All parents know how frustrating and miserable it can be to travel with young children for long periods of time. After all, young children have short attention spans and there is only so much you can do from the front seat. That’s why it’s best to prepare before you hit the road with the hopes that you’ll always have another fun idea up your sleeve to make it through until the next pit stop or your final destination.
We explored the web and pulled together a list of our favorite ways to entertain young children while in the car. Whether you’re on a nine-hour road trip or you’re simply heading up to the nearest grocery store, these travel tips can come in handy more often than you may think!
Travel Tips to Entertain Young Children While In The Car
Turn the Car into a Mobile Movie Theater
This is one of the more common activities on our list but nonetheless, a good one. In order for your kids to appreciate movie watching in the car, we recommend getting them excited about it beforehand. The night before your big trip, let each child pick out a movie of their choice. To make it even more fun, have them help you make some popcorn for the ultimate movie experience — with their favorite flavored popcorn, of course. (You can always buy the pre-packaged popcorn as well!) Once the movies and popcorn are packed up and placed in the car, remind your children to bring their favorite stuffed animal and pillow for a cozy experience with their best buds. 😉
If you want to go all out, you can place pillowcases over the windows to make it super dark in the backseat and have the movie playing over the radio system rather than in the kid’s headphones. The ultimate cinematic experience!
Try Tablet Time (Every Young Child Loves This!)
We live in a very digitalized world so chances are, your young child loves playing on some sort of smart device. We totally understand if you don’t want your child to have your phone or a tablet the entire car ride. Limiting screen time is important, so we suggest creating “Tablet Time!” Not only will this create a healthy boundary for your kids when it comes to technology, but they’ll also appreciate their time on the tablet much more because they know it’s limited. You can determine when it’s the best time for your children to use their devices in the car but perhaps it’s best to introduce it towards the end of the trip, so they don’t have a fit when it’s time to transition to another activity.
Plan Your Pit Stops
We all know the irritating phrase that is inevitable for our children to say during a road trip, “Are we there yet?” Instead of stuttering over your words, trying to come up with a quick response that brushes the question off, be prepared! With our connectivity nowadays, you can look up on the internet cool pit stops that are during your travel to stop and stretch your legs! Even if it’s a really innovative gas station or a dollar store, this may be your saving grace to keep those littles ones calm and collected for the remainder of the ride. Next time your young kids pop the question, you can have an answer ready and a timeline as to when you’ll make it to the next “mini” destination.
Make a Fun-Filled Travel Binder
Depending on how young your children are will determine if this activity is the right one for your road trip, because, yes — coloring is involved. Creating activities for travel in advance is supposed to mitigate stress so if the idea of your young child scribbling wherever in the backseat gives you full-blown anxiety, save this one for when they’re a little older.
This will require a little bit more effort on your part, but it could be well worth it! Simply purchase a two-inch binder, print out your kid’s favorite coloring sheets, and don’t forget the coloring pouch!
Create Travel Journals (Great for the ride home, too!)
Our young children may be easily redirected, but once they have a certain experience, they don’t typically forget it. Therefore, the mobile movie theater could be a major hit in entertaining your kids on the way to your destination, but that doesn’t mean they’ll love it as much on the way home.
A travel journal is something your child can look forward to filling out in the car once you’re headed home! This doesn’t have to be fancy. You can use a basic composition notebook as your child’s travel journal. What’s more important is what they get to put inside it. During your travel, make sure to pick up postcards and fun stickers while out and about. Once you get back on the road, allow them to decorate a couple of pages with it all! This is also a great time to have a discussion with them! Ask them what was their favorite part of the trip, where would they like to go again, and more!
Have Healthy Snacks Handy
Some road trippers indulge; others remain on a healthy course. When you have young children, it’s sometimes best to incorporate healthy snacks due to the repercussions of sweets or junk food. Not only can this spike your children’s energy levels, but it also can result in upset stomachs — which no one wants to experience while on the road. To avoid blowouts and hyperactivity, pack plenty of healthy snacks such as nuts, fruits, and granola bars. If you have more than one child, be sure to evenly distribute “snack bags!” The last thing you want is your children fighting over food in the backseat.
Play All the Classic Car Games!
When all else fails, bring out the classics: Road Trip Bingo, Car Counting, and License Plate Spotting! Turn common sights like stop signs, police cars, and gas stations into a game! Whoever can spot the most stop signs (for instance) gets a special prize! You could set a time limit to determine who is the winner. Your kids will surely love a little competition.
Announce Activity Time Slots
As we all know, young children get easily distracted or bored from doing the same thing for long periods of time. If you are going on a four-hour road trip, you should prepare for at least four different activities or ways to entertain your kids. In this case, we’re suggesting that every hour, you should announce a new activity they can do. They can choose to stick with their current activity for 30 more minutes (for instance) but then, they will have to move onto the next activity. If your children seem content for longer than an hour, then obviously don’t bother changing it up! This is a great way to determine how many activities you should prepare for your trip overall and it keeps them distracted from how much time they are in the car!
When you have exhausted all efforts, bring out the surprise bag.
We hope, for your sake, this is towards the final stretch of your road trip, but if your young children are starting to lose it, it’s time to roll out the big finale — the surprise bag of goodies and toys!
Prior to hitting the road, head to the Dollar Store or shop on Amazon for some new, interactive toys that are sure to excite your kids. If they’ve been good for the majority of the trip, you could also reward them with candies or their favorite, yummy snacks.
Take note: Once you’ve initiated this, there is no going back! So, be sure you make it very clear that if they remain well-behaved for the majority of the trip, they can get some type of incentive — ice cream, another piece of their favorite candy, another toy, etc. (Don’t give it to them all at once!)
The goal of this travel tip is to surprise your kids. You can’t let them know until it’s necessary that you have this surprise bag of goodies. This is sure to be hit — as long as it’s not introduced in the beginning of your trek. 😂🙈
Safe Travels, Bon Voyage!
We hope these travel tips entertain your young children so much that they don’t even realize you’ve made it to your destination.
The California Beach Co. loves providing products for kids that bring comfort and safety, all while remaining fun. Once you reach your destination, to create a fun, familiar space that your children will love, we recommend the Pop ‘N Go Playpen.