Car games for the ride to school – with a FOCUS twist!

Car games are a great way to engage in positive play with your children and to help the ride to school go more quickly. Our top 5 adaptations to classic games emphasize key FOCUS skills, including expressing emotions and setting goals. These games can help children, who may be feeling a little nervous about going back to school, to talk about their feelings and to practice problem solving while having fun.

I Spy – Ask your child to spy something green in the car. When a family member guesses the green object of choice, the child then shares one thing that helps him to feel good and “in the green.” For a description of the green zone on the Feeling Thermometer, check out the FOCUS website:

Feelings 20 Questions – In this game, one family member thinks of a feeling and then the other family members ask her yes or no questions about times she feels that way or how she acts when she feels that way. The other family members have twenty questions to try to guess what the feeling is. Feelings 20 Questions is great practice in communicating feelings.

Places and Things – This is a great game to strengthen kids’ memories while helping your family plan for a trip. The first person starts by naming a place your family is going, such as a new city where you are moving, an afternoon soccer practice, or the next vacation destination. After the location is chosen, the first player adds an item for your family to bring. For example, you might say, “We are going to the beach, and I’m bringing a beach towel.” Then each family member takes turns by repeating everything already in the list, and then adding one additional item. The game gets harder each turn as you try to remember everything on your family’s list.

Alphabet Solve – In this game thatsupports creative problem solving, someone in the family mentions a problem that the family is facing. The problem doesn’t need to be anything serious. Something like, “We don’t know what to make for dinner,” is a problem that even young kids can help solve. Everyone in the car tries to come up with different options, starting with solutions that begin with the letter “A” and then moving on to the next letter of the alphabet. Your child might begin with “Ask my teacher for her favorite recipe,” and then you might continue with “Bake a casserole.” Keep going through the entire alphabet so that each family member gets several turns.

Yes, and… – This classic improvisation game focuses on building positive communication skills and a shared family story. The game starts with someone saying a positive action sentence, like “I am going to buy a pineapple.” The next person says “Yes, and…” and then she adds another sentence to the story. For example, she might say, “Yes, and I am going to attach it to a kite.” Family members keep adding “Yes, and…” sentences to see how silly the family story can become.

FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress) is a resiliency-building program of the Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED). FOCUS is an eight-session training program for military families that is grounded in more than two decades of research FOCUS and experience serving families dealing with stress and changes. FOCUS is specifically adapted for the needs of military couples, children and families and provides training in core resilience skills. These skills increase closeness, support, communication and adaptability. Couples and families learn to work together to manage difficult emotions, set goals and problem solve, communicate clearly and effectively, and develop customized strategies to deal with ongoing stress and change. For more information about FOCUS, visit us online at or

Contact your local FOCUS site today to learn more and to schedule personalized training sessions.
Marine and Family Services, Bldg. 13150, Camp Pendleton, 760-859-6079,
Dolphin Alley, Bldg. 265, NBSD, 619-556-6075,



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