• Today is: Friday, December 15, 2017

10 fun ways Pittsburgh kids can survive car trips and waiting rooms

car trip
Sally Quinn
August11/ 2017

Sitting in a waiting room or sitting in a car, all that matters is finding simple, entertaining ways to distract our kids and ourselves from the ticking clock.

These boredom busters require minimal supplies. Some you might remember from your childhood. Keep the list as a handy reminder for all those times when patience is needed. These activities are terrific ways to turn a snoozefest into an engaging, educational encounter.

car trip

Dots and Dashes

Supplies: Paper, pencil

Make a graph of dots with four dots across and four dots deep. Take turns connecting two dots with a dash vertically or horizontally. As a player closes off a box, he puts his initial inside the box. Once all the dots are connected, the person with the most boxes wins.

Roll the Color

Supplies: Dice, crayons or markers, paper or coloring page

Designate a number for each of six colors. As kids take each turn, they roll the dice and use the color designated by the number on the dice. They draw or color one item. Then, it moves to the next player who rolls the dice to find her color. The turns continue until this very creative drawing is finished.



Supplies: Coin assortment

This activity is a great one for reinforcing math, learning the numerical value of coins, and counting skills. It can be made more challenging according to skill level.

Keep a change purse of coins handy. Give a price number to the child and ask her to add up the coins she needs. Younger kids might be challenged to learn to identify coins as a nickel, a dime or a penny. They can sort them accordingly. Or perhaps they can count out values with just pennies.

Older kids can be challenged to count more complicated amounts, such as 28 cents or 86 cents, for example. Once they master that, add an additional challenge: OK, you put together 86 cents. Now do it again using different coins. Pretty tricky!

Alphabet Names

Supplies: Paper, pencil

Choose a subject according to the age of the kids playing. It might be food, people’s names, or animals. For older kids, go with cities, movie titles, or countries. Taking turns, work your way through the alphabet with each player taking the subsequent letter.

Kids enjoy making a list of the names, even if they need help in spelling. It’s a good exercise in printing and spelling. You can allow someone to pass on the hardest letters. There’s no winner here, just another 10 or 15 minutes or so gone.

Family & Friends Jeopardy

Supplies: None

This game is a fun one that can be as challenging as the ages who are playing. Offer clues about a family member and see who can guess. Say, for example: “I am someone who loves Pitt football and reads the newspaper every day and likes to take a lot of naps.”  Or: “I am someone who has a long tongue and chases the mailman and likes cleaning the floor under the table.”

Feel free to promote giggles with your clues. Once the guess is made -– or the players give up -– the next person takes a turn.

Travel Bingo

Supplies: Paper, pencils

On the paper, draw lines as if you were playing tic-tac-toe. In each square, kids can write or draw something they might see on the drive: a truck, a bird, grocery store, stop sign, etc. Once everyone has their cards filled, announce the game starts now!

As an item on individual cards is spotted, cross it off. You can play with tic-tac-toe rules of three in a row, or go for an all-card win to make the game last longer.

Going on a Picnic

Supplies:  None

This is a memory game as well as an alphabet game. The growing list is recited with each turn. Each additional item should begin with the last letter of the prior item.

For example: “I am going on a picnic, and I am taking a basket.”

“I am going on a picnic, and I am taking a basket and a train.”

“I am going on a picnic, and I am taking a basket and a train and nuts.”


With older kids, keep going until someone messes up and forgets the list. We’re more forgiving with younger kids, who can be prompted on letters and list items to help them out.

20 Questions

Supplies: None

The classic cocktail party game is a wonderful exercise in logic and making deductions. The game can be made more or less challenging, according to age. With smaller kids, skip the traditional Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral question, which can be confusing. And who knows what a breadbox is, let alone its size?

Explain how the questions should work toward reaching the winning conclusion. Each question can be answered only by a yes, no, or sometimes/maybe.

Begin by stating that the object they have to guess is a food, a plant, an animal, or a machine, for example. It might take a few rounds for them to get the idea, but once they do, they’ll go gangbusters.



Supplies: Paper, pencil

This one is for kids who know how to spell. Choose a category – song name, movie or book title, or a geographic location, for example. The person who is It draws a gallows and leaves dashes underneath for each letter of the answer. Each kid takes turns guessing letters. If they are correct, the letter is written in the correct place on the dashes. If the letter doesn’t belong, a body part is added to the hangman noose. As the letters begin to fill in, players can make guesses. If the body is completed before the correct answer is given, the player who is It wins.

Shopping List

Supplies: Paper, pencil

This is not really a game, but it is an activity that is useful and one that little kids seem to love. When you have kids, a shopping trip is sure to be coming up and having a reminder of what’s needed can always come in handy. Kids skilled at printing can make the list with some spelling prompts. Little kids can draw the individual items, just be sure to have them along in the store to interpret the final catalog. Don’t be surprised if some of their favorite snack items magically appear within the shopping inventory!

Sally Quinn

Sally Quinn is an award-winning writer and editor who has been covering her favorite city for more than 20 years. She welcomes comments and story ideas for Kidsburgh.