Christmas is fast approaching, and it’s one of those times of the year where I sort of have no choice but to consider the dreaded family road trip. Honestly, I can think of nothing worse than piling into the car with our brood; not least because we seem to have terrible luck and always get stuck in ridiculous road closures (one recent example being when a small part of the roundabout leading to our road was shut, leading to a forty minute detour.) Of course I’m always grateful it’s not us involved in any incident, but it happens so often it’s genuinely put me off visiting anywhere outside of our local vicinity! With that in mind, I’ve been thinking about the best ways to entertain kids in the car, and I’ve put together my personal survival tips, in case they might help other families.
8 Best Ways to Entertain Kids in the Car
My top tip, although probably obvious to all parents with small kids, is to plan your journey around naps. This is our priority when travelling, over and above all else. Irritatingly that usually means travelling at a less than ideal time – but the pay-off is totally worth losing a few hours at your destination.
2. Car Games
Pixie is currently big into colours, so we regularly play a tally game where we’re each looking for a specific coloured car*. (This is also great for keeping a tired child awake when they’re liable to have a danger nap en route home from a local trip).
*Borrowed from my friend Laura.
For the most part, I’m fairly anti electronics. I prefer almost anything in a restaurant to using a phone or iPad as babysitter, which I find quite sad. While I appreciate that it’s sometimes a case of needs must and wouldn’t harshly judge, I personally think if I’m taking my children out to eat then it’s a nice opportunity to engage with them and teach manners/etiquette. That said, there have been circumstances when we’ve allowed Pixie to play a game on a phone in order to avoid a scene. Last resorts and all that.
Now Pixie is of an age where she can be trusted not to eat everything she can physically hold in the palm of her hand, small toys are ideal. She has a fab imagination and a couple of characters will keep her quiet for ages. As she gets older puzzles and games with small counters will also become viable options – assuming we can stop her from passing them across to her sister who still tries to eat anything small enough to fit inside her mouth. I’ve found a great online shop, Toys for a Pound, where you can buy popular figures, games, and much more – very inexpensively. At just one pound each you could keep a selection in the boot – without the need to take out a second mortgage.
Again, not something I advocate as such, but very definitely something I resort to when necessary! If we travel around naps then it means we can bookend with food. If we plan ahead then it’s easy to ensure we have items which are safe for both the girls – and safe for our carseats too. Nutrition is a bonus but not a priority in these circumstances, with rice cakes and oat cakes being my go-to car snacks.
- Car Seat Safety – Legislation and Advice, Featuring Britax Römer
- Baby Sign: Is My Child an Actual Genius?
- Is It Ever Okay to Lie to Your Child?
6. Stories and Music
Pixie loves a story, and if you can tolerate the tediousness, be bothered with the effort, and you’re happy to forgo conversation with an adult, telling epic tales is a great way to occupy children – the wackier the better. Elfin is too young for this to work, so we often skip stories and sing (badly) to annoying Sing and Sign songs on repeat (this CD seems to possess magical properties creating silence in mere moments!). I have even, on occasion (and out of desperation), successfully got a harmony going with myself leading and Pixie and Elfin joining in with words/gurgles. Pixie’s favourite song (lyrics sung on repeat) for this purpose is ‘Daddy is a Bogey’, with ‘Enchanted Village’ and ‘Unicorn Pony’ coming in close behind.
‘Are we nearly there yet?” the only correct answer to this is – of course – yes! Small children have not fully developed a concept of time, and if you tell them you’re close and then employ a distraction technique, you may buy yourself another whole hour. It’s definitely worth a go.
When you’re at the point of losing your mind to wailing in stereo, bribery is also acceptable. No judgement here.
The reality for us is that our family are spread across the country, and if we want to guarantee seeing them all during the festivities then chances are we’ll be making at least one hideous journey. With that in mind, it’s imperative that we plan meticulously in order to minimise the associated boredom (theirs), which inevitably leads to unimaginable stress (ours). This list is by no means foolproof, but it might give you one or two new ideas for best ways to entertain kids in the car.
This is a commissioned post.