April 02, 2012

10 Way to Keep Kids Happy in the Car

A while back when we did that Sharing Saturday about keeping kids happy in the car, you all gave some awesome suggestions.  They were so helpful on our road trip.  A few of you asked if I'd compile the list into a post so you could use it for reference.  So, here it is.  Here are 10 things you all suggested that help a road trip run smoothly (and help keep your sanity).



1) Books.  Our library has a section of children's books with audio CDs in the back flap.  They are picture books and they tell you when to turn the page.  These worked well on our trip because my boys can't read yet, but they can turn the page and listen.  They thought they were pretty fun.  If you have the Tag Reading System, a few of you mentioned that it was a real hit in the car.


2) Dollar Store Presents.  Many of you suggested giving out a dollar store toy every hour or so.  Some of you mentioned wrapping the toys like presents.  My boys thought this was ridiculously cool.  We didn't have to spend much money and the boys thought it was Christmas.  I highly recommend sticking to the once an hour and never caving on that.  That way you don't use up your bag of tricks too soon.

3) Glow Sticks at Night.  Your glow stick idea was also great.  Once it got dark outside we got these out and we magically had light sabers.  Glow sticks are always fun.


4) Good Snacks.  One of you mentioned that the single serving cereal boxes worked well.  Our boys loved those and they were easy  to pack.  I think it's best to pack little candy, to avoid getting the kids hyper.  Granola bars, nuts, cheese, fruit, and cereal worked well for us.  (One of you suggested having personal snack bags.  That sounds like a good move for avoiding fights.)
5) Track your progress.  I think it's helpful for a young child to have a visual idea of how long the trip will be.  I printed off a picture of a car and let Rex color it.  I made two small slits in it and strung a packaging ribbon through it.  Then I tied it to the handles above, where it was out of reach for them.  I made black lines for each hour.  Then you can slide the car a few inches to the black line every time you complete an hour.


One of you mentioned having a map that your kids could color state by state as you traveled.  I thought that sounded like a really great idea, too.



6) Verbal games.  I Spy, the Alphabet game, and any other game you can play out loud can be fun.  I think I played those five million times in my childhood.  (I may have even sung the Song That Never Ends for over an hour to annoy my sister, but that's a story for another day.)


7) Coloring and Clipboards.  Crayons, stickers, and even googley eyes can help pass a lot of time.  The Dollar Store also has clipboards.  Etch-a-sketch, Magna Doodles, and dry erase boards work well too.


8) Comfortable Clothing.  We break out the leisure pants for the boys.  One of you mentioned that making sure they have warm socks and layered, warm clothing is helpful.  All of that will definitely give you a better chance of them napping as well.


9) Fun Music That Everyone Likes.  It's hard to find music that everyone in the family enjoys, but it is possible.  We have a couple CDs that the boys and we like.  Good music makes for a happy car.


10) The Secret Weapon.  As a last resort we borrowed a DVD player from my sister and we had our phones.  I was actually pleasantly surprised that we hardly used them.
A lot of you recommended stopping often and getting the kids to run around when you did.  That's definitely very helpful as well.

And there you go.  Thanks for sharing your great ideas.  Hopefully this post will help you if you're planning a spring break trip or a summer road trip.  

Thanks for dropping in.

47 comments:

  1. LOVE #5 idea! Must do this on our next trip!

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  2. I love the track your progress idea!! Very cool visual!

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  3. These are great tips! We are going on a long car trip next month, so I know I'll use some of these.

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  4. Magnetic or flannel "paper" dolls work well for girls in the car.

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  5. Thanks! We're going on not a road trip - but plane flights that are 20 hours each way in a couple weeks. I never thought to get a new Tag book and maybe pack a few of the Dollar Store gifts. Anything to keep my sanity!

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  6. We are moving to S.Korea this summer for 3 years, (My Husband is in the USAF) and will be on a plane or in an airport for over 24 hours by the time everything is said and done! I'm lucky in the sense that my kids are 9 and 11, and will pretty much want to read or play Nintendo DS the whole time, but I am still stressed about getting them to have a well rounded experience in which they don't sit like little Nintendo playing monsters the whole time! Because they are older, I am planning on giving each of them their own digital cameras, and their own netbooks for Korea (my son is currently earning his by keeping his grades all A's this school year) to chronicle their adventures there through a (locked down to family only) blog so that my mom etc. can feel like they are being part of my kids experiences more. Anyway, this is a really long winded way of saying that part of the long trip is going to be the kids taking pictures and keeping a diary of their thoughts, hopes, and possible trepidation about what is to come, so that as they grow up they have a record of the adventure from their point of view! (which could translate well into a road trip by giving an old digital camera to a child so you could see the trip from their point of view, we did this when our kids were 7 and 5 in Germany, and it was amazing the things that were important to them, and that they noticed to take pictures of! My daughter mostly noticed flowers, and my son took pictures of swords and spears in EVERY castle we went to!)

