Heading off on a long road trip with children can be terrifying. How do you keep them entertained for hours on end? Even though it may seem like an impossible feat, it’s not as hard as you think. Here are five simple tricks to help fight restlessness and the boredom blues.
Keep in mind being crammed in a car for multiple hours is uncomfortable, especially for toddlers who are confined to a car seat.
Make sure to get them as comfortable as possible—setting up blankets, pillows, their favorite stuffed animals, you name it. This will go a long way.
Even though most of us feel kids shouldn’t zone out in front of a screen for hours and hours, sometimes you gotta make an exception. If giving your kids endless screen time keeps everyone sane—and safe—on the road, we say go for it.
You can download Netflix videos in advance, which work without WiFi or a data connection. You can also stock up on plenty of apps. If you’re overwhelmed by the sheer number of kid-focused apps out there, the organization Common Sense Media maintains a hand-curated list of reviewed apps you can browse here.
Old-fashioned car games—the License Plate Game, I-Spy, 20 questions, alphabet signs, and more— are still a hit! You can even make up a scavenger hunt of things to find—both visually (I see a balloon!) or physically (items they can grab from a restaurant or rest stop, like a plastic spoon).
Want more ideas? Check out the 12 Best Games to Play in the Car.
Set up your children with a tray, which will allow them to do a wide array of crafts and other activities, such as Play-Doh, origami, playing cards, sticker books, coloring, even Legos!
Older kids will do fine having any sort of lap-desk surface to work on—although an extra stable one with legs would be nice. For younger kids we recommend getting a lap tray designed specifically for them that features raised edges to keep their crayons and toys from rolling off and lots of storage so they have plenty of things at hand to stay entertained.
Folding Lap Desk, Laptop Desk, Breakfast Table, Bed Table, Serving Tray - The lapdesk Contains Extra Storage Space and dividers & Folds Very Easy, Great for Kids, Adults, Boys, Girls, (Black)
If you're going to be spending a lot of time in the car, this portable lap table gives your child a flat surface for activities.
You can sing fun songs as a family, such as Old MacDonald or Wheels on the Bus. Or you can create playlists of your kid’s favorite songs. Have your favorite playlist handy, for when the kids nod off to sleep—because you’ll certainly be ready for some tunes of your own at that point.
Encourage your children to read books on their own, or read a book aloud for the entire family. You can also consider some exciting audiobooks.
If you’re looking for more ideas, especially tips for keeping adults awake, check out our tips and tricks to make long car trips more fun. Good luck!