Family enjoying a car journey together

13 fun and easy car games for your pre-schooler

By Caroline Graham

It's holiday time — which means many families will be getting in the car and heading off for some time away. Long car journeys with children can be a horrific daunting thought so to help you out we've chosen some easy car games for you and your pre-schooler to pass the time —  they're fun and educational too. Feel free to adapt, embellish and get as silly as you wish. 

Good for phonics

I Spy

The classic game where people take turns to choose something within everyone's sight and then recite: 'Eye spy with my little eye, something beginning with... (say the first letter or the phonetic sound of your chosen object)' . Younger children may need an adult to help them identify an object and the correct sound so it's a good way to get children thinking and sounding out phonics without them even realising it. S is for sneaky.

The Alphabet Game

Choose a theme such as food or girls' names or boys' names and then beginning with A, each person takes a turn to find a word within the theme that starts with each consecutive letter of the alphabet e.g The first player says A is for Apple, second player says B is for Banana, third player says C is for Cake etc 

Good for numeracy

Guess The Number

This is pretty basic but good for getting very young children to think about large and small numbers and how they relate to each other. The parent chooses a number and the child has to guess what it is. You can give clues by saying higher or lower. 

Number Plate Bingo

Everyone chooses a different number and then they have to spot their number on number plates as they go by. Agree how long you'll play for e.g. 15 minutes and see who gets their number the most during that time. 

Good for memory

The Shopping List Game

The first player says 'I went shopping and I bought' then they name an item. The second player says 'I went shopping and I bought' then they name an item, then repeat the item the last person says. And then players keep going round saying all the items until the list gets so long that a player forgets and is out. This is quite fun as often the whole family ends up trying to remember the list together so it's good for some group participation.

Knock Knock Jokes

The key to telling jokes is remembering them in the first place. So before you set off have four or five jokes up your sleeve that you can teach your little ones. Your children will love interacting with you and learning the rhythm of the joke. Just make sure you choose ones you like because you're going to hear them again and again. Again! Again!

Alternatively, here's a free download of 101 Knock Knock jokes to print off and take with you.

Twenty Questions

This game is probably more appropriate for older children (4-5). One player thinks of a person or a character and then everyone else asks them up to twenty questions as they try to guess who it is. E.g. Are you alive? Are you a woman? Are you on television? etc Top tip: Children find this game very funny if you pick someone they know such as a relative, teacher or classmate.

Good for observation

Colour Cars

Everyone chooses a colour, then when you see a car of your colour you get a point. The person with the most points wins. For really little ones you could just spot different coloured cars without counting points. Not that we would want to kill off any child's ideas or ambition but it might be a good idea to gently suggest they don't pink 'rainbow colour' or they could end up waiting a while. Actually, that might work...

Wildlife Bingo

Select some wildlife that you might see on your trip e.g. birds, cows, sheep, horses, dogs etc Then you have to shout out when you spot one. If you're organised you could make wildlife bingo cards in advance so players can tick off the animals as you spot them. If you do it this way, probably best the driver sits this one out.

Good for imagination

A Group Story

Each person takes a turn to tell the line of a story. Warning: things will probably get weird.

Get It Green

If you're stuck in traffic in a city or town, try to get your children to see if they can 'huff and puff and blow' the traffic lights from red to green. 

Would You Rather?

There is an adult version of this game that can get obscene quite quickly, but you can play a child-friendly version where you ask things like: 'Would you rather eat mouldy broccoli or mouldy bread?' Guaranteed to make them grimace and laugh. And hopefully not car sick.

Good for parents

The Quiet Game

A game where you see who can stay quietest the longest. It sounds so great in theory but in practice has questionable results. If you're very lucky you might get 30 seconds of peace before someone peeps. Still worth a shot then surely? 


Happy holidays and safe travels!


Where next?

How to make a treasure basket

7 ways poems and rhymes benefit your child's development

What is mark making and why is it important?

The benefits of muddy play