We are soon approaching the first day of summer (June 21), and this year a family road trip is the hot vacation. According to AAA, nearly 80 percent of family travelers are expected to pack the car up.
As a mom of two boys, I have heard my fair share of, “Are we there yet?” It’s not easy to entertain in a small space, but it’s possible and can still be fun for the whole family. Bonding as a family helps to create lasting memories and the journey is just as important as the destination.
The easy solution may be to hand the kids your tablet, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends limiting your kids’ screen time since it can have negative effects on healthy development. According to Common Sense Media, children ages 8-12 years old spend an average of 6 hours a day interacting with media.
For your next family trip, don’t be afraid to skip the screen time! Here are a few of my favorite tech-free ideas:
1. Eye-Spy Scavenger Hunt: If you’re flying to your destination, I created a “Bored-ing Pass” printable for kids and parents to use together during their long lines, layovers and delayed flights at the airport. Work together to find quirky things going on in the terminal, but you can also create your own for the car.
List out quirky things you may see on while on the road (i.e. a dog in the front seat, a construction site, a farm animal, or a license plate from a state outside of your own). The list goes on and on!
2. Grab Bags: For every hour you expect to be in the car, put together a mystery grab bag for the kids. If you have space, use a clothes line to hang the bags on the back of the seats or keep them under your seat up front. At the top or bottom of the hour, have your kids open one bag to find some fun goodies that will inspire creativity or brain building. For example, little toys such as a Rubik’s Cube, craft materials to make a travel journal or items to turn an empty juice box into a rocket ship or sailboat.
3. Building Challenge: Kids vs. Parents: This is a fun activity for the whole family! It can be done in a plane, train or automobile. Fill a plastic container (with a lid), with building bricks in various sizes and shapes. Give each family member a small base- the large bases can be cut into 4×4 inch squares. Write challenges onto index cards such as, “build the tallest building you can,” “make a perfect playground,” or “create a new animal no one has ever seen before and give it a name.” Then, set a timer on your phone and everyone races to complete the task. The “reader of the challenge” picks the winner each round.
4. Pocket Full of Quarters: When my boys were younger, we used to take road trips to see their grandparents, who live eight hours away. One of their favorite things was to stop at the Turnpike rest stops and buy those small toys and trinkets from the vending machines. We turned that into a behavior incentive! As the boys displayed good car behavior, we would dole out a quarter for them to pop in their pockets. They loved EARNING change for the little goodies that in turn kept them happy and entertained in the car for the next hour!
5. Pack a Fun Snack: Long car rides can often mean fast food stops, but try to think healthy even while on the road. Plan ahead and pack better-for-you snacks and drinks for everyone to re-energize.