10 simple ideas for keeping the kids entertained on long car trips

While there are a lot of things to love about holidays, a long stint in the car with small children doesn’t rank high on the list. But unless you live within walking distance to all your friends and family (I wish!), Christmas car trips are pretty much unavoidable.

Here are some things that might help those long journeys seem a little quicker:

1. Car Bingo

Ideal for: Age 3+

Draw up a 5×5 grid and fill each square with a word or picture – from vehicles to landmarks to animals. Older kids can draw or write these themselves; you might want to pre-fill a bunch of cards for smaller children. For a simpler option limit the game to cars, and kids can fill each box with a colour. As you drive along, tick off the ones you see. The first person to get five in a row in any direction wins the round.

2. Bring a Baking Tray 

Ideal for:  Age 1+

While you might not have a chance to make cookies while you’re on the road, the humble baking tray might just be your best friend. Kids can use the tray as a table for eating or colouring, or it can be a magnetic play board. Bring magnets from your fridge at home or buy some for the trip – letters, numbers or magnetic people you can dress are all great options. If you’d rather something a bit fancier, I really like the Magna Carry books from Tiger Tribe.

car-trip-tray-pretty-prudent

Image via Pretty Prudent

3. Make a card

Ideal for: Age 2-3+

Pack a pencil case full of crayons, pencils and stickers and a few sheets of folded card. Your kids can lean on their baking tray (see above) to make cards for the people you’re driving to visit. From Christmas greetings to thank you’s, the kids will love having something to give your friends and family when you arrive.

4. Car cricket

Ideal for: Ages 5+

Use the cars driving past you to play cricket from the comfort of your seat. White cars are singles, blue cars are fours, green cars are sixes and red is a wicket (or whatever colours you choose to assign). Ten wickets and you’re out, and the next person steps up to the crease. Whoever scores the most runs at the end wins.

5. Bag of Fun

Ideal for: All Ages

Who doesn’t love presents? Wrap an assortment of toys, pencils and books before you leave and pop them in a drawstring bag. Every hour, kids can pick a new present from the bag to open.

6. Make a Map

Ideal for: Age 4+

Before you leave, print off a map of your route, pop it in a plastic sleeve and give the kids a copy or stick it on the back of your seat. They can use whiteboard markers to keep track of your progress, and help you answer the inevitable ‘how long until we get there?’ questions. To make it more exciting, you could pre-mark points where they get to open their next present from their bag of fun, or award points each time the kids spot the name of the town you’re driving through on their map.

7. Pipe Cleaner colanders 

Ideal for: Age 2+

Continuing the kitchen-in-the-car theme, bring along a colander and a bag of pipe cleaners. Kids can thread the pipe cleaners in and out the holes to make patterns. They can use it as a hat or a storage bowl for other bits and pieces.

pipe-cleaner-colander

Image via Miss Mernagh

8. I-Spy

Ideal for: Age 2+

As much as we try to avoid it in our car, I-Spy is always a winner. If you want to play with younger kids, try playing with colours instead of letters – e.g. ‘I-Spy something red’.

9. 20 Questions

Ideal for: Age 2+

A car trip classic, 20 questions is always a great time-filler. For younger kids, I find limiting the scope to TV show and book characters works well. You can up the ante by awarding prize money that can be redeemed at the next petrol station.

10. Tissue Box

Ideal for: Age 1+

This one is pretty straightforward – give your child a tissue box and let them go crazy. When the box is empty, collect the tissues, cram them back in the box and get ready for round two. It probably won’t get you from Sydney to Perth, but this is a great one for those desperate moments where you need something quick and fun.

road trip family car sl

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