Tuesday, 29 May 2012

I spy with my little eye, something beginning with...

Remember our recent journey to the North East?  And how we forgot to take with us all the electronic gizmos and gadgets that keep children (and adults) entertained these days?

Disaster?  No, because, guess what?  We had with us some even more revolutionary inventions...pencils, pens and paper!

Half way into the journey home, with books finished, newspapers read and picnics eaten, we started on the games and they occupied us from Derby to Bristol.

The kids have mostly outgrown I Spy.  Phew!  And Noughts and Crosses (Tic Tac Toe).  Alleluia!

But we enjoyed:




and a game where you choose four categories (eg a food, a town, a country, an animal) and choose a letter.  You then have to find a food, a town, a country and an animal beginning with that letter.  A point is awarded for every correct word, and two points if you have a word that nobody else chose.   Repeat with more letters until boredom sets in!

I was shocked at the bad parenting I uncovered when my children said they had never been shown how to play:

Word Consequences


Picture Consequences

When we had exhausted these pencil and paper games, we played Twenty Questions and a Yes/No game.  (One person asks another questions to which they must NEVER respond with a Yes or a No.  If they do so, that round is over and the players swap roles.)

Now I know there are probably much more exciting activities on mobile phones and other electronic devices, but for me, these simple games win, hands down.  We didn't have to worry about charging the pens or paper, or losing expensive pieces of kit!  Moreover, the games were sociable; we could play them all together, at the same time, and amazingly, with nobody arguing.

The half term holiday is coming up and another long journey lies ahead of us, to the North West of England this time.  I'm already thinking about what other games we can play whilst travelling and whilst on holiday.

We have this old charity shop find, but there's nothing less conducive to a fun game than having somebody reading the book, sieving out the good games from the bad, digesting the rules, and trying to explain it, all at the same time, whilst shouting over the noise of the motorway!

Instead of having to resort to my battered Book of Car Games, I'd love to know if you have any simple family favourites that you play with your children or grandchildren?


  1. I was so pleased when I found out that my daughter plays this with her children, just as we had done when she and her brother were young. 2 children is the ideal number because each uses one car window, left or right. They "pick up" trash visually, with a scale from 1 for soft drink cans, 25 for car tires, all the way up to 50 for abandoned chairs and other big items. Both families lived/live in rural areas in the USA and the trash could be startling occasionally. (I'll add that "road-kill" scored high with my hard-hearted offspring, from possums through deer)

    Erika W.

  2. Thanks Erika! It would be nice to think that recycling had made that game redundant but sadly not, and we shall give that one a go on our journey tomorrow! (Although if we see any possum road-kill we can be sure we've taken a wrong turning somewhere!)

  3. There's always the many versions of the license plate game. Most of the time, we do the alphabet version. But on one particularly long trip, we kept track of how many foreign license plates we saw (and for us,in the USA, foreign included other states).

  4. Thanks Lili! What is your license plate game and the alphabet version? I think there's one in my car games book where you try and make words out of the letters. The foreign license plates spotting would definitely keep my two amused.

  5. The basic license plate game is to do the alphabet, in order by the license plate letters you find. To make it more challenging (or to even the playing field between an older and younger sibling), sometimes the letters used for the alphabet must be the first in a string of letters (or, we have the older sibling follow that rule, and younger siblings get to use any letter in a string for their next abc). First one to the end of the alphabet wins. We also play a version of 21 (like the card game), where players try to find license plate numbers with the highest total, when all numbers are added together, without going over 21. For this one, every one gets a pen and paper, and has 5-10 minutes to write down their seen license plate number string. At the end of the time period, everyone compares their totals, closet to 21 without going over wins. (here in the USA, most license plates have both numbers and letters, with a total of 6 or 7 digits). We really like the states one, though. We all participate together on this game. One person keeps track of all the different states/countries that we see. This game can continue for a couple of days, if we're on a particularly long trip. Over here, we generally only see 2 foreign country plates -- Mexico and Canada. You'd likely find many, many more in your area. We think it's fun to spot all the out of state/country cars, and comment on things like "wow! that's a long drive", or I'll ask the kids if they know what another place is well-known for. It's actually somewhat educational. We learn a bit about geography, as well as cultural differences.

    1. Thanks for the instructions Lili! It was very popular on our journey yesterday! After we played the alphabet game, we played count the Union Jack flags - lots of cars are 'wearing' them for the Queen's Jubilee!