“Are We There Yet!?” If you have ever taken a road trip with kids chances are they have asked you this. (Or maybe it was just a drive to the grocery store!) It’s best to plan ahead and be prepared when traveling with kids on road trips. If you are driving with a baby try to travel during nap times or just before bedtime and perhaps they will sleep through the drive. There are literally hundreds of car activities to choose from to keep kids busy on a road trip – here are ten options to get you started.
Guess when we reach a kilometer
It’s more fun than it sounds and an awesome flashback to my own childhood on road trips with my family. By the end of our trips I was quite talented at figuring out when a kilometer passed and it’s a great way to challenge kids to learn about distances. Just use your car’s odometer and kids guess when a km was reached once you say “start”. As they get better at it you can ask them to estimate how many km until the lake, the next gas station, or a specific highway exit. Adults can play too and after each person has a turn reset the odometer and you can keep track of who came closest to the actual distance.
License plate games
On road trips my son and I try and find license plates from different provinces or states. He loves playing this even more since he learned about geography in school. You can also prepare in advance and create a list to check off provinces as you find cars from each place. Keep the original list all summer for multiple road trips until you have seen cars from all provinces or states. Another game we play is coming up with words that the license plate letters stand for – to make it more challenging stick to certain themes, colors, or animals.
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By introducing your kids to classics like Bob Dylan, the Beatles, and Michael Jackson you stand a greater chance of enjoying the music too. If your kids insist on singing along to “Let It Go” from Frozen over and over again you can suggest that everyone in the car gets a turn choosing a song, or if it’s a really long trip, an entire album.
Oh glorious books!
Whether it’s the latest Harry Potter, Diary of a Wimpy Kid or classics like Anne of Green Gables, having a solid selection of books to choose from can earn you hours of peace and quiet. Toddlers may love pop-up books that are interactive with different sensory activities, and kids of all ages still appreciate Where’s Waldo.
You can use the puzzle box as a hard surface and choose age appropriate puzzles with varying degrees of difficulty. The dollar store has travel size versions of popular characters and movies. Chunky puzzle pieces are ideal for younger kids or you can even get creative and make your own!
Road trip scavenger trips are the best and nobody gets lost since the kids can’t leave the car! Create a list together before you leave depending on your destination. For toddlers, draw pictures of the items if they can’t read. Here are a few examples to get started; dog, cow, tractor, grocery store, bundle of hay, gas station, dump truck, railroad tracks, stop sign, bike, motorcycle, squirrel, and pigeon.
These are fun and educational and come in almost every subject. It’s a good idea to buy booklets with a hard cover so kids can write in them easily, or bring a clip board. There are crosswords, word searches, connect the dots, word puzzles, mazes, Sudoku for kids, word scrambles, math workbooks, and on and on. There is an activity booklet for every type of kid.
Special treats and snacks
Not to be confused with ‘regular’ snacks kids eat daily, these snacks are extra special. So if your child eats granola bars daily, get them something they don’t usually have. I like to bring a mixture of healthy snacks and his favourite dessert. It’s also the only time my son gets to eat Fruit Loops – and if you bring string you can make colourful edible necklaces!
Non-messy arts and crafts
Rainbow loom bracelets might be so last season but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring them for fun in the car. The colourful elastics keep little hands and minds occupied for hours as they get twisted into bracelets. Other non-messy arts and crafts include colouring pencils/crayons and sketchbooks (No markers!); themed stickers to put in a new sticker book – dollars stores sell them – and while you’re there check out the arts and crafts aisle.
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It’s time to bring out the electronics
You are in the final stretch of your road trip and have kept the kids busy with puzzles, books, games and music. Congratulations! It’s a good idea to save electronics for the end since once they start watching a movie or playing video games it’s hard to go back to a math activity book. Some cars come with built in DVD players, but if you don’t have one you can download movies to a tablet or smartphone and it’s guaranteed to keep them happy until you reach your destination.
It’s also important to remember there is nothing wrong with stopping for breaks along the way such as exercise stops, meals, stretches, and restroom breaks. It’s better to arrive at your destination an hour or two later with happy kids versus sticking to a strict schedule resulting in miserable passengers. Since after all, the biggest adventure on a road trip is the journey itself.
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