From Tears to Smiles: How to Entertain Children in the Car
When you scroll through your social media accounts, you continually see pictures of smiling, sweet children on vacation. When posed on the beach or in front of Cinderella’s castle, everything seems perfect, but if you had seen the pictures of the 16-hour drive, a different side of the trip would have been shown. Vacations can be full of so many idyllic, pleasant moments, but you have to travel to your destination first. Riding in the car for any amount of time can become boring for anyone, especially children, but the secret to turning “Are we there yet?” and countless sibling fights is the entertainment options you planned for your child.
To eliminate the endless questions about “How much longer?”, you should plan an activity so your child can visually comprehend the amount of time remaining. For example, if you have a 10-hour drive ahead of you, you could put 10 sticky notes on the window and take one off each hour. This will allow your child to gauge and interpret how many more hours are remaining.
One of the challenges of road trips is keeping all of the toys contained in a specific area; crayons drop, race cars roll away, and puzzles are hard to work without something to press on. A solution to this problem is to use a cookie sheet with edges as a lapboard because children will then be able to contain their activities. You can easily turn the cookie sheet into a lapboard by cutting holes in the sides and threading Velcro through which will wrap around armrests. This is a perfect place to play with puzzles, small board games, and racecars. Since cookie sheets are magnetic, you can attach magnets to small toys (such as paper dolls or Scrabble pieces), and this will give your child more ease and accessibility while playing.
Preschool and school-aged children enjoy using their creativity so group games like “Guess the Animal” and “The Rainbow Game” are wonderful options. In “Guess the Animal,” one person chooses an animal, and everyone else asks yes or no questions in order to figure out the animal. This could easily be substituted for people, cities, household objects, etc. “The Rainbow Game” involves you telling your child to find a certain number of objects of a particular color, for example, “Find 4 blue objects.” Both of these games will keep children engaged and entertained as long as a group is playing.
Since imagination is important to children, be sure to bring activities that will allow their imaginations to run wild. You could bring a few small bowls, whisks, and spatulas so they can “cook”. Children love to imitate their parents, and this will be a fun way to engage their creative side. If your child enjoys dressing up, pack a bag with small dress-up options such as jewelry, hats, scarves, and sunglasses. Molding objects and figures can be extremely entertaining so consider taking some wax sticks or aluminum foil so your child can create their wildest dreams.
Playing with Play Dough is always a fun activity, and who says traveling in a car means you cannot use it? Of course, no one wants to clean up little pieces of dried clay from carpet, and an easy fix to this problem is to place the Play Dough in a balloon. Once it is in the balloon and tied securely, it will act as a squeeze ball, and your children can still mold and squeeze until their hearts are content. After your children are done playing with them, be sure to secure it in a zipped bag.
Throughout your trip, do not allow your children to have all of their activities at once because the excitement will wear off. The enjoyment will last longer if you spread out the activities corresponding to the length of the trip. If you are worried about a mess, cover the seat with a bedsheet, and then when you arrive at the destination, you simply have to shake off the sheet. Before you leave, be proactive in order to stretch your activities further. Create a map for the racecar to drive on. Glue magnets to a few toys. Laminate certain activity sheets so your child can perform them repeatedly with a dry erase marker and simply because the map will last longer. A little effort goes a long way in entertaining children.
Valerie handles media relations for Caliber Collision
, and in her spare time, she enjoys swimming, traveling, baking, and playing with her puppy, Emma. Some of her favorites include Taylor Swift, Coke Zero, and The Good Wife
, and she enjoys living life to the fullest but also making time to enjoy the small moments.