“Are we there yet?” “No!”
I used to get a kick out of The Simpson’s Ride commercial each time it aired on television. But when my oldest son began to ask this question repeatedly on an extended road trip, it suddenly wasn’t so funny anymore. In fact, I felt like Homer cruising down the highway, and vowed to do whatever it takes to keep him entertained on subsequent car rides.
And now that we’ll be hitting the pavement soon for a few family visits and mini-vacations, making travel arrangements and packing our bags aren’t the only items on the to-do list. We’ll also be make preparations to keep our children entertained for the long haul.
There aren’t televisions in our headrests and we’d prefer they not spend the entire ride glued to a handheld device. So how can you keep kids entertained on long drives without spending a lot of money?
Here are a few cost-efficient activities, that have been tested by my kids, that you can use to ensure a fun car ride for everyone.
1. The Toy Bag
You spent way too much time cleaning the car in preparation for the trip, and you have no desire to do it again anytime soon. But if you want to keep your small children quiet and entertained, you may have to deal with a few backseat messes.
Besides, scattered toys are much easier to clear out than other tiny objects, such as shredded paper or beads. Put together a small toy bag that you take with you on trips, that contains some of your kids favorite things.
Our toy sack usually consists of Legos, action figures, and small trucks, and I make the kids pitch in to clean up the mess when we arrive at our destination. For most kids, the toys are the highlight of their ride since they get to build their favorite structures or play pretend.
2. Diary of a Traveling Kid
Are you taking a scenic route? If so, let your children capture the moment in their very own diary. If you’re confident they won’t doodle all over the interior of your car, ask them to create pictures using crayons or markers. If not, a written description will suffice.
Another option is to ask them to write a story about the entire journey, and then ask the rest of the family for input and questions to stimulate their mind.
If you have toddlers that may not be able to write legibly or read just yet, have them draw pictures of their favorite places and share so they won’t feel left out.
3. Traditional Car Games
Old car games are some of the most fun! And all you need is a functioning set of eyeballs to play them. I’m amazed at long traditional road trip games keep them entertained, and it’s so simple to play.
For example; the game “I Spy” is where one child describes what he sees while the other plays the guessing game until he gets it right. This is even something the whole family can join in and play — I know I do.
4. Sing-Along Playlist
My kids and I love to sing, so before leaving for our trip I always take a moment to compile a playlist of our favorite tunes. Choose a few songs that your kids love — like soundtracks from favorite movies — and listen as they sing along.
Sometimes, we even have karaoke contests to heighten the fun. And this activity will help them get rid of any pent-up energy, so they will be much calmer after they belt out a few tunes.
5. The Snacks
One way to keep the kids quiet and happy is to load up those bellies before departure, and distribute healthy snacks along the way to curb hunger from coming on too quickly.
We typically bring a cooler along with chips, goldfish, diced fruit, veggies, water and ingredients for sandwiches. At some point, you may have to stop at a restaurant to pick up a cooked meal, but at least you’ll have enough food to hold you over until you find a cost-efficient dining option.
When taking your family on a road trip, make sure you use these ideas to help the car ride be as smooth as possible.
Most importantly, prior to departure ask your kids for suggestions as they may have a few creative ideas. And if restlessness sets in, simply take a break. It’s not the end of the world and you’ll be glad you did, at least for the sake of your sanity.
What’s another way to entertain children while on the road? How do you keep your kids happy in the car?
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