Any parent who has had the courage to take their kids on long car trips has at some point experienced a variation of the ultimate horror-scenario: your baby just won’t stop crying while your toddler insists on a continuous stream of ‘are we there yets’.
Proper planning is one of the most important ways you can keep your littlest passengers happy during a long drive.
So, once you are on the road, how do you keep it as pleasant as possible for everyone in the car?
Here are some key tips to help you keep your baby or toddler entertained on the road.
1. Pack plenty of toys
Packing plenty of toys, and a wide variety of them will help keep your kids entertained in the car.
Here are a few examples of car-friendly toys and activities for babies:
- Coloring books, blank pages on a clipboard and pencils or water pens. Avoid markers as these might ruin your brand-new car seats…
- Sticker books or magnet books
- Sensory exploration boards with zippers, buttons, etc.
- Picture and storybooks
- Cars, diggers, …
- Dolls with big accessories (dresses, pacifier, bottle, …) that are easy to find on the floor.
- Simple calculator (Try it, they will love it!)
- Audiobooks (A personal favorite! And easy to find on-the-go via Spotify or iTunes)
- Kids music (Though you might want to limit this to keep your sanity…)
- Electronic toys with buttons, lights, noises, and music
- Tablet or phone with shows pre-loaded, or a connection to a streaming service.
2. Get them involved
Getting your kids involved in the preparation for a trip often helps them mentally prepare for being in the car for a longer-than-usual time. Give them a little backpack and letting them choose toys for the trip. This will help build up excitement as they will look forward to playing with the toys they have packed. Propose to pack some items that your kids have not played with for a while.
3. Build up and plan some variation
Bring structure to the anticipated driving time by telling your kids how long you will be driving for, when they are expected to play, and when there will be snack-time. This will help them make sense of the time and creates moments they can look forward to.
Avoid giving them all toys and snacks at once, as many kids will quickly go through everything and get bored after 15 minutes. Start with the simpler, non-electrical toys: coloring, books, cars, diggers, dolls, etc. and slowly build up to the noisier or more active toys to keep your kids entertained in the car.
Stimulate them in varying the toys or proactively offer them a new toy every ~30 minutes if they are still too small to decide for themselves.
Save screen time for when the going gets tough. While it can be tempting to turn on the screen from the start, keep in mind that babies and toddlers have only a limited attention span and will get tired of it at some point. With older kids, it can help to communicate the plan for screen time. This way, they know what to expect and can keep themselves entertained while anticipating something fun still to come.
When traveling with a baby, keep the middle seat vacant. This allows you to get in the back with them and play with them during the trip. Remember, to your baby you are the best toy!
4. Break up playtime with a healthy snack
Most kids love to savor a good snack in the car and can spend a good amount of quiet time with a little jar of fruit or a nice biscuit. Snack time can be a very good way to break up play-time, which will often rekindle their interest in the toys afterward.
Check our blogpost on yummy snacks on the go, for tips and tricks on healthy snacks.
5. Let them discover the art of doing nothing
There is nothing wrong with a little boredom from time to time! You can encourage them to make up their own minds: either play, look outside, do nothing. And yes, doing nothing is a great option too! In fact, you might find yourself having some of the best conversations with your toddler, or overhear some of the most imaginative play after they’ve been bored for a while!
Enjoy the drive!