Disney would have you believe that road trips are the ultimate family experience. And for some that may be true. But if you’re driving any distance with one or more children under 5-years-old, chances are you’re stressing.
But, fear not! We are here to help. Today, we’re going to look at some tried and proven strategies to keep kids occupied and happy in the car, and keep you sane while doing it.
Keep driving distance short
OK, this might sound counterintuitive, but you have to work with what you’ve got. If you know that your child(ren) will start to lose it at the 5 hours mark, try not to drive more than 5 hours per day. Work in some overnight stops along the way, if you can.
Think about it this way: your little one is used to running around all day long. If they have to suddenly spend all day cooped up in the car, you’re in for an interesting bedtime. If you can stop for 10-15 minutes every 1-2 hours, it will make the whole trip easier. Make sure they climb and run as much as they can whenever you stop. And make everyone go to the bathroom!
Use things they like
One great way to keep kids occupied in the car is by using their favourite things. Kid likes cars? Make a little road on some cardboard and pack in a couple of their cars. Kid likes dolls? Print out some paper dolls and clothes. They’ll manage the rest!
Use car-friendly activities
Think water-activated colouring books, reusable sticker books, and crayons, colouring pencils or even paint sticks with notebooks. This kind of thing will allow your child to entertain themselves without much input from you.
Work smart not hard
If your kid gets bored easily, change up what they have access to each time you’re in the car. A back-of-seat organiser is a handy place to put a couple of activities and you can switch it up whenever you stop. Oh, and a lap desk will help keep things tidy.
The golden rule of road trips is snacks. Bring along some good, healthy ones, like fruit, dried fruit, sandwiches, and so on, but also keep a few treats up your sleeve. When you’re 45 minutes from your destination, the last thing you want to do is stop. A couple of treats can buy you the time you need to get there!
What you put into a creativity box will depend on your child. Get a partitioned, lidded box — like a small fishing tackle box — and fill it up with things your child will like. For a 3-year-old, that might be small plastic animals, screws and nuts, play dough, and pegs. You can include anything that will fit into the compartments, and it’ll keep most kids occupied for a good while.
Portable activity kits
Pack a folder with zippered binder pockets. Inside the pockets, you can pack Lego kits, road trip scavenger hunt sheets (you can Google for these or make your own), dry erase boards and whiteboard markers, colouring books, crayons — anything you like, really.
Download a few books that you think would appeal to your child and play them through the car speakers using Bluetooth, or go old-fashioned with a CD. It’s a great way to listen to a story without anyone getting carsick reading a book.
There’s nothing like an old fashioned game of I Spy or road trip bingo. You can tailor it to your age-group quite easily. For example, if your kids can’t spell yet you can use descriptors rather than letters to describe what you’re looking at. Bingo is as easy as each person picking a colour, then looking out for that colour for the duration of the trip. The winner is the one with the most cars in their colour!
And if all else fails, make sure you have a couple of phones or tablets in the car. A little bit of Peppa Pig might be the last resort you need when all else is exhausted.
You can decide whether you want to meter things out from the front, or if you’d prefer to pre-load a box and place it where your kid can reach it. What you choose in terms of access will depend on you, your kid, and the level of independence you think they can manage. No-one wants paintsticks all over the door upholstery.
We hope these tips, tricks, and resources help make this summer’s road trips a lot smoother.
- Taking a Road Trip With Kids: https://www.tripsavvy.com/road-trips-with-kids-parents-guide-3266160
- EASY Portable Activity Kit for Road Trips: https://mamapapabubba.com/2016/08/08/easy-portable-activity-kit-for-road-trips/
- 19 fun car road trip activities: https://www.kidspot.com.au/things-to-do/family-travel/travelling-with-kids/19-fun-car-road-trip-activities/news-story/801a805d847e88bc866e25034fc7a0c3