Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with screens when you’re traveling with kids. Traveling is less painful now than it was when I was a kid (and suddenly I sound like a 70-year-old) with all the portable devices we can easily access for entertainment. Even with screens, a long trip can be really boring so you’ve got to think outside of the box when it comes to little kids and not every child loves to color or can even read. What’s a parent to do so they don’t absolutely have a miserable experience traveling with a young child? This article is for you, Mom, just as much as it is for the kids. When they’re occupied and happy, you can relax a little and focus on the drive.
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Screen-Free Activities to Keep Everyone Busy on a Road Trip
This one time I appeared on The Jason Show and shared five activities you can do in the car that will keep your kids busy enough so that you can save the screen time for the end of the trip. My parents live in Galena, IL, and as a result, we make about two or three trips to visit them each year. It’s a 293-mile drive and if you Google Map it, according to Google, is 5 hours and 14 minutes one way. Now, when we make this trip we have our three children and beagle with us and I would say that the average trip one way for us, with stops for potty breaks, changing diapers, getting out to stretch our legs and at least one lunch or dinner stop, takes six to seven hours. It can be a really long drive and it’s all dependent on how the kids are doing. I have absolutely no problem with tablets, DVDs, and screens while traveling; I just know that when things get desperate you need to have some more tools in your wheelhouse for the very end of the trip.
Screen-Free Activities for the Young Child
- Pipe Cleaners – My friend, Kari, from church, gave me this little nugget of wisdom: Pipe Cleaners. I am amazed by how entertaining these are for my kids. I’m serious they will play with them for a solid hour; creating glasses, flowers, hearts, you name it.
- Purchase small activities and toys from the Dollar Store and gift wrap them. – It’s all about keeping the kids entertained, right? I like to go to the Dollar Store and grab one or two small toys or activities for the kids to play with in the car. Then I wrap them up and when the kids are getting ornery, voila! I whip out one of the gifts, they unwrap them and are easily entertained for an hour or so.
- Tape, Scissors, & Stickers – I don’t know about you but my oldest child is constantly stealing tape when we’re home. I don’t know what on earth he’s doing with it but he’s obsessed with tape so why not give him what he wants. I pack gift wrap tape, duct tape, stickers, kids scissors and used magazines. Then the older kids can play and create using all the tape their little heart desires.
My Discovery House There are knobs and push, slide, open, close, turn! This toy is small enough that it’s perfect for little hands to hold. Plus, it’s not noisy.
- Podcasts & Audiobooks – I absolutely love podcasts; I listen to them all of the time and it’s kind of my way of tuning the mundane day to day tasks out. I also love children’s podcasts for their excellent story-telling capability and because my kids actually listen. A few of my favorites for kids are (in no particular order): Sesame Street Podcast and Storynory,
- Travel Bingo – I created these bingo cards for you to download and print for yourselves. I designed the game for elementary age kids but a younger child could probably figure out how to play and I know a tween or teen could definitely play. The rules are very simple: when you see something that matches a picture on the card put your place marker on the picture. If you have a laminator, you can laminate the card and use dry erase markers directly on the card. Then wipe clean. Click here to download.
Screen-Free Activities for Elementary Age Children
- Tape, Scissors, & Stickers
- Audiobooks from the library.
- Pay for a service like Audible where you have access to lots of audiobooks. Right now there’s a deal where you can sign up for Audible free for 30-days and you’ll get two free audiobooks. If you plan it correctly with your road trip it’s guaranteed savings. To learn more about Audible or to try it out, click here.
- Games – Would You Rather, Guessing Games, The Alphabet License Plate Game (you complete the alphabet using the first letter of a license plate), Trivia, Flip to Win Hangman from Melissa & Doug, the possibilities are endless.
- Give them a map – Yes, a map. I am amazed by how little my fourth grader knows about reading a map and how it works. Plus, maps are cheap and you can get many of them for free at welcome centers.
- LEGOS – Get a new small bag of LEGOS, bring a jelly roll pan and let the kids put the set together.
- Road Trip Karoke – My husband and I do this frequently when we take the six hour drive to my parents and it’s always a riot! Make a playlist of your favorite songs and then you just sing away!
- Books – If your child doesn’t get road sick easily, learning how to read in a moving vehicle is a great thing. It’s entertaining and can lead to a nap!
- Rubik’s Cube and other Rubik’s puzzles.
Watch the segment below from The Jason Show and let me know what you do on long road trips with your kiddos!
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