Why do I play car games with the kids? It's so much easier just to turn on the radio and relax. But, engaging the kids has such a better outcome. Click through to read what I've learned.

Why I Play Car Games with My Children

If you’ve read the blog for any length of time, you know that I’m a huge fan of car games for kids.

I enjoy playing them, but it wasn’t always my favorite thing to do. So I wanted to explain why I emphasize them so much.

Because, when I get in the car, do you know what I really want to do?

I want to relax, listen to some talk radio or an audio book, and just enjoy some peace and quiet.

But, even though I could make the kids sit quietly along the way, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s not the best thing to do. Because then when we get where we’re going, they’re ready to engage and interact.

They’re ready for attention. To tell me about what they saw or drew on the way.

And I’m ready to do whatever it is I went there to do.

The kids get loud. They get whiny and impatient. And I get mad.

All because I wanted my way in the car. I wanted it to be about me and what I wanted.

So I don’t usually do what I want. Instead, I make the choice to engage. To be present and build memories.

And everyone does better because of it. Even me.

Finding Balance

On the other end of the equation, I don’t want my kids to feel like they should always be entertained. I want them to have quiet time and thinking time.

So we don’t play car games every mile of the journey.

They have their color books and colored pencils. I have a stack of kids’ books on cassettes that we listen to.

They spend time looking out the windows.

And yes, sometimes I hand over my smartphone and let them play games so I can kick back and listen to Dave Ramsey.

But, I always try to keep an eye on the feelings in the car. If the kids are starting to argue, or they’re getting restless and bored, a game can usually turn things around before it gets out of hand.

So I’m always ready with an idea or two.

It Doesn’t Take Much

Most of my car games aren’t fancy. They don’t need special items or supplies. And most aren’t really even that competitive.

But the kids don’t care. They just want to spend time with me. And feel special.

That’s what car games do. They help kids and parents take time that’s otherwise wasted, and turn it into something special.

That’s why I play car games with them, even when I’d rather just sit.

Do You Need Ideas for Car Games?

If you’re hoping to build some memories in the car, be sure to check out my posts on Car Games for kids. You can find a list of them all on this post. They’re material free, so you won’t have any clutter to worry about.

And you’ll always be prepared with a game when you need one.

Here’s to peaceful car trips. wonderful journeys, and a lifetime of memories!

Photo Credit: Kevin Lee via Unsplash

Is your child reading sight words? Here's a fun game to play that'll make learning time active play time.

Sight Words Driving: An Active Reading Game

Being able to sound out words is essential. That’s why your child needs to have a basic understanding of phonics. But, you can’t sound out every word. So your child must also learn to read sight words.

Practicing with flashcards gets boring quickly. So do those readers that focus on sight words.

That doesn’t mean you should never use those teaching strategies. But, you need to also get your kids active as they learn.

Here’s a game that I first played with a second grade student I was tutoring. I’ve since played it with my early readers, and everyone loves it.

Being able to be active helps the brain remember the words. It’s similar to how you remember songs with motions really easily.

So get your early readers gathered, and give this game a try.

Sight Word Driving

You’ll need:

  • 10 Index Cards
  • A Sharpie
  • A wheeled vehicle (toy car, fire truck, ride on scooter, whatever)
  • A paper & pen

On each index card, write one of the sight words your child is learning. Here’s a link to a basic sight word list if you need ideas. They’re broken down by grade level so pick something that’s age appropriate for your child.

Write the words in large letters, so it’s easy to read from a distance.

But, don’t use all capital letters. Write the words in lower case since that’s how they’ll usually be printed.

As you write each word, make a list on your paper so you remember what’s on each card.

Have Your Child Leave the Room

Once your cards are prepped, have your child leave the room. Now, it’s time for you to spread the cards out around the floor.

Leave plenty of space between each one as you put them in a random order.

Bring Out the Vehicle

Call your child back in and hand him the toy car. Then, pick up your list of words.

Ask your child to drive the vehicle around the room and search for one of the words. Once he finds it, have him bring it back to you.

Then, send him off driving to look for another word.

Continue until all 10 words are found. Then, have your child read each word once more.

Easy to Switch

Since you’re using index cards, it’s simple to switch out the words as your child works on new ones.

This game is simple, but it’s a great way to get repetition of sight words into your child’s day.

So bring out the cars and play!

Change it Up

Here are four easy ways to change this game up, allowing you to practice with the same words without it seeming as boring.

  • Hide the words up high and have your child use a helicopter
  • Ask your child to build a road with the index cards and drive along reading each one
  • Use a dump truck and have your child collect all the words and then dump then out and read them
  • Have your child drive quickly to one word. Then drive backwards to the next. Or slowly. Change up the rate and direction.

Working on Sight Words?

If your child is working on reading sight words, give this game a try.


Stuck in a slow moving line? Here are six games to play while waiting.

6 Games to Play While Waiting in Line

I don’t like waiting in line. But, it seems it’s a necessary part of going out and about.

Grocery shopping? Yup, I usually pick the slowest moving line.

Going to the bank? There’s a line there too.

Seriously. Waiting is a huge part of life. And when you’re waiting with kids, it can be a challenge. They get bored. You get bored. Tempers can flair.

