If you have not yet experienced one of the joys of being a parent – being in a minivan stacked with your kids and their friends amped up on their happy meals’ included Mountain Dew and completely going off the walls – you have that to look forward to (if you are lucky enough). And if trying to concentrate on driving through such an experience is something you have not had the pleasure to live through, surely you have been on the flip side of the coin, an overexcited kid just wondering when you are going to ‘get there’ and how you will pass the time until you do.
The good news is that in today’s age of information technology, between videogames on the iPad to singalong music in the car to traveller’s photography from the windows of a moving vehicle, there are tons of ways to keep your kids and even yourself occupied until you get to that monument that is supposedly worth driving six and a half hours to see (according to your husband, that is). Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best things to do to keep the kids entertained in the car.
Tablet or Cell Phone Games
This is the one thing that might go down with or without your approval. Ideally, an activity for the car involves a number of people and gets them involved in the same, interactive game or event. Because most people – depending on the age of the kids, or course – have cell phones or tablets at their disposal thanks to the prevalence of iPads, iPhones, Android devices, and Windows devices, there is probably a go-to game your kids already enjoy.
Even better is an interactive game: a puzzle game where players can take turns gets children talking about problem-solving, or a competitive multiplayer game like Hearthstone on two different devices could make it seem like you get arrive too early at your destination! Some games like this might require an internet connection, which also seems to be ubiquitous these days even in rural places (just another minor miracle of living in the age of technology we enjoy). If you are susceptible to motion or car sickness, just make sure not to hurl by looking down at your screen too long (and if you have to, roll down the window for goodness’ sake!).
Watch a Movie on the go
Unlike most long-haul airplanes, the majority of cars do not have fold-down LCD screens you can watch your favourite movies or TV shows on. That said, the same devices that allow you to play games also allow you to watch series and feature length movies. There are even streaming services like Hulu and Netflix which are perfect for this kind of thing, provided you have a fast and ample-sized data plan on your device.
This one requires a bit of preparation, but can keep kids engaged the whole ride looking eagerly out the window trying to find certain things for their bingo boards. If you are wanting to teach your kids about different car brands in the interest of having them be an engineer or mechanic down the line, you could make a car bingo board that features different car manufacturers. Alternatively, everyday objects you see in the car, like certain road signs or various types of animals, work well also.
Practice Photography with the Kids
Because you will likely be shooting objects out of a fast moving car, this one is a bit trickier as you will need a fairly fast shutter speed and adequate lighting (so it cannot be done as easily or at all during the night). Still, this is the kind of creative endeavour that can pique your kids’ interests in the future, maybe even starting them down a career path.
If you manage to pull this off with at least one adequate camera with a lens with wide aperture and fast shutter speed, you can rotate the camera between kids, having them take turns to take interesting photos and videos. You can set up a competition to see who can take the best composed photo, the photo that tells the best story, or the funniest picture. You are only limited by your imagination here. In the end, you may even wind up with some good material for the family vacation slide show!
If you have a musically-inclined family, this can be one of the best ways to bond with your kids. Either singing songs on the radio together or from your own music collection is fun. If you can harmonize, or sing a song with rounds, the chemistry is simply magical. Improvising words based on what you see around you in your car along to a familiar melody only pushes the creative boundaries of your kids’ imaginations.