Children’s Games for Car Journeys – Ratalingdong

That familiar cry of ‘Are we nearly there yet? Here’s a great game for children to help alleviate the boredom of long car journeys.

We are fairly sure that my Grandad on my Mum’s side invented this game and we’ve yet to find anyone else who plays it so that could well be true. It’s simple, it needs no equipment and is perfect for long journeys, especially those that aren’t along a motorway.

It never had a name so we’ve recently called it ‘Ratalingdong’  and we’ve also recently added some new rules or complications, but the  basic game is simple.

The Aim

The aim is simply to get more points than your competitors. Although, if you can’t be bothered to keep points then just playing it without keeping score will keep you entertained and make those long car journeys go a little quicker.


The Rules

The rules for Ratalingdong couldn’t be simpler, which is what makes it such a good children’s game for long car journeys. All you have to do is keep a lookout for three things on your journey.

  1. Post Boxes
  2. Telephone Boxes
  3. Churches
  • If you see a Post Box you shout ‘ Rat-a-tat’
  • If you see a Telephone Box you shout ‘Ting-a-ling’
  • If you see a Church you shout ‘Ding-Dong’

That’s it, there’s nothing else it. The first person to spot each Post Box, Telephone Box or Church and shout the appropriate “Rat-a-tat”, “Ting-a-ling” or ‘Ding-Dong” gets a point.


As I said earlier, Morgan being Morgan couldn’t leave it like that, he had to start adding a few complications to the game, a few of which have stuck and can make the game a little more fun. So here are a few of them and the ones that we now use.

1. You’re Wrong, Your Points have Gone

A fairly simple complication (if that’s not an oxymoron) to penalise those who are too quick off the mark and make a mistake. Basically if you say Rat-a-Tat when you should have said Ting-a-ling, or you say Rat-a-tat and the post box turns out to be a dog-poo bin then you loose a point.

2. Rat-a-ling-dong bonus points

If you see all three things (A Post Box, A Telephone Box and a Church) all at the same time you can shout ‘Rat-a-ling-dong’ and receive the three points for each individual item, plus two bonus points for a total of 5 points for the ‘Rat-a-ling-dong’.

You can shout Rat-a-ling-dong and get these bonus points at anytime, even if someone else has already claimed, one, two or even all three of the items, but if you’ve already claimed one of them individually yourself then you can’t claim the ‘Rat-a-ling-dong’. You must be able to see all three items at the same time – not as easy as you might think.

3. Pirate Rules – Arrrrrrr!

This one is good. If your score is a multiple of 5 (5, 10, 15 etc) then you can, if you want, declare ‘Pirate Rules’ You do so simply by shouting ‘Pirate Rules…Arrr…” in your best pirate voice.

Once Pirate Rules have been declared, the next person to gain a point can decide to steal a point from a fellow player. To do so after claiming the point they say, in their best pirate voice “Arrr, the Booty is mine, I plunder from XXXX” where XXXX is the name of the person they’ll steal from. They then get an extra point and the person it was stolen from losses a point.

Pirate Rules has to be declared soon after reaching a multiple of five score. In other words you can’t declare it immediately before gaining a point.

That’s all there is to it. It keeps children and adults alike alert and entertained on car journeys and it’s easy to play. It has changed a little over the years since my Grandad invented it about 40 years ago, but it still works well. Things have changed because telephone boxes are now more difficult to spot as there aren’t many of the old red ones left, but the new ones count too. Post Boxes and maybe even churches are a little less common than they used to be as well, and sometimes bus-stops can look like modern phone boxes and dog-poo bins can look like postboxes, but it still works well and these changes just make it a little more challenging. Try it without the complications first, then add the extra rules if you want and those car journeys will fly by.

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Alan Cole

Alan is a Freelance Website Designer, Sports & Exercise Science Lab Technician and full time Dad & husband with far too many hobbies: Triathlete, Swimming, Cycling, Running, MTBing, Surfing, Windsurfing, SUPing, Gardening, Photography.... The list goes on.

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