One of the things that sets the Montessori approach apart is its focus on engagement, rather than simply entertaining children. And although long car rides can be a nice opportunity to give your kiddo some screen time (and give you some quiet time), you might not always want to hand over the screen. So, if you’re planning a long summer drive or your kiddos need some more engagement during car rides, we’ve got some ideas for road trip games for kids.
With the Montessori principle of engaging children, you can combine learning and having fun. You might play a game that refreshes their letter skills or maybe you’ll use car games to learn about interesting wildlife you see along the way (any bird enthusiasts out there?). There are even some games that might let you get a good nap in. Check out these ideas for Montessori-inspired road trip games for kids and add to the fun memories of your next long drive.
Road trip games for kids:
1. I spy
This classic game is a great one for road trips because it requires no materials and can be adapted for children of all ages. Keep it simple ( “I spy something red” ) for your youngest and make it more challenging (“I spy something shaped like an octagon”) for older children.
If your child is enjoying learning their letter sounds, the car is also a great place to practice I spy with sounds (“I spy something that starts with b”).
2. Lacing Cards
Lacing cards are a pre-sewing work included in many Montessori classes for 3-6-year-olds. They are great for building fine motor skills and concentration. Young children often concentrate on this activity for long periods of time, but it has very few pieces, making it a good one for long car trips. There are many fun options , making it easy to find one that matches your child’s interests.
3. Read out loud from a book about your destination
Books are always a great road trip option, but it’s even more special if you can find a book about the place you’re visiting.
4. Etch a sketch
Art supplies are great to bring for the hotel room but can be a bit messy in the car. Try giving your child an Etch a Sketch for the backseat instead. They get an activity that helps them practice hand control and you get a clean car—no melted crayons or paper scraps.
5. Meaningful music
Audiobooks are another great way to keep children happy and engaged in the car and many are available through the public library for free.
7. Tell me a story
Tell your child you’re going to make up your very own story together. You say the first couple of lines of the story and then ask someone else in the car to continue it. Keep taking turns, letting everyone in the car participate in the game until the story comes to a conclusion. You can even set the story in a car or in your destination to help get your child excited about the trip.
8. Scavenger hunt
Before your trip, ask your child to help you make a list of all of the interesting things they’d like to see along the way. This might include certain animals, a fancy car they like, or different types of trees or flowers.
Make a list with little checkboxes and ask them to keep a lookout and check off what they find on your journey.
9. Make a map
Draw or print a simple map of your travel route. Let your child draw or write things they see or things that happen along the route. This makes a great free souvenir of your journey!
10. Road trip bingo
If your child already knows their letters and numbers, try license plate bingo or another travel bingo game. This is not only entertaining, but it’s also great for visual depiction and practicing reading as your child tries to decipher the different license plates.
Taking a break? Try these rest stop activities
11. Nature hunt
This is a great rest stop activity that will help everyone stretch their legs. Set a time limit of five minutes and task everyone with finding the most interesting nature item they can. Ask everyone to place their item on a small blanket and share what they liked about it.
12. Sidewalk chalk
Bring a small container of sidewalk chalk and tell your children they have 15 minutes (or however long you decide to take break) to decorate the rest stop sidewalk and make it beautiful for all of the travelers coming through.
Bring a small bottle of bubbles for your child to blow and chase while they stretches their legs.
14. Bucket and shovel
A bucket is multi-purpose so it’s a great item to bring on any road trip. If the rest stop is rocky, they can collect their favorite rocks to sort or show you before putting them back. If it’s sandy, they can dig in the sand a bit before hopping back in the car.
15. Bird watching
Bring some child-sized binoculars and see how many types of birds your little one can spot. These can be great to use at your destination as well.
A version of this post was published on June 11, 2018. It has been updated.