But, if you engage your kids instead of just standing there, you’ll all be happier. The time will go faster. And before you know it, you’ll be at the front of the line.

6 Games While Waiting

An easy way to engage your kids is to start playing a simple game. It doesn’t take much to draw their attention and help keep their minds off of the fact that they’re waiting and bored. Here are six to try.

1. Find Letters

We have the best luck with this one in a grocery store. There are letters everywhere in the checkout lanes.

So start at A and challenge your kids to find all the letters to Z. They can look on magazines, on the goods in your cart, and at all the signs around them.

You can usually find the Z on the ounce label on some product in your cart. The q can be hard, so look for a National Enquirer magazine.

And if you don’t find all of them in line, you can continue the game into the parking lot. License plates usually hold those obscure letters like J,V,Q,X and Z.

2. Rainbow Search

Can each of your kids find something for every color of the rainbow? If you’re working on colors, this is a fun way to practice!

You might even make it through the rainbow a couple of times while waiting. Or you can throw in colors like:

  • Pink
  • White
  • Brown
  • Black

3. The Rhyming Game

Pick a word and have each of your kids think of a rhyming word. This game is great for early readers, and to give extra practice to those struggling with this skill.

You can take turns picking words if you want. That way you get to show off your awesome rhyming skills too! 😀

Here are some words with lots of rhyming potential to get you started:

  • Star
  • Bus
  • Dog
  • Look
  • Rat
  • Cane
  • Lake
  • Jig
  • Hid
  • Light
  • Mud

4. Themed Alphabet

Can you name a type of food for every letter of the alphabet? What about an animal?

You can pick a theme and then take turns naming items in that theme. The first person names an A word, the second a B word, and so on. Try to get to Z!

5. What’s the Story?

Pick an item in your cart, and ask your child to create a story about that object. Where did it come from? How did it get to the store?

Encourage imagination! Perhaps your apple was growing on a tree in Washington State. Then, a little boy went to the orchard to pick fruit.

He found this perfect apple, and he knew it was destined for sale. So he picked it and sold it to the apple cart man.

The apple cart man then traded the apple to a salesman for a banana. The salesman brought it to the store for the produce manager to sample.

And it ended up on the shelf. Since it was such a beautiful looking apple, you picked it and now you’ll bring it home to eat.

You can create imaginary stories for everything in your cart if you put your mind to it.

6. Estimating

Estimating is a fun math skill to practice in line!

If your children are a bit older, encourage them to estimate how much the contents of your cart will cost. You can help them with prices if they need it.

See who can get the closest.

You can also estimate how long you’ll wait in line. Let everyone know what time it is, and have them check out how many people are in front of you.

Then, let everyone pick a number of minutes that it’ll take.

Did anyone guess correctly? Remember to check when you get to the front of the line!

You can estimate many things. How many balloons do your kids think are in the balloon bouquet the person in front of you is buying? Guess, then count to see.

Here are other objects to estimate:

  • How many items are in your cart (you can check on the receipt when you’re finished paying)
  • What number of magazine titles are on the rack?
  • How many types of gum are being sold?

Estimating is fun, and will help encourage mental math.

How do you keep your kids engaged while waiting?

Don’t let this time be boring. Engaging your kids will help them advance their academic skills, and help the two of you build fun memories of your time together.

Are there any fun games you play? I’d love for you to share in the comments!




It's been about a year since I started Tanner Learning. What were the top posts of 2016? Click through to see!

Top Posts from Tanner Learning in 2016

It’s been almost exactly a year since I launched Tanner Learning. I’ve enjoyed blogging here about educational activities families can do that bridge the gap between learning and fun. Now that I’m taking time to reflect on the year, I wanted to share the top posts from 2016.

These top posts help me see what kind of content you’re most enjoying. Taking time to analyze these stats helps me create the best possible blog for my readers.

Top Posts from Tanner Learning in 2016

If you missed any of these posts, be sure to click on the pictures to be taken to the original.

10. Adapting Telestrations for Early Readers & Writers

You don’t have to miss out on this awesome game just because your kids can’t read all the words yet. Here’s how I adapt the game for my early learners. It’s still a fun game, and we actually get to play it now instead of leaving it on a shelf for years while they gain more skills.

9. 10 Learning Activities with Bubbles

Do your kids love bubbles? Here are 10 different learning activites to try with your kids.

Most kids love bubbles! The activities in this post will give you some starting points for turning bubble time into learning time.

8. 7 Christmas Car Games for Kids

Christmas car games for you to enjoy this December.My car games posts seem to be well received, and this one was no different. Here are seven seasonal games to enjoy during your Christmas road trips.

7. 8 Ways to Incorporate Sensory Play Without Effort

Sensory play doesn't have to be complicated! Here's 8 simple ways to incorporate it.My child with a disability taught me the importance of sensory play, but all of my kids enjoy getting into their learning with all their senses. This post highlights simple ways to increase the amount of sensory play going on in your house.

6. 5 Social Studies Car Games

Social studies car games

Social studies in the car? Yup! Here are five fun games that incorporate key elements of social studies and history.

