Posted by: Jacquie Fisher   

License Plate Game | Printable Road Trip Games

The License Plate Game is a great game to play in the car with your kids -- print this free US map of the states and play today!

Our family started looking for license plates in our own hometown whenever we were in our car during the long summer months. 

Seems that we were frequently heading to some fun local attractions, taking my oldest to golf tournaments or running errands (they are endless when you have kids, aren't they!). 

So in order to pass the time, we started a friendly family competition -- at the beginning of each summer, I'll print off a map of the US (get your FREE map below) and we'll keep it in the car.  Each time one of us sees a plate from another state, we 'claim' it on the map.  Then at the end of summer, we tally those 'claims' to see who has found the most license plates!

It's fun, there's some learning involved and we have a great time finding all those cars from other states who've decided to visit our area each year.

Plus it's a great way to keep the kids entertained on short or long road trips :)


 

License Plathe Game with free US map for road trips with kids!

License Plate Game: Printable Road Trip Activities

We are always looking for great travel tips & hacks for our road trips

Being in the car together is the perfect time to reconnect and play a game together + do a little learning on the trip. So we're sharing a FREE printable for the License Plate Game today along with affiliate links to others items we love for road trips & fun ways to learn those states!

Our family has 3 favorite car games that we LOVE to play:

1. Zig, I've Got a Horse! (writing this up soon since I've had some questions from readers!)

2. Mad libs -- lots of laughs!  Mad libs on the Road (for kids ages 8 - 12 years) and Summer Fun Mad Libs Junior (for kids ages 5 - 8 years) are perfect for road trips!

3. The License Plate Game

 

How to Play the License Plate Game

For those of you who aren't familiar with the License Plate game, it's simple:

When you are in your car, everyone who is playing the game should keep their eyes open for license plates from all the states in the U.S.  When you see a plate for the first time, the person who identifies that plate is rewarded by 'claiming' the state on a printed map.

You can claim a plate by either coloring in the state or writing your initials on the state.

In addition to long car trips, we also enjoy playing the game in our hometown for the challenge (sometimes it's easier to find plates when you're on a road trip).  Plus it's pretty cool to see who's visiting your city!

 

What do you need to play:

  • Crayons or colored markers (assign one color to each person playing the game)
  • A map of the United States – if you have younger kids, print a map with the names of the states; if your kids are older, print a blank map or a map with state abbreviations (you can find both in our free printable pack below!)

 

What Kids Will Learn with The License Plate Game

Young children can be assigned to color in the states that are found.  This helps with fine motor skills and also identifying colors. 

Kids between ages 6 - 9 should begin to identify the names of the states on the map – you might use words as ‘in the northeast’ or ‘near the state Grandma lives in’ to help them orient the location on the map. 

Kids older than 9 years will benefit most from having a blank map; they can write in the name of each state as it’s found and then color with the assigned color.  You can also use a ‘word bank’ (which would be a list of all the states) or help them to sound-out and spell the state’s name. 

If you have teens, ask them to list the state abbreviation as plates are found or even CORRECTLY spell the name of the state. 

You may also want to weave in some math –

  • estimate how long it will take to find all 50 license plates,
  • have your kids list the % of states each person in the family identified,
  • ask your kids which states they think will be the most difficult to find (that may be based on how far you are from various states, or the population of various states) and the probability of finding all 50 license plates.

 

How to Win the Game

Choose some type of reward for the family member who identifies the most states (in our family, whoever wins that honor gets to choose where we have ice cream on the weekend before school begins!). 

 

Learning States with the License Plate Game

One fun way to extend the game is to tie it with a book or other hands-on item!  Here are a few of our favorite state books along with some fun learn-about-the-states items too.  It's a great way to help your kids practice their geography on your next road trip!

 

Our 50 States: A Family Adventure Across America" by Lynne Cheney is a beautifully illustrated book that highlights the culture, people and attractions in each our 50 states.  I love the pictures throughout the book and there are so many fun facts included that adults will even learn a thing or two!

 

What happens when Virginia and Idaho decide to switch places on the map?!  Chaos begins and all the states get involved in the scramble. 

Laurie Keller's The Scrambled States of America is an all-time favorite for kids (parents will enjoy the humor too)!  There's also a fun Scrambled States Card & Map Game that pairs with the book and is easy to take & play in the car.

 

Smart About the Fifty States is perfect for ages 8 and up.  The book is written as a 'state report' that was assigned in a school classroom and has a very clever format with each page looking like an assignment completed by kids!

Readers will learn about interesting facts, historical events and geography related to each of the states.  There's also a full map of the country and very creative 'bibliography' of the books used to create the reports.  This is a gem if you are teaching/homeschooling about the states!

 

Another favorite at our house is the National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas: Maps, Games, Activities, and More for Hours of Backseat Fun !  Chocked full of maps, landmarks and TONS of facts, this is an excellent book to have if you're taking a trip through a number of states.  We also love the photos included with each of the state write-ups!

This is a book we've used before many of our roadtrips so we can all learn a little more about the states we're visiting.

 

One item we used over and over iso ur Melissa & Doug Deluxe Wooden USA Map Puzzle -- very sturdy, colorful and can be adapted for kids from ages 5 - 12 years.  When they are young, kids like to put the puzzle together.  As they get older, they begin to read the details.

I love that the puzzle helps them identify the shape of the states (they can hold each piece so it's great for different learning styles).  And it holds up well!  We have had ours for more than 12 years!

Of if you'd rather have one you can take with you on the trip, try the Melissa & Doug Flip to Win License Plate Game!  It allows two players or teams to compete to see who can find the most plates -- plus, the board also lists the state capitals.

 

Another awesome resource is the Fandex Family Field Guides: 50 States.  These card decks are for older kids (tweens & teens) and are packed with so many details and facts you have to read them at least twice!  Each card highlights information about one of the states and includes a map. 

You could even use this card deck to play the License Plate Game -- just place a sticky note on each card as you find a plate from that state!

 

Free Printable License Plate Game

 

License Plate Game: US Map of States free printable

Print a blank US map of states or a map of abbreviations for your own License Plate Game fun!

** Both map types are included in this file

And if you're looking for a printable list of state plates, print this AAA State License Plate Game (it's not as educational but it does show the images you might see on some of the plates ;)

 

More Car Games & Road Trip Activities:

40 Free Printable Road Trip Activities

10 Things to do Before Your Next Road Trip {with free printable checklist!}

 

connecting books and maps

More Geography Activities for Kids:

Why Every Home Needs a Map

10 Culture & Map Activities for Kids

Map Your Summer Reading

Books for Summer Fun
Family Camping Activities in Your Own Backyard

Comments

 
Jacquie Fisher on Wednesday, 11 July 2012 14:17

How fun to play it in town!

How fun to play it in town!
Guest - M on Sunday, 22 November 2015 20:32

i cant print it or get to the pdf

i cant print it or get to the pdf
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