Tripping in the car with kids?

‘I spy with my little eye’ another parent resorting to screen time to avoid the overplayed car games or backseat arguments between siblings on long car trips.  Guilty! As a child, I remember playing “punch buggy” which involved hitting your sibling when you spotted a VW, this was before devices of course. This generations’ version of ‘punch buggy’ is known as ‘Spotto’ and involves counting yellow cars (with no punching involved).   While many car games like ‘Spotto’, ‘Punch buggy’ or ‘I spy’ are observation games, these car trips are also an opportune time for your children to practice their vocabulary and word finding skills.  So when you have the energy these holidays, here are three easy and fun word games to play with your little people in the car that will build their vocabulary skills (plus you can rest assured that you will be setting your child up for literacy and life!)

1. Play Mystery Word

“I’m thinking of a food. It is a fruit. It grows on trees. It is crunchy, sweet and round. My mystery fruit comes in lots of varieties and usually red or green in colour. What is my mystery food?” (A: Apple)

What is this doing?

Our brains store words in the left hemisphere of our brain in something called a lexicon. Words in the lexicon are organised by meaning and are linked to other related words. The word ‘music’ may be linked to words like ‘piano’, ‘guitar’, ‘dancing’, ‘hip hop’, ‘radio’, ‘hearing’, ‘ears’, ‘notes’, ‘noisy’ etc. The more links and the stronger the semantic links between words, the ‘better’ your lexicon or vocabulary. This game is known as ‘Convergent Naming’ where you provide a description but there is just one answer that is correct.

2. Play Opposite Day

You say a word and they have to say the opposite. “If I say day, you say… night. If I say hello, you say… goodbye. If I say hot, you say… cold. If I say push, you say… pull.”

You can start with basic concepts like the examples above and then increase the difficulty by adding more descriptive words such as ‘expensive/cheap’, ‘shy/confident’ or for older children even add abstract nouns like ‘strength/weakness’, ‘achievement/failure’, ‘honesty/ deceit’!

What is this doing?

Antonyms or ‘opposite meaning’ are another way to build strong semantic links between words.  These strong semantic links speed up your ‘word finding’ abilities when talking or writing which will make your child more fluent and articulate!

Our newest book box “I Can Count Kit’ includes a fun twist on the ‘opposite day’ game.  Check it out at

3. Play Brain Battle

Tell your children a category and they have to think of three items that belong to that category eg. “Tell me eight parts of your body.”

Increase the number of items they have to think of in each category to challenge them OR you tell them three things in a category and they have to give you the category name. This is much more difficult. Some easy categories are: things that live in the sea/farm/zoo. Slightly harder categories are: action words we can do with our legs; emotions; outdoor occupations; or sports with a racquet and ball!

What is this doing?

Brain battle is known as ‘divergent naming’ as there are numerous answers that could be given.

Activation of one word stimulates other words in our brain.

Our job is to create several pathways to each related word and make the pathways wide and ‘traffic-free’ so the word is received quickly and efficiently by our brains.

Once you get to your destination, you can take advantage of our fun-filled book boxes, designed for kids to read, talk and play. A perfect way to enjoy some time together as a family. You can check out our selection at

So next time you are waiting at a red light, answering another ‘Are we there yet?’ question or trying desperately to refrain from caving into the all too appealing ‘screen time’, try improving your child’s lexicon or in layman’s terms, the mind’s filing system for words, by playing some of these games. Have fun and happy holidays!

Thanks for hearing our call,
Your Little Birdies