This month we welcome Cath Jordan from Passports and Adventures as our guest blogger as she tells us what her top 5 tips are for keeping kids occupied on road trips.
On the road, as drivers, us parents must deal with constant traffic dangers and situations such as blinding rain (or sometimes even snow), traffic jams, street signs and other drivers. But one distraction you might not have thought about, before having them, is your kids. When you become a parent, you suddenly have a baby in the car. Then, as they grow up, they become tantruming toddlers and prima donna pre-schoolers, before morphing into the drama kings and queens that are tweens and teens. And the noise level never abates. So here are some tips for keeping kids occupied on road trips to try and make it a smooth journey for everyone.
But before the tips, here is an interesting fact. Did you know that one of the top distractions while driving has been cited as children fighting with each other in the back.* While a study carried out in 2017 by the AAA (American Automobile Association) found that children were 12 times more distracting to drivers than mobile phones.** It’s no wonder they drive us to distraction, every pun intended. So, here are a few ways to keep the kids occupied the next time you hit the road.
Books and kid’s magazines
This one should only be used with kids who do not suffer from motion sickness. Magazines, especially the type that come with stickers or a little toy can easily help kids pass the time and try preventing World War 3 from starting on the back seat. For older kids, reading a book could help them pass the time, especially if it’s a new one in a series they already love. Think Harry Potter-type bestsellers. An alternative for those who suffer motion sickness could be audiobooks. I know many adults who love listening to audiobooks during long car journeys.
Probably not an activity you thought could be done in the car during a road trip but it can easily be done with one of those new lap tables. Small crafts involving things like lolly sticks, pom-poms, some glue and their imagination could keep them occupied on the outward journey. And during the trip home, your kids could put together a scrapbook from a trip, adding in things like tickets stubs, polaroid photos or bits of leaflets as a reminder of their road trip holiday. You just need to pack instant cameras, glue sticks, markers and construction paper to get them started.
Puzzles, games and cards
You might not think activities involving puzzles or games are fit for road trips, but many have been adapted for travelling. Games such as Battleship, Guess Who and even Connect Four have been designed in handy travel size packs. And if you invest in one or two of the lap tables, the kids can easily play these travel games during a road trip. Card games such as snap, tops trumps and other similar games will occupy the kids for a few hours. Ok, maybe not that long but at least 30-60 minutes.
Yes, there is the debate about screen time and kids but for road trips, this can provide the perfect entertainment to keep them quiet for a few hours. Be it playing educational games or watching their favourite film or tv show, tablets can help reduce the fighting and give you some much needed peace on a long car trip.
The kids can either hold their tablets themselves, or you could get an adapter that can attach their tablets to the back of the headrests of the front seats. Just ensure the kids are happy with what’s playing. And try to ensure they aren’t constantly reaching across to change things as this could be dangerous if they are stretching their seatbelts at the wrong moment. Whatever you do, don’t forget the headphones so you don’t have to listen to a battle of Paw Patrol versus Frozen!
What do I mean by outside entertainment? On our road trip in America, when we were visiting Yellowstone National Park, our son had a pair of toy binoculars, and he used them to spot wildlife such as bison around the park from the car. He spent hours doing this. Outside entertainment could also involve a game of “I-spy” or “spot the x”. We have played I-spy during road trips and across northwest America we played a game of spot Mack, the big truck in Disney’s Cars. Every big haulage truck that we passed became known as Mack, after we first played the game, and there were extra points for spotting a red one.
With these tips you stand a chance of having a quieter and less noisy journey for your next road trip as a family. I’ll be honest and say we no longer give our son books, magazines or his tablet for road trips but only because he has started suffering from motion sickness recently. We tend to stick to outside entertainment or we allow him to bring some of his toys into the back to play with. We also always have music of some sort playing in the car, although we’re often stuck listening to our son’s Spotify list which includes songs from Disney Cars and Cinderella. But needs must!
Let us know in the comments if you’ve used any of these tips before or if there is something else that works for keeping your kids occupied on road trips.
Cath is an Irish expat who now lives in Portugal with her husband and son. A former scientist, she gave up working when they emigrated south from the UK. She is a family travel and lifestyle blogger and hopes that, through her blog, they will inspire more families to travel, especially with the toddlers in tow. As a family they love travelling and have started working their way through their family travel bucket list. Cath writes about their family travels and experiences on her blog Passports and Adventures.