Five Savvy Ways to Entertain Your Child on a Roadtrip

Nicole Teed
June 7, 2011

We're heading out of town this weekend for a little beach-to-mountain family vacation, which means we'll be spending hours on the road with two small children.  I'm one of those rare people that looks forward to roadtrips, probably because they satisfy a greater wanderlust.  While I'd be happy to chat with my husband, listen to CDs or read a book during the time on the road, my children are not quite so easily entertained.  While we do indulge in some DVD-watching (on the iPod -- lightweight and easy to manage), you can't do that the whole time.  Here are a few roadtrip hacks collected over the years that might inspire you next time you strap them into carseats and head out of town!

1. Make music. No roadtrip is complete without the perfect soundtrack, is it? Consider the purchase of a new children's CD that you'll also like listening to. A few favorites include Lunch Money, Dan Zanes, and They Might Be Giants. You might also get inspiration from this roster of grown-up artists kids will love or perhaps you wish to sing your own song

2.  Play games. I don't know who likes car games more in our family -- my husband or my preschooler. We play rounds and rounds (and rounds...!) of the Alphabet Game (find letters of the alphabet in order on signs; first one to Z wins), variations of Twenty Questions, and I Spy. Pre-made car games can also be an awesome break from the mommy-and-daddy show. Our picks include magnetic scenes, travel hangman, and travel bingo. The Savvy Source Activity page has even more ideas for Traveling and Waiting fun.

3.  Enjoy rest stops.  One of the keys to road trip success with small children is to avoid being in a hurry.  Rest stops are necessary for everyone, and its better to take 15 or 20 minutes and let them run than to rush through a 10 minute potty break and deal with hollering at the injustice of it all.  I find that actual rest stops are the best, as they often have picnic tables and snack vending machines.  Pack a picnic and plan to lunch outdoors, weather permitting.  Toss a ball into the car and play a quick game of family soccer.  Make sure you've brought quarters, and treat your kids to the novelty of a vending machine.  Feed them, wear them out, and they just might take a longer nap when you hit the road again!

4.  Listen to or tell stories.  Kids LOVE good stories, and an engaging tale can make the time pass so quickly. Bring along some favorite books to read aloud, or save up some juicy family stories to share. Get the whole family involved with Mix-It Up Storytelling. And of course, you can always check out some audio books from your local library!

5.   Surprise them!  It takes a little planning and effort, but try to work in some surprises during the trip. Take a trip to the dollar store and wrap up some little gifts to open along the way. Bring along a coveted-but-usually-limited snack food to enjoy. Pull something out of your bag of tricks so that when they get fussy, you can delight them in a small way. It will pay off, promise.

What other ways do you and your children make the journey as fun as the destination? We'd love to hear your ideas!

From the Parents

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