Whilst packing for our month-long holiday to Europe, we made the decision to leave the iPad at home and find other ways to entertain the kids on our travels.
Many thought it a crazy move (I know I certainly did at times), but now that we’re 3 weeks deep into this trip, I’m so happy we made that call. Not only have the kids not missed screen-time, but we’ve been able to play a bunch of other technology-free games whilst travelling, creating beautiful memories, and deepening connections with them along the way. Here are the 7 screen-free (and easy) games we’ve been playing with our kids this holiday: 1. Eye Spy “Eye spy with my little eye, something the colour…”
The standard line to this game is of course: “I spy with my little eye, something starting with…” But with a 4-year-old and 6-year-old who are still learning how to spell, colours are easier than letters.
So, we switch letters out for colours and ta-dah!! An easy game to play whenever they get bored, and a simple way to encourage them to engage with the world around them – noticing so much more about the places we've visited than they would have if they knew a device was nearby. Whether it was the orange ladybug spotted at Disneyland, seeing two ivory horses on the Trevi Fountain in Rome, or teal statues atop the Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Paris, Eye Spy has been a great game to play as a family!
2. Thumb Wars “One, two, three, four, I declare a thumb war. Five, Six, Seven, Eight, try to keep your thumb straight!”
Perfect for long train rides when they were finished with colouring and drawing, our ninja loving 6-year-old loved playing this tactile game (he thought being able to ‘fly kick’ his opponents’ thumb was hilarious, while our 4-year-old thought using two hands was the optimal way to play). There’s been a lot of giggling and funny face pulling whilst playing this game… It’s been one we’ve all enjoyed! 😂
A good one to release pent-up energy, playing slaps has been entertaining and lively!
Also known as slapsies, this is a two-person game where you sit opposite each other, connect your hands in prayer position, then point your joined hands towards one another and lightly touch fingertips. Once in this position, it’s then the aim of the starting player to try and slap the back of their opponent’s hand, while it’s the second players job is to try and dodge the blow.
If the starting player misses, you swap roles and go again. Our son has found this game very funny and jumped at the chance to whack our hands (some kind of ninja move apparently 😅)
Good for older kids, it’s great for concentration, testing speed and reactions, and challenging competitive spirits and energetic kids!
4. Family Pop Quizzes
After a magical visit to Disneyland Paris, on the train ride back to our accommodation, by chance we found ourselves playing a Disney themed pop quiz game.
Asking the kids questions about different Disney characters they’d seen that day, movies, or songs - by being so excited about the answers they gave, or dishing out fun clues - pop quizzes quickly became something we all loved.
A great game to engage the whole family, and easy to play anywhere and at any time, pop quizzes continued throughout our travels. Whilst travelling through Italy in particular, it became routine to instigate pop quizzes over lunch and dinner, whilst in restaurants waiting for our meals.
If the kids started to fidget with the cutlery (or started pretend sword fights with the butter knives 🙄) we’d say “who wants to play pop quiz?... Let me take you to…Florence!”
This would then start a pop quiz where we’d ask a bunch of questions themed around our travels throughout Florence that day. When we’d exhaust all those questions, we’d say, “okay, let me take you to… Under The Sea!” – which would then start another pop quiz around The Little Mermaid movie (or Aladdin if we went to the desert, or Frozen if we went to Arendelle… you get the idea).
Examples of question we asked include:
What is the name of the mouse who wears a red polka dot dress and bow?
In my movie, I sing “let it go, let it go, can’t hold me back anymore…” – who am I?
What is a popular dessert to eat in Italy?
What is the name of that big steak Daddy and Aunty Juju ate in Florence?
This morning you ate mint flavoured gelato, and I had passionfruit. What was the name of the big fountain we visited in the middle of Rome just before we ate them?
NOTE: Our pop quiz games can get quite rowdy (everyone wants to be the first to jump in with the answers!) – so if your family is like ours, you may want to instigate the ‘hands up rule’ - like in class, where you put your hands up if you have the answer. Fellow restaurant patrons will appreciate this rule 😅
Or if noise isn’t an issue, get everyone to choose their own buzzer sounds – this is always fun! Farm animal noises like “QUACK!” “MOO!” or “BOOM!” are favourites with our fam.
5. Cards Playing cards has been a huge hit for our little fam! Go fish, memory, and snap are our three favourites with our younger kids, but there are of course many other options too. Last card and solitaire have also made appearances this trip, as has a new game the kids invented called “Invisible snap”.
On shorter commutes where we didn’t want to get the cards out (or didn’t have enough space to play them), the kids took to playing invisible snap - which is the same as normal snap, but without cards… you should try it. It’s quite entertaining! 😂
6. Hand Clapping Games Fantastic for hand-eye coordination, rhythm and rhyme, hand clapping games took me back to my primary school days. Some of the ones we’ve been playing with the kids include:
“Ronald McDonald, a-bush-ica.
Ronald McDonald, a-bush-ica…”
“Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack, all dressed in black, black, black, with silver buttons, buttons, buttons, all down her back, back back…”
“See See my playmate, I cannot play with you, my dolly’s got the flu, chicken pox and measles too…”
Whether it’s been from blasting tunes during car rides through the English countryside or singing Disney songs and getting the kids to guess what movie it was from, sing-a-longs have been a hit this trip - we’ve all been singing loud and proud!
Other games we thought of but didn’t get around to playing on this trip were Corners (great for older kids on car trips) and Spotto (an alternative to Eye Spy where you call our “Spotto!” whenever you see a yellow car, or any other object you agree on as a family). These are two other options that you could add to your screen-free games repertoire if needed.
So, there you have it. The toolkit of screen-free games we’ve called upon and been playing as a family to keep everyone entertained (and happy) on our travels.
They’ve been great distractions when the kids have become bored or tired and have also been magical in creating fun memories for us all – moments of connection, laughter, and joy that we’ll treasure forever.
I hope this post has given you a stack of ideas for your next family holiday! Feel free to save this post or share it with your family and friends. Here’s to enjoying more screen-free family time and seeing the world around us 🥰
Ciao for now!
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