Let’s face it: The thought of car travel with children leaves many an otherwise calm, cool, and collected parent trembling with dread. But with a little creativity, driving long distances with kids in tow doesn’t have to be a wretched experience. Add some interesting diversions and introduce some games the whole family can participate in, and just maybe your next drive across country will be pleasantly memorable.
In these technically advanced days of portable DVDs, iPods, and PlayStations, you can add loads of electronic entertainment to your travels, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of a family vacation? Sure, you may get from point A to point B relatively painlessly if your kids are plugged into Shrek, but how about capitalizing on the chance to do some family bonding, instead. Chat with your children, reconnect as a family, and have a little fun together. Here are some ideas for spicing up your next trip with a little friendly competition.
The ABCs of Travel
Choose a subject such as animals, foods, music bands or celebrities and take turns listing something in that category that starts with A (for instance, ant, apple, ABBA, Ashley Olsen). The person who gets stumped coming up with an “A” word, starts the “B” round for the subject chosen. Try not to get stuck on X, U and Z, those stubborn letters of the alphabet! Pre-readers can play this game if an adult helps out by telling them what sound the words will begin with. (“Now we’re on the letter ‘B.’ Think of words that start with a ‘buh’ sound.”)
In a variation for older kids, players not only come up with a new word in the right category and beginning with the right letter, but they also must repeat the words mentioned earlier. Other topics for older kids may include historical figures, landmarks, or topics like emotions (angry, bashful, crabby…) or verbs (add, bike, climb, dive…). Any topic that will get the family thinking is a good start, and you’ll also be offering subtle lessons in English, history and geography without the kids feeling like they’re being quizzed!
The Celebrity Game
One person starts by naming any celebrity. Decide on the rules before you begin on any limitations (fictional, living, dead, a celebrity, or a cartoon figure). If the first person says Donald Trump, the next person must name someone who starts with a T, since that is the first letter of the last name. A round may go like this: Donald Trump, Tiger Woods, Wilma Flintstone, and so on. If the first and last names start with the same initials, such as Marilyn Monroe, Donald Duck or Peter Pan, the game is reversed, with the first letter of the first name dictating the next choice. You may also choose to do a reverse if you name a one-name person such as Madonna, Prince, or Tinkerbell. If you “play” a name that’s already been mentioned, then you’re out. The person to outlast everyone wins. This is a fun game because anything goes, and it usually lasts a while without becoming boring.
Create Your Own Games
One night many years ago, my friend and I created a game that's fun for both children and adults. It goes like this: Someone describes something (television show, movie, famous person, character, food item… the list is as endless as your imagination) in a unique and difficult way and others have to guess what is being described.
At the inception of this game, my friend put on her best “game-show host” face and asked us, the “contestants” the following question: “Name a three-foot being who has a fondness for Reese’s Pieces and Drew Barrymore.” Of course, we all shouted "E.T.!" To add intrigue to this game, start out by giving limited information, and add clues as you go along. For instance, start by saying, “Starfish.” Pretty vague, right? Then add, “Squirrel, Squid.” Have the answer yet? If there are still blank looks on the other players’ faces, continue with your clues, “Employed at The Krusty Krab in Bikini Bottom.” If you still don’t know the answer is SpongeBob Squarepants, you really need a vacation! This is a game that is as imaginative as the people who are playing it.