Car Games For Those Boring Car Journeys
Advances in technology mean the good old travel game is almost dead and buried. Gameboys, portable dvd players and mobile phones transfer our kids to their own little world of electronic beeps and colours, from which they usually emerge wide eyed and jittery at the end of the car journey. I feel we need to resurrect the car game- it should have its place in every families little repertoire of bonding tools. Not only do they pass the time, they engage kids mentally too and build on their social skills. So if that moment kicks in on the next journey when no ones has a thing to say to each other (and your only five minutes down the road) then try a couple of these games to put a bit of life into your journey:

I Spy
Good old 'I spy', crown prince of car games and an essential part of every childs development (well, it was for me at any rate!). The concept is simple enough, and Im sure you all know the game. If its your turn you find an object- it could be anything- and state "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with ?", where ? is the first letter of the object you have in mind. Then everyone asks you questions and tries to guess what it is. Think "Is it inside the car?" "What colour is it?" The game could go on forever, until all objects have been exhausted, the kids are exhausted or the parents' patience is exhausted!

The Famous People Game
The appeal of car games lies in their simplicity, and they dont get much simpler than this. The first person thinks of someone famous- anybody in the world. Then the next person has to think of someone famous whos name begins with the last letter of the previous famous person. Example: you say Brad Pitt. I reply with Tim, T, t...t..t. Man, I suck at this game. But you get the idea.

Ok, we're calling in some props for this one. Nothing serious though, just a pen and paper for each contestant. When you spot a street name of decent length, call it out and then everyone has five minutes to write down as many word variations as they can out of the letters in the street name. The loser isnt allowed any more toilet breaks. (Thats a joke).

Paper Scissors Rock
Everyone knows this little number. Its the ultimate way to solve any dispute, put to bed any arguments and certify a clear winner in whatever kind of conflict may arise. After a count of three you make the sign for paper, scissors or rock with your hand. Paper beats rock, rock beats scissors, scissors beats paper. Keep playing until theres a winner- its simple yet engaging, and the winner gets complete license to gloat (until they get knocked off their pedestal in the next round).

The Alphabet Game
I guess with these letter games the hitch is that the kids have to be able to read. Thats life I guess- so hurry up and learn to read kiddo, everyone is having fun without you. This game is great when driving through a town or populated area. Starting with A, everyone needs to find a sign beginning with each letter, through to Z. Its pretty hard to monitor cheating in this one, so it can cause tensions. Nothing like a bit of action to pass the time though huh?

No reading ability required here, just a deck of cards. No real brains required either, you just divide up the cards and each person places one down at a time on a communal pile. If two simultaneous cards match, the first person to slam their hand on them and yell 'snap' keeps the pile. The person with the most cards when the pack finishes is the winner. To add an extra twist, let the winner make a rule after each round. This is perfect if youre after a bit of peace and quiet- rig the game, win the first round and make a 'no talking' rule!

Who Am I
Heres one to get a bit of lateral thinking going. Whoevers turn it is chooses a person... could be anyone: a president, a sportsman, an actor. The rest of the car asks them questions, one per turn, and tries to guess who they are. Online yes or no answers are allowed, so it can get pretty tricky. Variations include 'What Am I?, which is self explanatory, and '21 questions', whereby one player challenges another to guess what they are in under 21 questions.

So there you go- throw away the portable dvd player, get rid of the gameboy. Travel games are back, and theyre here to stay!

Gavin Wyatt