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Sassy Mama’s top games for keeping kids busy on the go

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Sassy Mama's top games for keeping kids busy on the go

The holidays are fast approaching and many of you are probably planning to go away for some family fun. But, whilst exploring new places with kids is a lot of fun, sometimes the getting there part can be a total drag – a seemingly never-ending journey punctuated with a soundtrack of “are we there yet?” which can make the most Zen Mama want to scream and tear her hair out!

But, fear not, it doesn’t have to be that bad… As long as you pack snacks; reading books; small notebooks and coloured pencils – or a magnetic doodle pad (e.g. Magna Doodle); and most importantly, enthusiasm and a good imagination, you’ll be able to make those miles whiz by. Below are some suggestions of games and activities to keep the kids and you smiling, as well as ideas for gadget fans.


1. Take it in turns for one person to be the storyteller. The other participants have to pick five objects (the zanier the selection the better), which the storyteller has to weave into the story. Have a competition to see who can come up with the craziest or funniest story – but remember that it has to make sense (sort of!) and use all the objects selected!

2. If your kids are too young to spin a story, play verbal madlibs with them instead. You supply the basic structure of the story, but allow your kids fill in the ‘blanks’ with their own objects and descriptions. For example: One day, (Use your child’s name) went to the ______. As she walked along, she saw a ______. It was ______ and _____. She opened her eyes wide in surprise and said ______, etc etc. Encourage your kids to think of imaginative and unexpected things to put in the blanks – and go with the flow, letting each suggestion drive the direction the story goes in. If all goes well, you should find yourself telling a fantastical tale!


1. Challenge your kids to only speak in rhyming couplets – you won’t believe how convoluted and funny the conversation can get as the kids try desperately to make things rhyme!
If you take a little time,
To only speak your thoughts in rhyme,
You will find, before you know it,
That you can call yourself a poet!

2. Play verbal snap: Pick a subject and a fairly common word pertaining to that subject eg Picnic/eat. Each person in turn has to talk for a set time (one or two minutes is good) about that subject, at a fast and furious pace, without mentioning the word. If the word is mentioned, and someone calls SNAP, the person speaking loses a point, whilst the person who noticed gains a point. The winner is the person who has the most points after everyone has a turn speaking.


1. Challenge the Artist: One person draws a squiggle (note – it should NOT be too messy a scribble) on some paper – and then passes it onto the ‘artist’ to try and incorporate the squiggle into a picture. Have a competition to see who manages to work the squiggle into their drawing the best.

2. Bend to my will: The only rule is that one line = a line which can be drawn without taking the pencil off the paper, and which does not cross the line currently being drawn. Once the pencil leaves the paper or the lines cross, it has to end there. This game is best played with three or more people.

The first player announces what they are going to draw and starts off that drawing with two lines. For example, they may decide they are going to draw a butterfly and draw two triangles touching each other at one point. They then pass the paper to the next person, who can also draw two lines. The catch is, the second player has to change the subject – e.g. into a ‘cat’. To further this, they may draw a circle under the triangles, for the cat’s face, and an eye. They then pass the paper onto the next person who also has to change the subject and draw two lines. Each player can choose a different subject each time, or on occasion, stick with one they have used before. The winner is the one who manages to complete the picture to represent the subject of their choice!


1. Spelling Bee: Take the first two letters on the number plates of the vehicles driving towards your car – and make words of four letters or more that start and end with those letters e.g. if the license plate starts with NN the word could be noun, noon, nitrogen etc. The winner is the first person to think of a word, or the person who thinks of the longest word. For advanced spellers!

2. For younger kids, take it in turns to choose things to spot – e.g. three yellow cars, six black birds etc. The person who spots the required number of objects first, wins.


Hopefully by now you’ve managed to kill quite a lot of time by playing some of the educational (shhh, don’t tell the kids!) but fun games above, and it’s time for you to take a well-deserved rest. If you’re travelling with an e-reader, a computer/iPad or a smart phone, let technology take over – present your kids with some things you downloaded before you left.

Pick a hot new release e-book or audible book from for your teen… or if you’d like to introduce them to some classics, there is a good selection of free classics in e-book or audible book form at Project Gutenberg and Books Should be Free.

For tweens who love listening to stories, download a selection of free story podcasts from Storynory or from one of the many other story podcast sites – check out iTunes for a selection – and load them onto your MP3 player.

There are some lovely picture book apps for tots too – but as they tend to be very interactive and rich in visuals (i.e. expensive to produce), the best apps are generally not free. To make sure you pick a winner, do a bit of research before you buy – on sites such as Digital Story time.

For iPad users there are a lots of other fun things you can download before you go – there are classic games such as Scrabble and Sudoku, as well as a whole host of others – check out reviews here before you buy.

Of course, one other good activity to make the journey time melt away is to get your kids involved and excited in planning the holiday – supply them with books about your destination (like our kidsGo! Guides, for example!) and discuss what you’d like to see and do, and talk a little about the country, so they know what to expect and watch out for.

Hopefully using some of the ideas above, you’ll find that the journey is a breeze and that you’ll be listening to the kids say, “We’re here already?” rather than, “Are we there yet?”

Happy travelling!

Mio Debnam is currently working as a writer/editor, having ‘retired’ from the world of journalism, where she worked as the Editor in Chief of two daily children’s newspapers for several years. Over the years, she has had stories and articles for both adults and children published, as well as a middle grade fantasy novel, four picture books and several educational readers. She’s also the author of a new series of travel guidebooks for kids – kidsGo! New York, London, Hong Kong, Sydney, Bali and Phuket published in 2011 by Haven Books.

Text © copyright of Mio Debnam and kidsGo! Travel Series (an imprint of Haven Books)
Reproduced here by Sassy Mama with the permission of Haven Books Limited

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