Three Word Games You can Play in the Car

The miles go faster and familes are happier when the kids are having fun (besides, word games are free and they don't have little plastic pieces to lose)

When you're spending more than a few hours in the car, your kids are bound to get tired of the activity books you've packed for them. A road atlas of their own helps, but when it gets dark, those activities are out of the question. Word games help kids' eyes grow droopy, and that's good news for parents. There are hundreds of word games to play; here are three for the first installment of this series. A couple of these games are well known and one is our own invention (Name That Instrument).

1. Essence: Guess a person based on questions relating to their essence.
Good for kids over 7 or 8, depending on their level. You can do it with younger kids, but you need to scale down the skill level, maybe limit it to people in the car and those you're traveling to visit. The leader of the game thinks of a person that everybody in the car knows personally. The other players each ask questions to the leader that focus on the person's essence. Such questions sound like: If this person were a tree, what kind of tree would this person be? Tip: For some reason, these questions are more fun to say in a quasi-French accent ("If zees person were a tree, what kind of tree would zees person be?") Whoever guesses correctly, wins; if no one can figure it out, nobody wins.

2. Name That Tune/Name That Instrument
Good for kids 6 years old and under. This isn't like the old TV game show; you don't try to name the tune in a certain number of notes. Guess the song that an individual is humming. The simplicity of this game can be deceiving: after going beyond "Happy Birthday" and "If You're Happy and You Know It" move on to pop, country and heavy metal hits. For added complexity, the humm-or should mimic a particular instrument. Charades are often helpful for the instrument portion of this, but it gets tricky for the driver; harmonica and other one-handed instruments work well for drivers. You don't need to combine the games, you can do either as a stand aloner game or both for added fun. Everyone's a winner in this game.

3. The State Capital Game
Good for kids five and up. Name the capital, given the state name. All you need is a road atlas. Of course, you need to study up on the capitals. This is a game that's best played repeatedly over a long road trip, as you pass through many states, and in order to gain memorization through repetition. We have a placemat for Tommy with a US map and their capitals on it. he reads it every day at breakfast and dinner. Not only does he know where every state in the union is, but he knows almost all the capitals on any given day. And we know most of them now too!

What word games does your family play on road trips?

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