Summer time for many of us means road trips. (Why is airplane travel SO expensive?!?) But car trips also inevitably means complaining, boredom and plenty of kicks to the back of the seat. Car trips don’t have to be too painful though. Try some of these ideas to make the trip a little smoother.

  1. Check out a podcast. We have lots of great recommendations for free, kid-friendly podcasts. You can find them here and here. Some of our very favorites include Circle Round for stories, Brains On! for science, Mars Patel for older kids, and Cool Facts About Animals for a dose of fun animal facts.
  2. Rent an audio book from the library. You can either get a CD version, or use one of the library’s apps to download a copy of some of the best kids’ books out there, all for free.
  3. Invest in a backseat organizer, and fill it up. A few years ago, we went out to Suttle Lake for a family trip. It was a long drive for my kids at the time (ages 1, 3 an 5 or so). For the older two, we got this backseat organizer, and filled it with their coloring books, mini sticker books, crayons, and–or course–snack cups. It didn’t last them the whole drive, but it came close, and it gave them the autonomy to choose what they wanted to do without me having to yoga maneuver around to hand them things.
  4. Go with Mad Libs. The makers of Mad Libs now have a junior edition as well, which allows early- and non-readers a chance to play too. Just be prepared for lots of butt and fart jokes.
  5. Play I Spy. Remember this game? “I spy with my little eye something that is black.” The players in the car then try to guess it using only yes or no questions. (“Is it big? Can I touch it? Are you wearing it?”) Just make sure you choose things that are *inside* the car (I speak from experience). Probably best for ages four and up or so. My three-year-old clearly makes the answer up as we guess.
  6. Let them draw on the windows. With washable window markers or window crayons, kids can create a masterpiece on the go.
  7. Bingo! It’s a race to the finish to see who can spot a boat, cow, pond and bicycle first! There are lots of free Bingo printables available for download – or create your own!
  8. Make up a story. Things get wacky pretty quickly when you trade off sentence by sentence, or even word by word. Don’t expect a great plot, but definitely expect some giggles.
  9. Is it a…. 20 questions is a classic road trip game for a reason – it’s a lot of fun, requires no equipment, and is easy enough for even little ones to play. One person comes up with an answer – say an elephant. Then the remaining players try to guess what it is using only yes or no questions. (“Is it an animal? Can it fly? Is it bigger than a person?”) They only have 20 questions to guess, so remember to start big and then narrow it down! (My kids are all – “Is it a bird?” on the first guess.)
  10. Work that memory. One player starts, saying “I’m going on a picnic, and I’m bringing…” followed by something that starts with an A, like anchovies. The second player then repeats the A word and adds on a B word. For instance, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m bringing anchovies and banana bread.” Then the third player adds one with a C, and so forth. See if you can get all the way to Z without forgetting any items. You can also play this with animals (“I’m going to the zoo, and I’m going to see an aardvark….”)
Ali Wilkinson
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