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Keeping your children busy in the car when travelling

The family road trip can be an adventure that brings you closer together and teaches you about each other’s perspectives and hobbies, or it can be a nightmare that makes you want to yell at the top of your lungs every time your children ask, “Are we there yet?”

With little imagination, organisation, and preparation, a road trip may be an enjoyable, instructive, and reasonable experience. Of course, there are plenty of ways to pass the time on a cellphone, tablet, an electronic game, or an app. However, you shouldn’t pass up on some fun things to do as a family that can pass the time and keep everyone entertained.

Traditional old games

You can always play the many “old” games, such as, I Spy, the Licence Plate Game, or 20 Questions while you’re on the road.

Try the Alphabet Game where you choose a subject (like animals) and a letter (like G). Then everyone takes turns naming creatures that start with that letter (e.g., gorilla, gemsbok etc.). Children love this game because they get to choose their own topics (names, cities, automobiles, TV characters, nations, foods, etc.) and there are 26 possible answers (one for each letter) for each topic.

Turn the games into marathons and give out unique prizes to the winners of each round. Then, for the most prestigious prizes, hold finals or lightning rounds.

Magnetic games

Stock up on a few cheap magnetic games (like tic-tac-toe, checkers, etc.) at the local store. These are winners not only on road trips but also at your destination.


Instruct the children to jot down a variety of terms that they come across while you travel (such as those on billboards, bumper stickers, roadside attractions, stores, signs, licence plates, trucks, etc.). Get them to put the words they observe in groups and compose a song, poem, or narrative. Encourage them to share their finished work with reading, performing, or singing it.

Day to day Diary

Have the kids keep a diary, use a basic notebook, or make their own out of construction paper, a hole puncher, and yarn. They can record their observations and descriptions as they go. Get them to write down the names of the places they visit and any interesting landmarks they see, then have them glue little objects like stones, seashells, flowers, etc. into a diary. Even at rest stops, they can buy souvenirs in the form of little trinkets.

Road Trip Box

Find a sturdy cardboard box for each child and paint the top with chalkboard paint. Then stock the box with tons of arts and crafts items and playthings. You can add chalk, washable markers, crayons, pocket-sized colouring books, coloured pencils, scrap paper, construction paper, stickers, stencils, pipe cleaners, tape, mini pom-poms, scissors, hole puncher, yarn, and small dolls or action figures.
Long road trips are a great time to put kids’ imaginations to the test to create puppets, masks, colour in create their own pictures, and more.

Map Quest

Bring a small map book that little hands can handle just for the kids. Have some stickers and highlighters to mark each road you take on your journey.

Sing, Sing a Song

With the digital world we live in, it is easy to create a children’s play list for sing-along songs and load it onto a memory stick. Songs like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” “Three Blind Mice,” and “Old MacDonald,” will get everyone involved.

Books or Audiobooks

Bring a few of your kids’ favourite books, or those they’ve been wanting to read. It can be in printed versions or audiobooks. You can listen to the story as the kids read along, or the kids can pick some of their favourite audiobooks that they can listen to with headphones.

Be sure to download a few of your kids’ favourites before the trip and test them so they are ready to go in the car. You can also choose an audio book the adults and the kids enjoy to pass the time together.

Team Storytelling

To start a family story, ask each member to come up with a line. For example – “There once was a boy named Hugh…”. Then, have everyone else add lines until you run out of ideas.

Go as quickly as you can, rhyme as much as you can, and take turns going out of order (each time pointing to a different person) to make things more entertaining. Jot down the story as you go, then ask the youngsters to make illustrations that go along with your absurd story. Once finished, you will have a unique family history created just for you.

Window Gallery

The children can make drawings that passers-by can admire or play endless paper-free games like hangman and tic-tac-toe using washable window markers. To ensure that children may continue playing with the windows all day long, have a cotton cloth or dust rag available.

Watching movies on a tablet or cellphone

Yes, we have all been there. While we try or prefer to avoid our children playing on cellphones or watching something on a tablet, sometimes, you need quiet time in the car. And for long road trips with kids or toddlers, sometimes a good Disney movie or Mickey Mouse Clubhouse episode in your tablet or cellphone does the trick. Be sure to download some of these to keep your children busy on a long drive.

Silence Is Golden

Finally, when all else fails, as a backup plan, try playing “See Who Can Be the Quietest.” Your children may find the task of remaining silent rewarding after several hours of singing and making crafts. Offer prizes that are worthwhile, little small amounts of money, items from gift shops, games, or even just a few more minutes at the hotel pool or an extra hour playing on a cellphone.


Less bickering and more pleasant family memories of your time together, on and off the road, are possible with a little imagination and preparation.

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