREE PRINTABLE neighbourhood scavenger hunt from my post about making walks fun for kids. It works for road trips too!

Come to think of it, most of the walk hunt games like an alphabet, number or rainbow hunt work for road trips.  I’m adding those and some other ones from that post to my list!

Making your own list version together the day before you leave.  Think of things to look for together, draw a quick sketch and write one word for it (no, they can’t read but sneaking in some literacy is always good!).  Your child can colour the pictures.  Doin it together is a great way to plan this road trip car game for preschoolers for many reasons:

  • It involves your kids – cross something off the to-do list while also having fun (and learning!)
  • It helps kids get excited for the adventure
  • You can tailor the things on it to be ones you know you will see!

No Name Game!nametag crossed out

The game is that you say starting now,  no one can say the names of anyone in the car.  See how long you can go keeping this game up!  

This one can be fun but also can be frustrating if a child feels like they are always “losing” or can’t get your attention, so make the effort to keep it silly and laughing when someone messes up!  Honestly in our house it’s naturally an adult that messes up first a lot of the time which keeps it from being frustrating.  You could always help that along by making sure you “accidentally” say a name first sometimes and are silly about your reaction. 

An easier version of this road trip car game for preschoolers is to just pick one person’s name.  For example, no one can say “Mom”.  Come to think of it, maybe they’ll solve the problem by asking Dad for things more if it’s played like that… I like that plan!! 

If this game is a hit, try using any word, not just a name.  Maybe the name of the place you’re going, “when” or something else that’s sure to come up!

Each version may only get you a few minutes, but it’s a few minutes more than you had before and it can just lift everyone’s spirits with a little silliness! 

Count On It!

If your preschooler knows how to count, bring on the counting!! You can do the traditional count how many you can find of something, but it’s better for this age is to see how long it takes to find 10 of something. 

Two reasons counting multiple items up to ten is better:

  1. 10 is a more manageable number a preschooler can likely count to on their own.
  2. It creates a “time is of the essence”, race  quality to the count to help maintain focus!

This road trip car game for preschoolers is really awesome because you can count anything, anywhere!  Even if you’re in rural middle of nowhere you can count how many cars go by, clouds in the sky or corn fields you pass.

The Quiet Racechild holding fingers to mouth shh quiet

Ah, a teacher’s favourite!  So simple, yet so effective – the first few times anyway so use this one sparingly!  On a long road trip though, take whatever silence you can get!!  Again, really little ones will not be able to do this, but older preschool kids may be up for the challenge!  It’s a very simple game:

Everyone has to be quiet – whoever stays quiet longest wins! 

Modify it to play more by making it a team effort and creating challenges such as “Who thinks we can all be quiet for one minute?!”  And if we can, success – that’s one minute down…only 1200 more to go!!  Next you can up it by saying oh we are so awesome, think we can do two?!  Or even: “Who thinks we can be quiet until the next turnoff, sign… rest stop? Hey, a mom can dream!”. 

Although seriously, if it’s only a few minutes until your next stop offering a treat when you get there  for succeeding at such a challenge is an awesome bribe…I mean prize!! 

What/Who Am I?

This road trip game is like the classic 20 questions only in reverse.  Instead of your child asking questions, you provide hints for them to figure out who or what you are describing.  

For example:  I am a dog….I am part of a team…I am on a roll…I am brown…I like to fix things… 

By now your child has probably guessed that it’s Rubble from Paw Patrol – assuming your kids are as in love with the pups as mine!

20 Questions

Since it’s been mentioned, let’s include 20 questions on this list of easy road trip car games for preschoolers too!  It’s a classic and let’s face it – toddlers and preschoolers are great at asking a million questions!  

They will probably need more specific categories to start.  They aren’t going to ask “Is this a person, place or thing” so make it more preschool age appropriate.  Play the game in rounds where each round the thing you choose must be from a certain category.

Some category ideas are: an animal, a food, a toy, a place, a person in the family, etc.  

Categories also make it a game you can come back to later and have it be just different enough to create interest in playing again.

Seek & Find Books

 I 100% recommend these because they have pictures of what to find and they have LOTS of things to find on each page + a lot of pages.  There’s a fairy one too.  

 

These are kind of like an individual game – solitaire for toddlers without the cards.  Pack a brand new one and bam…loads of time taken care of with almost zero effort!

Whatever book you choose, be sure you get one that:

  • has lots of pages to search
  • has lots of things to search on each page
  • shows a picture of what to search so it is truly independent play
  • has pictures that aren’t too hard for your child to find.  For example, highlights has great books, but some are quite difficult!! 

Sticker Books

Again, more of an independent game, but assuming your preschooler is over the “I put everything in my mouth phase” sticker books are great so they just have to be included on this list!!  

Usborne has a whole series of fantastic “My First Sticker Book” ones like this zoo theme book and this Melissa & Doug set is coming with us on our next trip as it’s a combination sticker book AND seek & find!!

Lift the Flap Books

If your kiddo is still a bit young for stickers (you don’t trust them not to try to eat them!) and seek and finds are still tricky, a lift the flap book is amazing for a road trip.  Some of them have SO MANY flaps that your little one will be entertained for awhile!  

We love Little People books like this one you can find on Amazon:

 

As you can see, with a little imagination and creativity, you can play lots of fun road trip car games for preschoolers without weighing your car down with a million game materials!  

Will there be meltdowns? Of course! Those would happen at home too though, so don’t let a busy back seat stop you from going on your next adventure!

Good Luck & Have Fun!! 

 

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5 thoughts on “Road Trip Car Games For Preschoolers”

  1. I love each of the suggested games for preschoolers on a road trip. My son and I play I spy and tell jokes and stories. I can’t wait to try Mad Libs and the quiet game with him and my husband.

  2. Love these quick and easy games for road trips. Looking forward to trying the No Name Game. I have a feeling I will lose this one for sure. While these all seem so great for preschool, they also seem great for my older kids too. Very thought out list.

    1. Yes, I based the list of road trip games on preschoolers (and a talkative toddler who doesn’t always understand the concept but is happy to “participate” and be silly) but I can definitely see these being games we use for years to come!

  3. Great list! I will have to try these when we go away in the coming weeks. I hate to rely on technology while driving… thanks so much for sharing!

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