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Book cover for Are We There Yet - How to keep kids entertained

It's the phrase that you dread hearing when you are driving: "Are we there yet?"

And despite the fact that there is now a plethora of (usually) electronically powered gadgets to satisfy the little people sitting behind you as you set off on your journey that you know will take a long time, it seems that sometimes even that isn't enough.

Children asleep in the back of a car

What you wish for on a car journey

Whether they are laden down with iPads, Kindles, Smartphones, Dvd players, tablets, iPods, figures, toys or just plain old books and comics, attention span is sure to get shortened as the journey lasts; so what can you do, as a family, to entertain each other? After all, the "No Talking until someone spots Blackpool Tower. First one to see it gets a fiver," doesn't always work - although we do know of someone who managed to get 45 minutes quiet as the kids kept silent looking for it. (He was driving to the Lake District - nowhere near Black pool Tower.)

Or at least stop the kids trying to kill each other on the back seat as you try to drive safely on the road.

So here are a few suggestions for some road trip games that don't need any tools, paper or accessories (and some that do) for passengers at every age level, depending how you play them. After all, especially with the older kids, once you get to where you are going, they are going to be glued to their phones and tablets anyway!

I Spy

Yes! It's a classic:  and will elicit groans and cries of "That's boring" from the older children - until it's their turn. It helps to have a car with a lot in (Something like a Nissan Qashqai or a Subaru Forester so that there is plenty for people to "...spy with my little eye something that begins with (insert the first letter of the object's name)." Obviously it's not particularly fair to "I spy" something that has just whizzed past, although a landmark that is visible ahead or to the side is acceptable.

20 Questions

With the game 20 Questions, there are almost no limits - as long as it is sensible and, obviously, an "Animal, vegetable or mineral?" Take it in turns to ask questions - although the question "Are we there yet?" isn't allowed, and only the answer "Yes" or "No" is allowed. Examples of questions include "Has it got 4 legs?" and "Does it taste nice?"

If you reach the 20th question without a winner, everyone gets a guess at the answer. Whoever gets it right then chooses something for others to guess. If no one gets it, then the chooser gets another go.

This game is particularly funny when the one choosing the object is aged between 5 and 9 years old. I recall my grandson choosing a red-spotted dragon as his object - and calling it an animal. Needless to say, we didn't guess it.

Number Plates

Outside the car, number plates on other cars are an endless supply of entertainment with quite a few games possible.

You can play a game where the kids have to find as many number plates there are outside with the letter A in them. First one to 10 gets a point. Then the letter B etc. (If you want to you can get them looking for the letters I and O too - because there aren't any! It just gives you a bit of a break!)

You can also play looking for the alphabet in order depending on which side of the car they are sat, calling out letters in alphabetical order, with the first one to Z wins. 

And for elder children you can get them making phrases out of the last three letters of any number plates you choose. (e.g. RFL = Rugby Football League, Really Funny Laughing, Right Fairy Legs...) Give points for originality and for making you laugh. The funnier and more obscure the better.

Name That Tune

As simple as it sounds, but you will need to prepare it first by putting together a full set of tunes onto a playlist before you set off. Make sure you include music for all the family, and then you can all sing along to the songs on the way.

Be aware that this could lead to some really mind-numbing tunes being played on your car's entertainment system and the cry of "put it in again, please" on repeat! 

Memory Games

Games like 'The Picnic Game' and 'The Holiday Game' which all involve building the memory. These involve building up a list alphabetically. 

It starts off with one player saying: "I went to a picnic/I went on holiday  and I took a ..." Then they name something that they would take beginning  with the letter A, like apples. The next player repeats the opening phrase, and after "...I took" they repeat the item beginning with the letter A that the first player said and add in something beginning with the letter B, like bananas.

Onwards and upwards all around the car right up to the letter Z - if you can. 

Count the... (Option 1)

This is really more for the younger elements of your car passengers, and can be used on all sorts of roads. 

Quite simply you pick something (or let them pick it)....and count them. From cows and lamp posts to red cars and people with hats on, there is really no limit to what can be selected.

Next Door Neighbours

This one is really useful in a traffic jam - because we will all get stuck in one at some time! All you need is a car near you with someone in it. Let the children pick a car and then let them make up a story about the person or persons in it. 

They will need to tell a bit of background about them - their name, where they are from - and where they are going and what they are going to do when they are there. They should use clues in their 'victim's' car to embellish the story (a bike on the back, surfboard on the top etc.) and everyone can join in with ideas too!

Just make sure that the windows aren't down when you pass them!

Arms and Legs

As you drive through towns and villages, look out for pubs. Each player takes a turn to get points for how many arms and legs the pub sign has (or would have.)

For example: the King's Arms would get you 2 points (for his arms, obviously) but the Griffin and Lion would get you 8 (for the number of legs.) Be aware that Coach and Horses may lead to attempts at cheating ("But there are 5 people in the coach and 7 horses!") and that you may have to explain what certain signs are (Golden Hind for example.)

Count the... (option 2)

Pick a car colour and then each player has to count out loud cars that they see of that colour going along on the opposite side of the road or even parked up as you pass through villages and towns until they get to 10. First player to 10 wins that round.

You can even use car colours to play games like cricket and snooker in the car.

Snooker: A player has to see a red car and then the next car that is yellow, green, brown, blue. pink or black gets you the next point. Then another red etc. But put a time limit on the play (Say 5 minutes) before someone else gets a go.

Cricket: Again set a time limit but in this case decide what colour car gets a run, what colour gets two, four and six - and what colour gets a wicket! (The wicket colour needs to be a more unusual colour like pink or brown) 10 wickets and the innings ends. Obviously the umpire (You or the front seat passenger) decides when play starts and also makes decisions because there may be a lot of cars about!  

If all of these need a bit more explaining to you, or you need some more ideas and games to play in the car once wireless contact has been lost, and the batteries have run down on any electrical pieces of equipment, then we suggest that you make a copy of Jo Pink's book "Are We There Yet?" an essential purchase.

And you will find it useful when not in the car too!