We asked veteran road trippers what are their go-to methods for keeping children occupied during long car rides. Here’s what they said:
F. A. says: “A few years ago we went on a three week road trip across the US with our 4.5 year old and our 3 year old (who was just perfecting her potty-training skills). I stayed up the night before our trip putting together a large ziploc bag with little random items for my girls and my husband, went out and bought a DVD player, ‘just in case we got desperate.’ The first day of our trip we drove 13 hours straight (with 2 stops for gas and lunch) and the girls did well. They discovered their bags of goodies and spent a good amount of time playing with them. I included a slinky, playdoh, new journals, fun markers and colored pencils, a scissor, and random things like pom poms, pipe cleaners and lots and lots of stickers, along with a little lap table to work on in their car seats. That bag of goodies along with lots and lots of kid-friendly songs and singing, some roadside games, and just lots of staring out the window and talking kept us going throughout the three weeks. We traveled from DC to Wisconsin, Mt. Rushmore in North Dakota, down to Zion Park in Utah, the Grand Canyon, Arizona, cousins in Houston Texas and back up north through the swamps of Louisiana and the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. We actually held out and did not open the DVD player once because I knew that once that Pandora’s box was opened there would be no going back. Alhamdulillah, it was a great experience with my children. Now that they’re a little older and can read, books and audio books take up a great amount of their time. I’m looking at picking up a few hidden pictures books and connect the numbers puzzles type workbooks for an upcoming trip inshaAllah. ”
S. A. says: “I’ve only been on two road trips with kids, but I made sure to ask around plenty before the trip. I got a lot of great advice. If it’s a long trip, leave an hour or so before a nap time, so they get a nap in the car. Stop for a snack or lunch. Otherwise, leave around midday so they have a few hours of sunlight, to read, play with some toys, color, etc. Stop for dinner late enough that they relax in the car afterwards and fall asleep. Every kid is different. My last road trip my sister came with me, and she is my daughters best friend so she kept her entertained. I stayed away from a movie in the car. For young kids, television can make them more jumpy and anxious, and cranky when the movie is over.”
M. E. says: “On our 8-hour road trips to and from the DC area, we only make one 45 minute stop (unless there’s a rare bathroom emergency). No DVD player in the car; we get by with fun snacks, books, talking and games. Audiobooks for the kids have been a wonderful way to make the time go quickly. The Little Princess, Winnie the Pooh, Rascal, Anne of Green Gables, The Railway Children, Charlotte’s Web, Trumpet of the Swan, Ben & Me, and Cricket in Times Square are some of our favorites. Our upcoming trip will feature Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry and Galileo and the Stargazers read by the amazing Jim Weiss. It’s very rewarding to “read” books as a family, because it becomes part of conversation and the collective family experience.
I recommend the reading by the author of Charlotte’s Web or Trumpet of the Swan for a first audiobook. For preschoolers, the Hodder version of House at Pooh Corner will convert even the most indifferent to a Winnie The Pooh fan.”
Readers, share your tips and experiences in the comments below!