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The Three Best Car Games We Ever Made Up

The Three Best Car Games We Ever Made Up

Vacation with the young-ins takes a lot of pre-planning — for sure. But in my experience, vacationing with my two boys mostly requires the ability to come up with new plans on the spot (because all the pre-planning didn’t go according to plan).

Luckily, I am a trained and practiced maker-upper, and I have a list of some real gems for both long and short car rides.

In this video we share our three favorite car games — all made up on the spot (usually to interrupt yet another argument in the back seat over whose stuff is on the wrong side).

Below you'll find summary explanations.


1. “Dumper, Camper, Flat-bed, Bus” (best for children 3 and up)

This game actually has a song for its title – it helps you remember the names of the vehicles. To learn the song, you can watch the video (above). Here is how you play the game:

  1. While one adult drives, the passengers look around for a dump truck, a camper or RV, a flat-bed truck, and a bus. When all of the items are spotted by any passenger, the game is won. That’s it. And honestly it is pretty fun.

  2. If you want to make the game last longer, you can sing the second verse: “Tow-truck, Food-truck, Tanker, Rust.” Then you look for a tow-truck, a truck with some kind of food marking on the outside, a milk or oil tanker, and then a rusty truck. Boom.

2. “Car I Spy” (best for children 6 and up)

This game is just like regular “I Spy” with the added complexity of movement. So it requires some imagination and extra attention.

  1. As the car is moving down the road, the “Spy” spots something of a particular color (a flower, a mailbox, a garage door, a trash can) and says “I spy something yellow.”

  2. Then each passenger asks clarifying questions to narrow down what it could be: “Is it man-made?” “Is it made of metal?” “Is it attached to a barn?”

  3. It requires players to pay extra attention to what is outside – and it asks them to imagine what they could have passed by and thus can no longer see.

3. “Pab Schwindeman” (best for children 7 and up)

I know – crazy name. But it is a crazy game! It involves making up unique names and then describing the character based on the name.

Here is how it works:

  1. One person comes up with a name – like “Rock Rolidex” or “Saraphath” or “Billy the Noodle.”

  2. Then each of the other people in the car have to make up a character that has that name. One character is a superhero, one character is a mythological being, one character is a musician, and one character is a world leader (all depending on how many people are playing).

  3. Next, it goes around the car and everyone has a chance to offer a character. For instance, “Rock Rolidex is a superhero who can freeze time for as long as he wants in a given area.”

  4. The thing is, if one person has already used the superhero option, the next person has to do something else. “Rock Rolidex is a Latvian hip hop artist who dresses like a 1950’s American film star.”

  5. Once everyone has had a chance to offer a character, the person who came up with the name chooses which character he or she likes best. Then the winner gets to choose a new name. It is crazy fun.

Pop these games into your back pocket when the cell service, app, directions and anything else that was a part of your original plan breaks down — or when you simply want a little family connect time.

Happy Travels!

About the Author

David Sewell McCann

Story Spinner

David Sewell McCann fell in love with spinning stories in first grade – the day a storyteller came to his class and captured his mind and imagination. He has been engaged in storytelling all of his adult life through painting, film-making, teaching and performing. Out of his experience as a Waldorf elementary class teacher and parent, he has developed a four step method of intuitive storytelling, which he now shares through workshops and through this website.

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