Keep Kids Occupied on Family Road Trips

Auto Smarts

With airfares up in the clouds (sorry, but pun) and the “staycation” fad losing its luster, the classic family road trip is coming back into vogue.

But to avoid being “that person,” yelling at the kids and threatening to “turn this car around,” here are some suggestions to break up the tedium and keep them occupied, quiet, and not driving you completely insane.

  1. Give them a screen to watch
    Technology’s come a long way since we were stuck in Dad’s station wagon with nothing to do. These days, a lot of newer vehicles have on-board DVD players and TV’s. If you’re lucky enough to have one, throw on their favorite kids flick and let the good times roll! A tablet, smartphone, or MP3 player works too. Give them a game to play and you’re sure to get at least a solid half-hour of quiet time.

  2. Bring along car-friendly board games
    Ok, so you probably don’t want the kids playing Parcheesi in the backseat (pieces falling and sliding everywhere isn’t good for business). But there are car-safe board games that are great for long trips. Pick up some magnetic board games like magnetic checkers or ScrabbleTM and your kids can play all day without pieces dropping into crevices, never to be seen again. Look for the “Travel Edition” of your favorite board games at toy stores and you’ll be all set.

  3. Play classic car games
    You don’t have to spend your entire road trip keeping the kids quiet. Take the time to bond, laugh, and play together! Revisit a few of these classic gems from road trips past:
    • 20 Questions – one person thinks of something (anything!) and everyone else has 20 “yes or no” questions to guess what it is
    • I Spy – somebody picks a thing they see (not something flying by the car…that’s not fair) and gives everyone else a clue, like first letter or color. Everyone else has to guess what it is.
    • The License Plate Game – there are almost endless variations of the game, and it seems like everyone has their own version. You can find the alphabet in license plates, guess celebrity names in license plate letters (JC = James Caan), or make phrases out of license plate letters, like “BDD” could become “Buy Dad Dinner.”
    • The Alphabet Game – another one with tons of variations. The idea is to go through the alphabet spotting letters on road signs, or thinking of things that correspond to each letter.
  4. Do car-friendly crafts
    Kids have wild imaginations! Let them do their thing and create in the car. Bring along some yarn, construction paper, pencils, crayons, and stickers. Let them draw, make up stories, or even create presents for grandma and grandpa. Just leave the glitter, glue, and scissors at home. Too many risks on a bumpy road!

  5. Just talk
    Kids of any age love to listen and talk (even if it’s completely incoherent to us). So gab with your children in the car. Tell stories, sing songs, and chat with them about where you’re going, what they’ll see, and who they might meet when you get there. Even if they can’t talk back yet, it’s still engaging for them to listen. Plus, communicating with kids is a great way to expand their vocabulary and improve their speech patterns.

Mix and match any of these suggestions for a memorable and totally tolerable family road trip!


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