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  7. these are good tips! my boy always wants to play on the phone, he is 7. i take this as a bad sign.... so even if its just a 30 min drive or a couple hours, i try to think of non electronic things for him to do!

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  8. I love all of your ideas! We are headed to the beach on Friday and these will come in handy. Especially since my older girls aren't with us. It'll be me entertaining our little man the whole 6 hours! Thanks for sharing!

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  9. Great tips. Pipe cleaners of different lengths are also fun for car trips. My kids loved making things out of them.

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  10. Great ideas...we travel a lot with our boys (usually 10+ hour trips) and I pack a bucket for each of them full of a lot of the items you mentioned. As Tori said, pipe cleaners are great for travelling as are toy catalogs, travel journals, and walkie talkies. We also pack a whirligig and let them roll the window down just enough for it to go. We do take the dvd players but have found they much prefer playing their leapsters or looking at books. The $store toys are always a hit. The biggest tip I offer others is that if you make it fun for the kids, everyone will have fun. We try to stop about every 3 hours at a place they can run around. It's amazing what a 30 minute stop at a playground or beach does for everyone's attitudes.

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  11. Love the car idea - moving it ahead every hour is such a fun and great idea ! I will be using this on our next road trip ! Thanks Cheri :)

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  12. Thanks so much for posting all of these together. Some of these tips I do already but you have some great ones that I am going to use this summer.

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  13. When my boys were little, I (Hubby would fly down at the end of our summer trip to help drive back) used to drive from NJ to FL once or twice a year to visit family. All of your ideas worked really well but true peace was not found until we bought a car with a DVD player in it. Since we rationed TV at home, the idea of unlimited watching was a huge motivator of good behavior, especially because I would turn it off if there was any fighting or nagging. :-)

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  14. Brilliant ideas! Book marking this for our next roadtrip!

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  15. Thanks so much, we are leaving on Wednesday for a 10+ hour trip and I have been scouring pinterest for ideas. Thanks for a few more!

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  16. Where is that picture from? It looks like Maryland...

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  17. Thanks for the great ideas, I pinned them. I'll have to use them when we drive from PA to ID and WY this summer.

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  18. My mom choose to get stickers for us and every 30 minutes or so we'd get a page of stickers. She usually took a pad of 500+ mini round stickers and cut the pages in half. Also, because we didn't see the sticker pages before hand; we had no idea how much it actually cost! She could get by a whole trip on just one little sticker pack for the two of us bc she halved the pages.

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  19. yay! Love this post. Thanks for doing it.

    pinning this!

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  20. I love the glow stick idea... especially in the winter when it gets dark so early!

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  21. Those are some great ideas! The little moving car is so cute, I can see it working really well too!

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  22. Such great ideas - thanks for compiling. FYI - I'm pinning it for easy finding for our next car trip.

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  23. We often go on long car trips with our kids. Like in #5...We made a similar travel time line for our last car trip. The kids loved it. http://www.housingaforest.com/travel-timeline/

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  24. This is priceless Cheri, thank you!

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  25. I love these ideas! Thanks for the post!

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  26. I love these ideas! Thanks for the post!

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  27. I love these ideas! Thanks for the post!

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  28. These are such great ideas! We have been traveling a lot lately, and just yesterday I realized I needed some new entertainment for the kids. Thanks for making this list!

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  29. Would you mind sharing what CDs both you and your boys enjoy? I don't mind our children's music much, but it bothers my husband some. Having some music to please the whole family would be wonderful!

    Thank you for the ideas!

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    1. I can tell you what we like, but there's no guarantee your kids will like it. It's the CD I posted. We love Mason Jennings. He's kind of in the folk genre. The boys have grown up on it, so they love it too. My husband can only handle so much kid music, too :)

      Cheri

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    2. Thanks! I'll look him up. :)

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  30. Also, for music, you can always turn your fade so it's louder in the back where your kids are and you can hardly hear it. Especially works in minivans/SUVs!

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  31. I would have never thought about some of these tips. Thank you very much for these. I will have to try out the Glow sticks and tracking the progress like that. That is a brilliant idea. I do use the surprise gifts from the Dollar Store and as a last resort I use my iPad. They can play games, read, watch movies, and watch TV through the DISH Remote Access app. The kids can watch all our subscription channels through DISH live wherever we can get a 3G or Wi-Fi connection. They love being able to watch all their favorite shows on the road. A co-worker at DISH told me I could also stream our Blockbuster@Home service on the iPad as well. Now I can stream thousands of movies off the Remote Access app, which will be awesome on our next road trip. When I let them play with the iPad they are quiet for hours.

