The best ways to keep children entertained on long journeys
Our top tips on making road trips fun for younger passengers
With the summer holidays fast approaching it won’t be long until cars the length and breadth of the country are echoing to the strains of “are we there yet?”
Hot weather and long journeys can often lead to shortened tempers, especially for younger passengers, so it’s best to have some tricks up your sleeve to keep the kids entertained.
From old-school games to high-tech gadgets we’ve rounded up a few of the best ways to keep your children entertained on long journeys.
Sometimes the old methods are the best and one of the easiest ways to while away the time on a long trip is to get everyone involved in a simple game.
Classics like I Spy are simple and can be adapted for any age group by using colours or shapes in place of first letters. Car counting is another simple and free game that is also great for encouraging numeracy - pick a colour, make or model each and tally up how many you spot. Or think of a famous person each and play 20 questions to guess each other’s choices, only allowing yes or no answers.
Road trip bingo needs a little preparation beforehand but creating a few cards with things you might see - a digger, traffic lights, a special landmark, for example - can help distract young passengers and get them interested in their surroundings rather than staring at a screen.
Or try playing the neverending story, where someone gives the first sentence of a story and everyone then takes turns to add another to create an utterly unique tale.
Alternatively, you could invest in travel versions of classic board games like Guess Who or Battleships.
Activity books are another good way to keep children’s minds active. For maximum entertainment choose one with a variety of games, puzzles and challenges. For younger children sticker books are another way to keep them busy for a while, and older kids can be distracted with comics or story books.
In truth, this could go either way depending on your family’s musical tastes. If you’re all into similar music, line up a favourite album or playlist and belt out some tunes or have a sing-off to decide who has the best voice. However, if there’s a Frozen/Fear Factory clash it might be best to either alternate choices or find some neutral ground.
If things turn into a music battleground, try an audiobook or podcast instead. Services like Audible offer a huge catalogue of family friendly books to engage listeners of all ages and no matter your age or interest there’s bound to be a free podcast out there to entertain.
Find an interesting detour
Check out your route beforehand and see if there’s somewhere along the way that you kids will find interesting - whether it’s a play park, museum, ruined castle or swimming pool - factor in a stop. Not only is it a welcome break on a long journey but it’s also something to look forward to ahead of your final destination.
Interactive steering wheel
A great way to keep the youngest petrolheads happy, there are a variety of toy steering wheels that can be attached to child car seats or the seat back of the front seats. With steering action, lights, sounds and buttons to press, young backseat drivers can while away the journey imitating the grown-ups up front.
DVD player/Tablet/games console
It might feel like admitting defeat but sometimes, especially on long journeys, a little bit of screen time can help settle frayed tempers and take young passengers’ minds off how long they’ve spent stuck in one place. Pack a portable DVD player and a few favourite movies or download a selection of shows or films from your streaming service of choice to a tablet or smartphone. A tablet loaded with games or a portable console like the Nintendo Switch is another high-tech solution, just make sure it doesn’t lead to old-fashioned car sickness or fights over whose turn it is.
This is more about keeping young passengers happy than entertained but it’s important to keep energy levels and hydration up when travelling. Pack some healthy snacks such as fresh fruit or vegetables that can be stored in small individual helpings and take plenty of water. A small sweet treat is fine but avoid too many sugary foods and try to steer clear of fatty junk food and fizzy juice that can lead to feelings of car sickness.
Get them involved
Before you head off, you can get your kids to help plan your route, including any stops or points of interest, then encourage them to look out for key waypoints once you're on the road. You could even let them track your progress on a navigation app like Google Maps to give them an idea of how close to the destination you are, heading off the inevitable question of “how much further?”.