Car Activities for Kids – the Essential Guide to surviving a long family road trip
Are we there yet?
Gearing up for a long car journey with children can be a terrifying prospect, filling parents with dread. The arguments, the boredom and the toilet stops…15 minutes after you set off. Sometimes it just doesn’t feel worth all the stress. Perhaps we should have seriously considered a staycation!
As the summer holidays approach, many families will be thinking about how to make getaways as painless as possible. Believe it or not, with just a little bit of preparation, the journey from Hell could be made much easier – you might even end up having some fun!
Here are our tips for in-car activities that everyone can enjoy:
1. Play In-Car Games that require very little advance planning
It’s an old but gold activity – providing your children are old enough to know their alphabet! If they don’t it can still make for a fun game and learning exercise which kills some time.
Think of a person, place, or thing, and let everyone take a turn to ask you a “yes” or “no” question until someone guesses what you are thinking of. If they haven’t got the answer within 20 questions, you’re the winner – but then you knew that already, didn’t you?
The Animal Game
Each person names an animal and the next player must name one starting with the last letter of the word. For example; zebra – alligator – rabbit.
You can also play a variation of this game with famous people.
2. Crank up the stereo
Musical entertainment – “I like driving in my car”
Why not create a playlist of music everyone recognises, perhaps from Disney films or musicals and have a family singalong? It really doesn’t matter if you can’t hold a tune. Try out our favourite Spotify playlists:
Unplug with a good audio book
Kids love listening to audio books and they can entertain everyone on a long journey. You can download them from your local library, or use a pay provider such as Audible or iPlayer.
Our favourite list of audio books for every age group
2-4 year olds
5-10 year old
11 years and older
3. Bored of being bored – Prepare some activities for kids in advance.
Keep them guessing with some surprise toys
Create a travel bag of surprise toys. You don’t need to spend much money but examples of items you could include are a small picture book, finger puppets, stickers, a puzzle, coloured pencils and a colouring book.
There’s nothing worse than having to reach around behind you every two minutes to pick up toys your child has dropped/thrown. Magnetic games or puzzles can solve this problem and should keep the little ones quiet. Find some inspiration here.
Get crafty in the car
Crafts are always a good idea when your kids are a bit older.
Colouring books are a good way to entertain kids. Beads and homemade jewellery kits. Or sticker books.
For the little ones magnetic drawing boards like Etch-a-sketch are a good option, as they are solid and don’t create mess on the back seat.
Let them navigate
For older kids, why not give them a map and let them track your progress. You can set some milestones , such as; “Once we pass exit 13 on the M25 we can all eat a chocolate bar?”
Number Plate Bingo
If you’ve got older children, how about a game of Number Plate Bingo? It needs a bit of advance preparation but could wipe away a few minutes, at least
Create and print off pieces of paper with 10-15 different numbers on each one. Each player has to use the cars surrounding you to find a number plate containing their numbers. The first player to get complete their card wins!
4. EAT. SLEEP. RELAX.
Snacks are often the solution to all parenting dramas and useful for encouragement when all other options have been used up. Be creative with what you prepare and make sure you have enough for any unexpected traffic jams.
Don’t give them to your children all in one go – what if you get delayed and run out?! Plus, you won’t want to run the risk of any vomiting episodes. Avoid too much sugar. A 6 year old having a sugar rush in the back of the car is never a good combination!
Avoid any food which may pose a choking hazard for younger children such as hard boiled sweets, grapes or lollipops.
If you’re travelling with young children try to coincide your journey with their nap times. Make sure they have their blankets and comforters and hopefully the sound of the engine will lull them into a deep sleep for some of the trip.
It might mean you’ll get an hour to listen to your favourite podcast, or even have an ‘adult’ conversation!
Travelling at bedtime can also make journeys easier. Put your children in their pyjamas and hopefully they might nod off as you begin your drive. Travelling in the evening may also mean the traffic will be lighter and the temperatures cooler.
Plan your pit stops in advance. Do some research about places which might offer child-friendly food and space for them to let off steam and run around. If travelling with young babies in car seats the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents recommends taking at least a 15-minute break every two hours.
Make sure that whatever activities you provide your kids are safe for you to drive. For example, if your kid is known to throw teddies, this may not be the best choice!