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Entertaining kids in cars – ultimate long trip survival guide


Your kids have probably been consumed with Christmas excitement since about mid-October, but now it’s actually just around the corner it’s worth considering how to entertain them on long festive drives to see the family.

That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to car games for kids – we can’t promise your little ones won’t shout ‘are we there yet?’ every three minutes, and neither can we promise that your family car won’t be covered in broken crayons, orange juice or squashed raisins, but hopefully it’ll go some way to making the journey more bearable, and maybe even interesting.

Let us know if we’ve missed anything – tweet us at @carwowuk.

Tablets, electronics and audiobooks

At some point you’ll have probably said something along the lines of ‘we’re going to limit how much our child uses a tablet – we don’t want them glued to it’ and that’s commendable. But when the boredom sets in and hair starts to be pulled, a charged-up tablet filled with games, videos and maybe even educational apps can make car journeys a lot more peaceful.

Or, dust off your old handheld games console – an old Nintendo DS with a copy of Nintendogs is a surefire winner for a few hours. Sure, the graphics won’t match an iPad, but the physical buttons might be more immersive and your kids could enjoy getting stuck into one game.

For older kids, audiobooks can be a great way to keep them entertained. They can escape to faraway worlds while still being able to look out the car at the world outside, and loads of books have been adapted for audiobooks so there’s something for everyone – even the most ardent anti-reader will find something to captivate them.

Books and colouring books

You might find that a new book (or their favourite) will keep children entertained for a while, at least until either they get bored of turning pages, see a sign for McDonald’s or need the loo. Colouring books are great for keeping younger kids quiet, as are sticker books and, of course, Where’s Wally. Take a leaf out of comedian Michael McIntyre’s book – apparently he’d colour in Wally so his kids took longer to find him!

Cheap cameras

Disposable cameras might be super retro, but you can still get them if you look hard enough. Take a couple of these or cheap digital cameras with you in the car – creative kids will love taking silly photos of each other and you, and it could get them more interested in the scenery outside.

Music

Earphones and headphones can keep kids occupied through the journey, and mean you’re not subjected to the Frozen soundtrack for the zillionth time. However if you’d prefer them to be able to hear you and be able to join in with conversations, a cheap speaker in the back can allow them to choose their own music.

Travel games

This is a bit of a retro classic, but tiny versions of board games are still on sale – so try a travel Connect 4, Scrabble or even Battleships! That said, tiny games means tiny pieces, so you could be finding red and yellow counters in crevices you didn’t know your car had…

Or, for some other retro goodness – how about an Etch-a-Sketch? It’ll keep tots entertained for hours, mainly because they’ll be trying to figure out how to draw anything at all using two plastic knobs.

Quizzes and competitions

I spy with my little eye… kids seem to be automatically programmed to be able to play I-Spy, but it can still kill a bit of time as you try and find the antelope they’ve pretended to see a couple of miles back. There are lots of games you can play with your kids on the road, whether it’s car snooker (best near a red car congregation seeing as you have to spot lots of red cars) or twenty questions. For that last one, get your kids to think of something and then you have to guess what they’re thinking of. Quizzes can also work well, and these games can be spiced up by adding a cheeky forfeit for the loser – doing the washing up for a week, perhaps.

Observation games

Most of the games above make kids look out the window and at their surroundings, but you can also stimulate them by getting them to count lorries, Ferraris, types of animals or the number of trainers on the central reservation. Always a classic, that one.

You could also get your smaller passengers to make phrases out of letters on number plates, and the winner is the funniest.

Maps

Want to avoid the dreaded ‘are we there yet’? Your kids will know exactly where you are and how far the destination is if you give them a road atlas. You might get told how bored they are, but they might be more taken by finding rude place names and just seeing where things are. If your car has an inbuilt wifi hotspot, they can do it on tablets and phones.

Food

To alleviate boredom and stop your offspring getting hangry and grouchy, it’s good to keep some snacks on board. It doesn’t have to be M&Ms or other unhealthy foods – after all, they’ll be bouncing off the ceiling in no time – it could be dried fruit, nuts or healthier sorts of crisps.

If you’re on a long journey, plan a relaxed lunch break. It’ll break up the journey, gives something to look forward to and not being in a rush will let you enjoy it a lot more. The kids can let off some steam, and it doesn’t have to be expensive if you pack a picnic and stop at a viewpoint or somewhere similar.

Stories and fairytales

There’s not much better than a story to entertain your children, and it gets the whole family involved. To make it even more interesting for them, make your kids the characters and part of the story – Daniel and the Beanstalk, for instance. If you’re not a great storyteller, why not get the kids to make up their own instead? Feed them prompts and see how long it’ll keep them busy for.

Quiet game/ nap

Last but definitely not least, try and get them to play a quiet game with you. Games like this might fool kids into staying quiet for a while – here’s hoping, anyway. If you want a bit more peace, try and wear them out before you get into the car. They might sleep all through the journey!

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