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Five Great Backseat Games for Road Trips

Planning to do a little traveling with the kids this Memorial Day weekend?

AAA estimates 34.9 million Americans will hit the roads this Memorial Day weekend. That is a ton of spilled sippy cups, backseat squabbles, kids yelling, "Are we there yet?," and stressed out parents. Before you break out the TV and handheld video games, here is some gadget-free entertainment that will not only keep the kids occupied, but also actively engage them.

What Animal Am I?

In this variation of 20 questions, one person starts by choosing an animal but does not reveal it to anyone. Then they say, “I’m an animal. What animal am I?” Everyone then takes turns asking a yes or no question. Whoever guesses the correct animal wins.

Tip: Encourage younger kids to start out with asking big questions first like, “Do you live on land?”

What it teaches: deductive reasoning, science, problem solving

My Mother Owns a Grocery Store

A person starts the game by saying, “My mother owns a grocery store and in it she sells (something that starts with the letter a).” The next person has to repeat the sentence and adds an item to the list that starts with b. The third person repeats the list and adds an item that begins with c and so on. If someone misses an item on the list or gets stumped, he or she is out.

Variations: You can switch out grocery store for any other type of store, museum, library, candy shop, etc.

What it teaches: memory, creativity

Story Rounds

To begin this game you must chose the order in which people will take their turn. The first person  starts by beginning a story. Then each person takes a turn adding another line or two to the original story. Twists and turns in plot is encouraged.

Tip: If you have kids who like closure, it’s a good idea to chose someone ahead of time to be the story 'ender.'

What it teaches: creativity, story construction, plot, character development, sequencing of events

License Plate Game

Ah yes, the license plate game. Kids have been playing it as long as there have been cars with license plates. For this game, players try to spot license plates from each US state. Extra points are given to the person who spots a plate from Alaska or Hawaii.

Variation: A fun variation I saw was to make up silly phrases based on the letters on a license plate. For instance if the first letters are EMG, you could say, “Elephants munch grapes.”

What it teaches: the power of observation

Punch Buggy   

This one doesn’t require an explanation. But since I explained the rest, I’ll go ahead. Here’s how you play: when someone spots a VW Beetle, they yell, “Punch Buggy (color of Beetle)” while delivering a light tap on the shoulder of a fellow passenger. While Volkswagon may disagree, I think a more modern take on this would be punch buggy Prius.

What it teaches: Uh, probably nothing. But we all wax nostalgic over it so perhaps there’s something to it after all.

Cindy H May 27, 2011 at 03:52 PM
We find that for the animal game, starting with questions about colors really helps narrow things down for the younger set (Are you more than one color? Are you blue? etc.). helps you start visulaizing possible animals more easily. Also, we have a Wheel of Fortune spinner that we use - whatever letter the spinner lands on you have to point out something outside the car that starts with that letter. Also, for any yellow car you spot, shout out "Cheezit!" (this involves less bruising than punch buggies).

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