Ahhhhh the summer holidays! A time for families to come together and spend quality time with one another. Except, on a long car journey, your little darlings can fast turn into little monsters, especially if they’re cooped up for an extended time in a very enclosed space. Making this worse is the added distraction that bored children can bring when you’re driving. The last thing you need on a long journey is endless cries of “Are we there yet?!” resonating from the back seat. So, to help you ensure family-bliss on your future journeys, we’ve listed a few activities you can use to keep everyone happy.
Use a whiteboard
Pack a small whiteboard and some dry-erase pens so your children can doodle, play hangman or write secret notes to each other. Or for younger children, give them sticker and activity books which will keep them occupied without risking pens on your upholstery!
Put it on film
You’ll be forgiven for thinking Polaroids are a thing of the past, but instant film cameras do still exist and can provide hours of fun for your kids. They can take photos of the journey and put them in a travel scrapbook or take endless silly pictures of themselves.
Travel games like chess and Scrabble are still available and can help engage your child’s mind as well as distract them from the length of the journey.
Create your own kid-friendly bingo by printing off images of things you’re likely to pass along the way. This can include trees, cows, red cars, lorries etc. Get your kids to tick them off one by one and the first to get them all can win a prize (like picking the next song on your playlist).
Nothing can beat a good old-fashioned game of I-spy or word association. It’ll fire up your kids’ imaginations and keep them occupied for a few minutes.
Shoe boxes and small toys
Give each child a personalised shoe box filled with small toys, crayons, small puzzle or activity books and healthy snacks. Your children can even decorate their boxes with stickers and drawings.
Or go one step further and gift wrap each of the small things inside the boxes along with other small items. These don’t have to be expensive, you can pick things up in 99p stores or supermarkets, and every so often on your journey, hand over another gift-wrapped item for your kids to unwrap and play with.
Look for license plates
This has pretty-much become a classic, but trying to spell out words using license plates you drive past can help distract children for a while. Alternatively, get them to make up catchphrases and acronyms using surrounding license plates – so BYNE becomes ‘Be Yourself Nobody Else!’ and then vote on your favourite one. The winner could then get a prize.
The countdown is on
This could be a useful one to prevent your children asking “Are we there yet?” every five minutes. Find some key landmarks that you pass on your journey and have the kids look out for them along the way. If you then create a countdown timeline in your car using some string, paper signs and pegs, your kids can unclip each paper sign every time you pass its corresponding landmark.
Sing for the win
Mum and dad may not be blessed with the voices of angels, but for the sake of entertaining the children, consider having an impromptu family sing-a-long. Dance moves are optional.
Naturally, if all else fails there’s always technology to fall back on. However, limiting screen time can help stimulate imagination and let your kids see the world passing them by on your journey. If you are packing an iPad or similar, make sure you have an in-car charger or it’s fully charged before your journey to prevent battery-related meltdowns along the way.
Incidentally, if you’ve got a child who enjoys reading but gets carsick reading books while travelling, consider downloading an audiobook for them to get lost in.
Take a break
On long car journeys with children it’s worth scheduling in a lot of breaks along the way. Not only is this a chance for you to stretch your legs, have something to eat and go to the bathroom, but it also gives your mind a rest from the road and can help you recharge. You don’t need to just stick to service stations either. Why not stop off at some local attractions and places your children will find interesting?