Crafts & activities

5 games to play on long journeys with kids

Need some help navigating long journeys with little ones this Easter? Daisy Upton, aka Five Minute Mum, has shared some ideas for quick and simple games from her new book Five Minute Mum: On the Go – the perfect companion to anyone who wants five minutes of peace when they're on the move with their kids.

Daisy Upton
Illustration: Five Minute Mum: On the Go by Daisy Upton
A little girl sitting in a car and marking things off a checklist
Image: Five Minute Mum: On the Go by Daisy Upton

For the first years of my children’s lives, we were based in Manchester while my extended family (two of Ewan and Florence’s grandparents and their uncle) lived in Sussex. Because we all like to spend time together, four-hour car journeys were a regular thing for us as we frequently travelled up and down the country in a car for some family time. Six years of completing this journey roughly every six to twelve weeks meant that I clocked up quite a few tips and tricks for helping my little ones cope with car trips from newborn to age seven. They’ve seen us through traffic jams, travel sickness, boredom, and everything in between!

So, I have popped down some of my top tips below from those years of jaunting up and down the M6…

1. Magic Traffic Lights

Whenever we get to traffic lights, we each take it in turns to make up a magic spell. We see whose spell works to make the light go green! So, as soon as the car stops, I say, ‘Iggity zaggety zeem! Make the light go green!’ and point my finger at the lights. If the light doesn’t go green, one of the kids will immediately jump in to say their spell. Whoever is saying a spell when the light changes has clearly got the right magic!

2. Lorry Count

Ideal for a motorway. Everyone chooses a colour. When a lorry of that colour goes past, they add it to their tally. The winner is either the one with the most when the car clock turns to a certain time or is the first to get to ten or twenty.

3. Link Stories

Start off a line from a story. Get your children to come up with the next bit. So: ‘One day I went to the park and I saw an ENORMOUS... Ewan – your go.’ They need to be a bit older for this one! I sometimes write down the stories and read them back to them for extra giggles.

4. Guess That Song

Hum a song and the kids have to guess what it is. Then let them have a go at humming a tune too. Or, if they are much older, beat out the rhythm of the song on a hard surface and see if they can get that.

5. Car Bingo

Grab a notebook or piece of paper and spend five minutes writing or drawing some things your little ones might see on the journey (depending on their ability to read). Draw tick boxes next to them, and then hand the list to your child – a clipboard or a piece of cardboard with a paperclip also comes in really handy for them to lean on. When they’ve got them all, they shout ‘CAR BINGO!’

All of these games can also easily be modified and played on a long train or coach journey!

Illustration: Five Minute Mum: On the Go by Daisy Upton

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more