5. 10 Learning Activities with the Memory Game

I love playing games with my kids! And we love discovering new ways to play, because playing by all the rules all the time is pretty boring.

These activities get the game off the shelf and your kids busy learning. While having fun. That’s awesome!

4. 5 Expert Tips to Make TV Time More Educational

5 Expert Tips for Making TV Time More Educational. Who says TV time always has to be brain numbing? Click over to discover five fresh ways to wake up your brain during tube time.TV time happens around here more often than I’d like, especially as my due date gets closer and my energy is depleted. But, TV time doesn’t have to be a brain sucking activity. Here are five simple ways to make viewing more educational for kids of all ages.

3. 5 Cookie Cutter Learning Activities

cookie cutter learning activitiesCookie cutters get played with a lot around my house! Which makes me happy because I really don’t like keeping things that only get used once or twice a year.

Here are five learning activities that use the cute shapes you have hanging out in your drawer.

2. 10 Variations of Hide and Seek

Are you getting bored with regular Hide and Seek? Check out these variations to spice up playtime a bit.Plain old hide and seek can get boring. Good thing we can mix things up a bit! Here are ten different variations for you to enjoy with your kids.

1. 7 Simple ELA Car Games

7 Simple ELA Car GamesAnother car game post, this one focusing on English-Language Arts (ELA) skills. This batch is my family’s favorite–we almost always play at least one of these every time we get in the car!

What Was Your Favorite Post from 2016?

Did my top ten posts of 2016 include your favorite? It didn’t include mine (10 Simple Ways to Unleash Creativity in Your Child.)

I’d love to know what types of posts you enjoy seeing, so I can continue delivering content that you want to read.


These childhood boardgames are a blast from the past! See what 5 games from my childhood I love playing today with my kids.

5 Games from My Childhood I Love Playing with My Kids

My love of games started early! During family get togethers we’d bring out the board games and have lots of fun.

If games were allowed during free time at school, I always tried to join in. They’re just fun!

So as my little kids get older and start understanding strategy better, it’s been a blast introducing them to some of my childhood favorites. Here are five that I still love! And yes, the links are affiliate links! You’ve been notified! 😀


I’ll always remember playing this game at my aunt and uncle’s after eating Thanksgiving dinner, or Easter dinner, or a just because dinner. It was our go-to game.

Though game time with my extended family have slowed, I’ll always treasure those memories. Of course, many of the best games involved cheating or catching cheaters. So many good times!

The goal of Pictionary is simple. Draw a picture of the word you draw and have your partner guess what you drew before the time runs out.

To keep it simple, I let my early readers pick any word on the card that they can read. If they can’t read any, they can switch cards.

Soon we’ll be able to play by all the rules, but until then it’s a fun way to introduce it!


Stratego was one of the most popular games during my middle school years. I spent many hours with friends during lunch trying to capture the flag.

My oldest and I have been playing this one for years. But we recently introduced it to two of the younger kids. It’s fun to have tournaments–one person plays the winner from the first game, and then the final person plays the winner of the second.

The toddlers sit on the table and play with the pieces that have been captured.

To win the game, you have to use your pieces strategically to avoid mines, and find where your opponent hid their flag piece. I’m not very good–I usually end up with no moveable pieces left.

But, I still enjoy playing. You don’t have to win to have fun playing games!


Another middle school classic, I added this game to our collection this Christmas. I hadn’t played in years, but it all came back to me!

I found the “classic” version of Mastermind at Target, and it even looked just like I remembered.

This game is pure logic. One player sets up a secret code of four colored pegs on one end of the board. The other player tries to match the code.

The guesser sets up a code and the CodeMaster uses black and white pegs to show success. A black peg means there is a peg that’s the right color, in the right position. A white peg means there’s a peg that’s the right color but in the wrong spot.

You aren’t told which colors are which, so you have to use some of your turns to gather that information.

Well, when I explain it like that, this game sounds boring, but it’s not! Here’s my eight year old getting set up for his turn as CodeMaster.


This game is perhaps my ultimate favorite from childhood. I wasn’t able to play too often because my family didn’t love it as much as I did, but that just made it even more special when I did get to play!
Trying to keep track of who, where, and what provided great critical thinking practice. Of course, I didn’t think of that back then, I just enjoyed solving a mystery. Just like I enjoyed reading Encyclopedia Brown books!

I don’t like Clue Jr. very much, so I’m excited my kids can now play Clue with me!


Another one we used to play with the extended family, this is one of the few board games my mom actually liked playing.

The reader of each round draws a word. These words aren’t your normal board game words. I think the creators just randomly opened dictionary pages and selected the most obscure words they could think of!

Crazy words are in Balderdash!

Once the word is read, everyone else has to write a definition of what the word could mean. While they’re working on that, the reader writes the real definition.

After everyone has submitted their definition, the reader reads everything aloud. Players take turns guessing what the real definition is. You get points for other people guessing your definition.

This is a good game to introduce once some basic dictionary skills are understood. That way dictionary definitions are a little more natural.

What were your favorite games from childhood?

I’d love you to share in the comments.

Photo credit: Maarten van den Heuvel via Unsplash