I was beyond nervous the first time we decided to drive 10 hours straight with two little kids. I thought for sure my sanity would be lost somewhere on the highway. In order to survive the trip I immediately decided we would need an Ipad. Then, I worried that if I let them watch a show on the Ipad or play games then it would make it more challenging for me to say no to them in the future. That would mean alot of screen time with the amount of driving we were doing while living the van life.
We decided to say no to screens besides the occasional family movie night and ended up being pleasantly surprised. Our kids could handle quick, short and really long, drives without me losing my sanity AND without them turning into screen zombies. We also learned some pretty great ways to entertain the kids while on the road. The best part is that after doing some of the more “engaged activities”, the kids are more settled and play on their own. Here are our top road trip activities for kids!
Ditch the Ipad and try these Road Trip Activities for Kids!
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Play Eye Spy
This simple but classic game is entertaining for kids as young as 2 and half although becomes easier to play once kids are around 3-4 years old.
How to play? One person picks a colour and says “Eye spy with my little eye something that is green.” Everyone else in the vehicle has to try to guess what object is green that the person is identifying. Take turns playing.
Name that Animal Sound
This game is great for younger kids age 2-6 years old. We pull it out when everyone is about to breakdown from being in the car too long.
How to play? One person makes an animal sound and then the first person to shout out the correct animal gets a point. We do not really keep track of points but some kids may enjoy the competition.
Scavenger Hunt Bingo
We absolutely love using our Toysmith scavenger hunt bingo cards in the car. They are durable, portable and reusable. Not only are they fun to use while hiking BUT we use them in the car as well. There is also a Travel Bingo made by Toysmith that can be found here.
How to play ? Give each person a Scavenger Hunt Bingo Card. Choose one person to be the caller that is not playing or will not cheat aka mom or dad. The caller chooses an item on the scavenger hunt. Everyone with a card covers that item on their sheet. Play until the whole sheet is covered or until one person has covered a whole line.
Eat in the Car
Yes, I have listed eating in the car as an activity. I always tell people who are going on big trips with kids to make sure to eat all meals and snacks in the car. Sure the mess can be annoying but eating lunch in the car can be a 45 minute activity. We also pre pop pocorn, cut veggies and wash fruit to make sure we have delicious snacks for the road. We avoid drinks besides water for the kids to minimize the number of times they need to stop for pee breaks. I have so many food ideas that there should hopefully be a post coming out in the near future.
Our family loves audio books. Even children at young ages seem to enjoy listening to a voice over the car speakers. When our littles were 2 and 4, I remember listening to Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” over and over again just because it kept our kids happy. Now we have graduated to short stories and chapter books with our 3 and 5 year old. Sometimes we have to give little summaries of what is going on in the book but our most recent 10 hour drive from Vancouver to Calgary was a breeze all thanks to the audio book we were listening too.
Play the Quiet Game
This has to be 100% one of my favourite games. This game has been extremely helpful when the kids are starting to whine or fight with each other. I simply yell lets play the quiet game and they get really excited. This serene game is well suited for little kids age 3-6. Some 2 and half year olds may enjoy the game as well.
How to play? To start count down from 3-2-1 and everyone has to be quiet. The goal of the game is to be the last person that talks or laughs. Then play again! Variations include no smiling game, no laughing game, no moving game etc.
The entertainment bag or in this case our childrens’ backpack, is filled with a few toys, books and stuffies. I try to persuade them to choose items that I know they will enjoy playing with in the car like their PJ mask toys or the Lol dolls that entered into our life thanks to my cousin. Something in the bag now will usually entertain them for about an hour of a car drive.
Bag of Tricks
Not to be confused with the Entertainment Bag is the Bag of Tricks. This bag is important because it is pre-packed by me and the kids have absolutely no idea that I packed it along. The items are meant to surprise the kids on the road when they are feeling bored or restless. Most of the items are only used when we are doing long drives in the car. The items may vary each trip but contains items like new colouring sheets and markers/crayons, a reusable Water Wow reveal pad, a note pad, binoculars, stickers etc.
I know not all families sing in the car but I grew up singing songs with my grandparents. When my husband found this out he thought it was really different and a bit weird but he is totally on board now. Our family does not bust out the songs unless we are really desperate which is typically the last 15 minutes of a car drive. For some reason whether the car drive is one hour or 10, the last 15 minutes are always the hardest. Often the only song I can think of is Old McDonald or Blackbird.
Our girls also love singing us songs in the car. They make up songs about their surroundings or fairies and have been known to serenade us for a good chunk of time.
Our children love when we tell them a story. It often is about two little girls (our girls) and some made up epic fairy tail adventure in Dusty our VW van. Often after we have told a story or two we get a solid 45 minutes where they will play or just hang out in their car seat.
Just like singing, we also let our two children tell stories and they love it. They take turns telling us some story about fairies, ballerinas, volcanoes and dragons. I love hearing their little voices and the stories that they create.
One Word/One Sentence Story Game
With older kids you can play the one word story game but with our kids aged 3 and 5 we play the one sentence story game. They absolutely LOVE it when we play this game with them and could probably play it the whole car ride.
How to Play? For the one word story game each person takes a turn adding one word to a story. For the one sentence game each person takes a turn adding one sentence to a story. We have to help our 3 year old but she loves contributing. Example
- Person A : Once
- Person B: upon
- Person C: A
- Person A: Time
Let Them Be Bored
Yes, that is right. Let them be bored and just sit there for a while. We will often tell our kids a 20 minute story or play a game for 20 minutes. Then we tell them to find something else to do in the back seat. Sometimes they just sit there while other times they grab a toy from their Entertainment Bag. Then they usually engage in their activity for 45-60 minutes in the backseat before we do another activity as a family. I contribute their ability to just “hang out” in the backseat because we let them just sit and be bored.