Never hear “Are we there yet?” again! We’ve got fresh tips and activities for keeping everyone in the backseat happy and occupied through traffic jams, hours of open road, and SO many bathroom breaks.
PACK A COOKIE SHEET
An old baking sheet is your secret weapon for keeping kids entertained! For younger tots, it’s a magnet board; stick on some cool fridge-adorners, and they’ve got a mess-free space to play. (You can even use rubber cement to temporarily glue on a background image you’ve sketched yourself or printed out: say, a barn scene that can serve as a backdrop for farm-animal magnets. For older kids, a metal tray is like a traveling workstation: It’s a perfect desk for a coloring book or sketchpad, and the colored pencils won’t go toppling all over the floor. (Tip: If you’ll be traveling in the hot sun, don’t bring crayons, as they can melt.)
WRAP UP SOME TRINKETS
Know what kids love almost as much as they don’t like being stuck in a car? Presents! Pick up some cheap toys as the dollar store or drugstore: Think a toy that dispenses candy or another simple toy. Wrap them up beforehand in newspaper or wrapping paper, throw them in a tote bag, and every hour, let the kids pick out a new gift to open. (Also a great incentive for the little travelers to behave themselves back there!)
PREP FOR SNACK ATTACKS
Fill baggies or small plastic containers or lidded jars with single servings of healthy snacks that won’t make a mess (well, nothing a vacuum can’t fix, anyway), don’t need refrigeration, and won’t send the kiddos into sugar overdrive. Think dried fruit, mixed nuts, snack-y cereal or granola, banana chips, and whole-grain pretzels. (Make sure there are enough servings for every kid so nobody’s fighting over the only bag!) Pack all the snacks into a shower caddy or shoebox for an all-in-one, pass-around-able quick fix anytime anyone starts to get “hangry” (adults included). Pssst: If you decide to make road trips the time when special treats, like gooey fruit snacks and potato chips, are on the menu, we salute that, too!
PLAY ALPHABET STORIES
The License Plate Game and I Spy are classics for a reason. If you need a new one to introduce into the mix (for older kids), try making up alphabet stories. The first person, faced with A, B, and C, might say: “Anna buys caramels.” The next person, given B, C, and D, might say, “Baxter chases dogs.” (Don’t forget to play around with sentence structure: “Claire digs eagerly” and “Don’t eat frogs!” could come next, too.) Try to work your way through the alphabet, calling out suggestions if somebody gets stuck. It’s an old variation on the “A, my name is Alice, and I come from Alabama…” game you remember playing as a kid.
PRESENT THEM WITH A NEW CHATBOOK
Remember cracking open a photo album or tearing into an envelope of freshly-printed photos when your mom got home from the drugstore? Kids love looking at photos of themselves, along with scenes and people they recognize. Pull together photos from the most recent vacation, or just save up your latest Instagram-feed-fed Chatbook, to present as you head onto the highway. Just make sure there are as many Chatbooks as kids: no fighting to read it first!