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  32. We just got home last night from a LONG (13 hours each way) road trip to visit Grandma with 2 cars, 4 adults, and NINE kids ( ages 18 months, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 8, 11, and 12). I studied our route beforehand and tried to figure out various places where we could pass out bags. Some bags had treats, some had activities, and one even had the glow sticks! I tried to coordinate the snack with the place, so we got beef jerky in Mesquite, a new dice game in Las Vegas, Bit-o-Honey when got back to the Beehive State, etc. On the way, I just had my sister keep track of where they were supposed to be passed out. For the return trip, I made a list of places for the kids to watch for, and they got so excited seeing signs that "their" cities were coming up. It turned out so well that I joked to my sisters that I'm going to start a blog just to show off the project!

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  33. Great tips that I will be using during our drive to Disney World!

    I featured this post in my Misc. Finds Monday at:

    http://collettaskitchensink.blogspot.com/2012/04/misc-finds-monday-4912.html

    Colletta

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  34. Love, love, LOVE that you guys listen to Mason Jennings. We named one of our boys after him. =)

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  35. Great ideas!! Road trips are one of our favorite things to do as a couple but now with two girls, they can be a little overwhelming. I'll be referencing this list for this summer's trips. =)

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  36. I love the car tracking line! And I never thought of glow sticks, I actually have some already. Another thing that my kids love are Adventures in Odyssey audio stories, I'll be checking a bunch out from the library before we leave.

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  37. Going from Utah to Texas with 4 kids ages 3 to 8 by myself. I've been looking for tips. This is perfect :)

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  38. If you have a motel stop along the way, use the glow sticks in the motel room so kiddos don't get lost or bump into things in the night. One hung on the bathroom doorknob is a good place.

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  39. Great list! I love the printable map and we'll use it to play the license plate game. Also love the clipboard, sticker and glow stick idea. I have done the dollar store toy thing and what I've found is the kids just dump the stuff all over the van and don't play with them so I'll be nixing that one this go round and not sure I could handle cereal in the van. Teddy grahams is about as messy as I can go. I do let them have ring pops and wipes though. I know, lots of sugar but it also takes a long time to suck one down. I like gummy bears too. Very chewy and keeps them busy but food also keeps them awake so if napping is a goal I nix the candy. However if I DON'T want them to fall asleep candy it is!

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  40. #3 is brilliant! A family car rave. I love it! Thanks for sharing your ideas.
    www.onourbeatenpath.com

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  41. We took a family vacation (extended family & all) & drove from the midwest out to Myrtle Beach. It was an incredibly long drive for 5 young kids ranging from the ages of 3-8 but we decided ahead of time to not only stop frequently but let the kids swap cars so they were never riding in the same vehicle with the same group of kids. The swapping of cars worked out PERFECTLY! At one leg of the drive my husband actually had his truck to himself!

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  42. I would take 3 hour trips with my children before gps. The oldest, one age eight could read so I taught him to read the map so he gave the direction (granted I knew where we were going for the most part). The four year old wanted in on the action so on the return trip he gave the directions. I was very surprised that he knew right where we were or very close even though he was not reading, but did know his letters and numbers. Had many adventurers threw the Mojave Desert in California with my four young children. I alao had a bag of toys only for these trips.

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  43. We drive at night so the kids sleep! I am a super night owl, and dh likes to drive (especially through Montana and North Dakota) at night because there is not much to see from the highway anyway. We leave Oregon at 11 p.m. and stop in Montana about 2 at a hotel with a pool and waterslides. DH sleeps and the boys and I swim and have lots of fun and use up lots of energy. At 11 p.m. we get back in the car and by 9 a.m. we're having breakfast in Fargo! Makes that 1500 mile drive to Minnesota much easier, and we do it in two big legs. (5-hour energy works great to keep the adults awake).

    For the times the boys are awake, they love to read, play on their iPod, watch movies on my computer, and we also like the clipboards with paper/pens/crayons. Instead of music, we tend to do podcasts of public radio stories (The Story, This American Life) because the boys (ages 9 & 10) find them interesting, and they pass the time very nicely for the driver!

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  44. Hi. Great ideas. Any suggestion for a toddler on a long plane trip?

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  45. I would like to add not to be so quick to entertain them. Ive done several 10+ hour car rides with my kids under 4. After each time you stop, just let them look out the window & entertain them selves for as long as possible. Sometimes it lasts 10 minutes but have had it last two hours.

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