I Spy With My Little Eye... A Chance For Family Time

Jack Dreyer | Friday 21st July 2023 1:30pm

  • Today’s children nearly twice as likely to spend car journeys doing solo activity than those born in the 70s
  • Child psychologist Professor Sam Wass says families risk missing out on chance for quality bonding time
  • Kwik Fit launches games guide to help families play together on summer car journeys

With schools breaking up and 17.6 million Brits set to drive an average of 400 miles on their summer holidays, new data reveals that many families could be missing out on the bonding time their journeys offer.

Researchers for Kwik Fit asked people to look back to their childhood journeys and what they most enjoyed. They found that twice as many people liked group activities on their family car trips compared to solo pursuits – 74% vs 36% respectively. However, the study found that a quarter (26%) of those who now have children aged 0-16 spend less time doing family activities than they did with their own parents on their childhood car journeys. The finding indicates that up to 2.8 million families could be missing out on making valuable memories on school holiday journeys.

When asked in more detail about their childhood car journeys, 41% of people say they enjoyed the time just chatting as a family, 32% enjoyed playing games such as I Spy and Car Bingo, with the same proportion (32%) enjoying listening to music together. More than one in five (22%) got enjoyment from singing songs together and 14% from telling stories. Only one in nine people (11%) said they didn’t enjoy anything about their childhood car journeys.

However, despite parents’ many happy childhood memories of a variety of group activities, their children’s solo activity is on the increase. With many children using their smartphones, games console or listening to music on their own, over half (54%) of parents of 5-16 year olds say their children spend time on solo activity on their car journeys. This compares to less than a third (29%) for children of the 70s and earlier. The figure rises to 58% for those whose children are aged 17-20.

Professor Sam Wass is a child psychologist who specialises in concentration, stress and learning in childhood and is known for his work on Channel 4’s The Secret Lives of 4 and 5 Year Olds. He believes that families viewing a journey as simply a chore to get through risk missing out on valuable family time. He said: “Family activities, such as playing I Spy and singing along together to the radio, may be seen by some parents as a way to kill time on a car journey. But in fact, research now suggests that they can benefit your family dynamic, and help spark a feeling of togetherness and shared understanding as you head off together on holiday. For example, when we’re singing we’re forcing ourselves to take big deep breaths in, and let them out slowly, which research suggests can be effective for putting everyone in a good mood. Doing things together – such as everyone joining in a game of I Spy – is proven to be effective for improving social dynamics within the family unit. So when everyone is in the car at the same time, it’s a perfect opportunity for families to naturally build togetherness.”

With games known to be a good way for families to interact, the researchers identified the nation’s favourite car games. I Spy is top of the list, although it has dropped in popularity over the decades. It was played by over three quarters (77%) of people enjoying car games as children, but this figure has fallen to 58% of families with children aged 0-16. The table below shows the most popular games played by today’s families. For those families looking to try a new game, Kwik Fit has launched a guide to car games with rules and descriptions available on it's website and social media channels.

Car Game – and summary of rules (more detail here) Car game playing families (children aged 0-16) who play each game
I Spy – players have to guess what object another player is referring to, just by the first letter 58%
Car colour bingo - Players have to spot cars of a list of colours – the first to see all the colours wins 31%
Alphabet game – each player adds to an alphabetical list on their turn, but has to repeat the whole list of previously stated items 26%
“Banana/Yellow car” – first to spot a yellow car and shout “banana car”, or “yellow car”, wins 23%
Truck spot – players each select a well known company and whoever sees the most trucks from that company wins 14%
Animal trail – each player has to name an animal starting with the last letter of the one stated by the previous player 19%
Pub sign cricket – players score runs based on pub names or sign 8%

Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, said: “The research shows that car journeys can provide families with valuable time together if they focus on group activity. Car games are still a great way for families to enjoy their time on the road and for those who want try a new game but are not sure of the rules, we have provided a car games guide at kwik-fit.com and on our social channels. Of course, these are just a starting point as one of the joys of car games is developing individual rules that are bespoke to your own family. But whatever game you choose to play, if the driver is joining in, it’s vital that their attention isn’t distracted from the road.

“We also want to remind people of the importance of pre-travel checks in ensuring a happy summer holiday journey. Even the most exciting car game is going to lose its appeal if you’re stuck at the side of the road. We encourage drivers to make as many checks as possible before setting off and to make sure their car is in top condition for the summer trip.”

For advice on pre-travel checks, drivers can find a wide range of information at kwik-fit.com. For the latest news and updates from Kwik Fit, customers can also follow the company on Twitter at @kwik_fit.

Note to editors


  1. Research carried out by Opinium among a nationally representative sample of 2000 UK adults – 9-13 June 2023
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