When I was a child, family trips meant spending what seemed like aeons crammed into the back of my parents' Austin Allegro with my brother and a rather flatulent dog. To pass the time we amused ourselves with games like I-Spy, rock, paper scissors and my brother's now-trademarked, bogey tag (don't ask...).
Nowadays, kids have all manner of electronic entertainment on hand to while away the hours on the road. However, this doesn't always stop the journey from being a screaming, sugar-fuelled drive on the highway to hell.
But long car journeys with kids needn't be a torturous tidal wave of emotions fuelled by Haribo, elbow jabbing and threats of vomit. Rather than seeing the endless miles trapped in a steel box with your loved ones as a trial of endurance, why not embrace it as opportunity to enjoy some quality time together as a family?
Before you know it they'll be grunting teenagers and plugged in to anything rather than interact socially with the family. So ditch the electronics, tell some bad jokes and play some traditional car games and the time will just fly by.
Great games for under-fives
List or draw 10 items on a piece of card of things you might see on the journey. For instance; a cake shop, a police car or a caravan and tick one off every time they spot something. First to tick them all wins. To extend the game, why not throw in a curve ball like blue pig or a pink castle.
Ready, Steady, Eddie
Spotting Eddie Stobart lorries is always a winner in my book. All you need is a pair of eyes and some fingers to count on. If older kids need a little encouragement, I find a small cash reward for every Stobart spotted works very well as an incentive. Offer a bonus 10p if the driver waves at you and 50p if they honk the horn.
Animal 20 Questions
Choose a child to think of an animal and the rest of the family have to ask them questions to find out what it is. The only rule is they can only answer yes or no, whoever guesses correctly is the winner. And no, Moshi Monsters don't count.
Boredom busters for five to eight year olds
I Went Shopping...
This classic memory game might be an oldie but it's a goody. The first person starts with the phrase "I went shopping and bought a...pink elephant", the next person repeats the phrase and adds on their own item "I went shopping and bought a pink elephant and a pair of yellow dungarees" and so on. The more random the shopping list the harder the game. The winner is the last person to remember them all correctly.
The Alphabet Game
Pick a theme and take it in turns to work your way through the whole alphabet naming as many items as you can for every letter. My favourite themes are food and celebrities, but animals work well, song titles and even car models.
Backseat battles for those aged nine and over
Bus Stop Battle
First split the car down the middle into teams, one team taking the left side of the road, the other the right. Each time you pass a bus stop, you must count how many people are waiting, if there are none, deduct a point, alternatively if there is a dog, add 5 points. Whoever gets the most points by the time you reach your destination wins.
Name That Tune
A simple game for kids who love TV and pop music. The first person hums a tune and the rest have to guess it. And if that gets too easy why not swap humming for tapping out the tune with a pencil on the window. If you really want to win, I find that death metal rock anthems are almost impossible for a nine-year-old to guess.
Who's Next Door?
This is a great game for when you're stuck in a traffic jam. Everyone in the car has to discreetly peek out of their window to their neighbouring car. One by one you have to invent a name, a job, a favourite hobby and a favourite meal for your neighbour. Encourage the kids to be as wild and as wacky as they can.
Trying to tempt a sulky teen to ditch their headphones for a family game of I-Spy is all but impossible. However, a game of Would you rather... where you give two options and they have decide which one they would choose, is almost impossible to resist. For instance, would you rather be able to breathe under water or fly like a bird? Would you rather only eat chocolate or only eat cheese? If this doesn't work tempt them with the old favourite, who would win in a fight between Godzilla or King Kong?
And if all else fails, throw a bag of sweets in the back, crank up the radio and rock out to Mum and Dad FM. It's your car after all.
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