Kate is a mother of two boys and also manages a nanny business in the Sacramento area of California.
Going on a Road Trip With Car Sick Kids?
So, you’ve got a long drive ahead of you. Fun! At least, for those of us who enjoy hopping behind the wheel. But maybe you’ve got a youngster tagging along who tends to get car sick, in which case things can quickly become not so fun.
Fortunately, there are tips and tricks to alleviate car sickness! Combined with the suggestions that follow, you'll see a list of games and activities for the car ride that will not only allow your kids to ride sickness free but will help the time pass more quickly for them.
On a side note: If it makes you feel any better, those who get car sick tend to feel that way no matter who is driving, so your terrible driving may not be the only culprit.
For those of you who still aren’t yet familiar with why car sickness (or even seasickness) occurs, it has to do with the body’s ability to maintain equilibrium. All this is maintained or lost by the fancy liquid in your ears in the same way that head colds and sleeping in a weird position can cause vertigo.
If you want to avoid travel sickness, then your head should be in a relatively fixed position and facing the direction in which you’re driving (or riding). Those who are, of course, paying attention to the road ahead or fallen fast asleep are already in the position to remain still enough for the brain to not feel thrashed about and send those odd signals to the pit of your stomach. Hence why you drivers out there aren’t the ones to get car sick. Alas, it’s your passengers looking here and there, and every which way who get their equilibrium thrown off on the road.
Using the car sick friendly games below, your goal is, in essence, to keep their heads up and looking out. Gazing ahead at the road the way you yourself would be facing it is optimal. So be sure to place their car seat or booster in the center of the rear, if possible, or if no car seat is needed, simply having them sit in that particular seat could prove to be very helpful.
Read All the Signs
How to Play: Each player (aka passenger in the car; the driver may choose to be a part of or be excluded from the game) is to read aloud the upcoming road signs or any signs they see in passing. The person who is first to correctly read the entire contents of a sign correctly once it appears wins that round. This is also a great way to see which of your kids needs glasses the most (kidding).
From personal experience, I can definitely say this is an absolute favorite: perfectly engaging and chaotically entertaining. My little sister and I used to lose our marbles and the whole thing would end with shrieks of hysteria!
- Advancement of reading comprehension and speech articulation.
- Identification of signs and their meaning.
- Light competition with very little chance of any hurt feelings due to having “lost” in this game (because with all the voices bouncing around the vehicle, really, does it matter in the end?!).
- Keeps the players' eyes on the road ahead to help calm their stomachs.
- Need for absolute tolerance and patience on the part of the driver.
- Potential chaos turned to catastrophe; you as the driver may need to call the game to quits should you find it difficult to concentrate or tell the game apart from possible commands from back seat drivers (such as if you were to hear “STOP” shouted at a four-way stop intersection). Remember, safety first!
Would You Rather?
How to Play: Each rider of the car (including the driver) takes turns asking “Would you rather have/do/deal with ________ or ________?” The questions must contain two options each and everyone gets a chance to give their answer along with the argument of why.
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As another favorite of mine, this game is an awesome way for everyone to learn about how others’ thinking process works, as well as an opportunity to get super creative! There are absolutely NO limits (aside from your moral conscience, which is hopefully intact in your children as well as yourself) to the types of questions you can ask!
They can go from things as simple as, “Would you rather always be really tired or always be really sore?” Or “Would you rather be Batman or Superman?” The most bizarre one I’ve had someone as me is, “Would you rather have a bushel of hair coming out of your nose or the bushel coming out of your teeth? My answer of course was, "What's the difference?" (A lot, when you think about it, ewww...)
- Promotes creativity.
- Works on critical thinking and reasoning.
- Encourages perspective and the sharing of opinions.
- Increases debates skills without the argumentative factor.
- Ability to play the game well depends on age. It may be best to play with older children, although should your younger children also have the skills necessary to be able to verbalize their thoughts at a decent pace, this game may very well be worth a try and it opens up some cool conversations!
Never Have I Ever
How to Play: Everyone in the car takes turns making statements beginning with “Never have I ever...” then finish the sentence with something that you have never done in your entire life. The statement made must relate to something seen somewhere up ahead of the car, keeping with the theme of eyes ahead and not puking in the car.
Everyone has five “lives” (which can be kept track of by the 5 fingers on one hand) and each time an individual makes a statement regarding something you have, indeed, done before, you must fold one finger and lose one “life.” Whoever is the first to lose all their lives loses the game!
- Encourages verbalization of assertive statement of facts.
- Practice of presentation of facts.
- Practice of recollection of memories.
- Keeps players looking ahead and down the road for the next idea for a statement. This helps calm the stomach.
- The ability to play this game well also can depend on age.
Name the Animals
How to Play: For all the animals you see while driving, each player’s goal is to yell out the name of the animal first. That means that if you see 40 horses passing by a ranch, welp... better get ready to have your voice go pretty hoarse from hollering out “HORSE” 30 times!
- Great for younger children who are still learning to identify basic objects and animals.
- Speech articulation and enunciation.
- Memorable learning due to repetition (especially in hilly countrysides where there are herds of sheep or acres of cowherds)!
- Another great game for keeping eyes on the road and passengers from feeling ill.
- May not be ideal for long drives through the city or on freeways where there are no grassy pastures alongside.
Count the Trees
How to Play: Similar to the previous game, but this time, with numbers instead of words! For every tree you see, count them out loud. The goal of each rider is to have counted the most trees in the end!
We have used this game with the school I volunteered for on field trips and let me tell you, it gets the kids excited and the car ride gets a little loud. That’s okay though because as long as you maintain the rule that only the trees in front of the vehicle count, it keeps them upright and looking down the road. We almost never have car sickness issues while playing this game.
- Great for younger children, especially for those who are still learning how to count out larger numbers in schools.
- Kids are excited and looking down the road, helping to keep car sickness at bay.
- Great fun in cities where trees are not so common.
- May not be ideal for heavily wooded areas as it could be sensory overload.
Hopefully, the games above will truly work their purpose by keeping your kids entertained and feeling healthy even on the windiest of roads! To my fellow drivers, may you have fun out there on the road so that your kids will join and the carsickness shall flee!
© 2018 Kate Stroud
P on May 15, 2020:
My kids and I like to count how many license plates of one state that we can find. It is really fun with a pad and paper, but then we sometimes get tired of it. I really like these ideas and I am going to use them on my next long car ride. Thank you SO much.
Michelle on July 27, 2019:
We play “find your ABCs” with my kids - ages 5 and 9. They have to look out the window and find objects for each letter of the alphabet starting with A and proceed through Z. We leave some exceptions for tough ones like QXZ that maybe they find the letter in a sign or license plate.
So they may call out: A- Apple tree, B - bus, C - cactus, etc. They can get surprisingly creative!
We also make up phrases from the letters on license plates. Ex: CPB may become Captain Pete’s Boat. They can really crack themselves up, and my 5 year old has become Great at sounding out letters now! He’s been playing both games since he was just 4, as he’s the poor guy that gets car sickness.