Remember when family road trips were three hours of I-Spy and singing along with mum’s car tapes? Smartphones, iPads, 4G and in-car entertainment systems have changed all that.
Today’s tech is great for entertaining us on the move. It helps time fly, and Bluetooth lets us share our favourite tunes with everyone in the car.
But it can also isolate kids, happily distracted by screens and cut off from us in their headphones, as an article in the Huffington Post explains ‘children’s absorption in technology, from texting to playing video games, does by their very nature limit their availability to communicate with their parents.In fact, with headphones on or earbuds inserted, children are less likely to engage with their parents in any way, whether a simple greeting or a lengthy conversation.’
So ditching the tech will not only improve your quality family time but will give the kids a taste of life before Wi-Fi!
Whether it’s a National Trust trip on a Sunday, a weekend camping under the stars, or an adventure abroad, we’ve got lots of family road trip tips to help make your tech-free time in the car a real treat.
Kids love games. Whatever their age it’s a chance to have a laugh, pass the time and enjoy a bit of friendly competition. While some classics include:
- I Spy
- Yellow car
- The Memory Game - everyone takes a turn saying “I’m going on a road trip, and I’m going to pack…” adding what they’re packing while reciting each earlier response. Kids can have fun with their answers while putting their memories to the test
- 20 Questions – One person picks a single thing (place, person or thing) & you must guess what it is within 20 questions or less! You can view the full rules to the game here – 20 questions rules
- Guess the Theme Tune - take it in turns humming theme tunes from your favourite shows and the first to guess wins a turn
Curiosity questions – One of the best ways to keep children occupied is to let them talk about themselves! jot down some questions to ask your children and act surprised at some of the answers you get, here’s some to get you started:
- What is your most treasured memory?
- What makes you smile?
- What’s your favourite season?
- Describe your favourite food
Involve the kids in navigating
A great way to get your kids immediately involved is to have one of them sat up front with you as your navigator. You might not feel brave enough to have ditched your GPS at this point, but you can use your time on the road to teach your children valuable map-reading skills. Obviously, you’ll want to give them some pointers before you set off.
For younger kids, and those sitting in the back seat, you can help fend off calls of ‘Are we there yet?’ by hanging a laminated or photocopied map of your route over the back of the front seats.
With a dry erase marker or pen they can keep track of where you’re going and where you’ve been. Keep them updated with your location and they can cross them off as you drive through. And you can tie the pen to your headrest with a bit of string or elastic to save on clutter and lost pens too.
And talking of saving on clutter, some clever in-car organisers are a great idea to help you pack all you need with the minimum of fuss.
Car seat organisers that hang over the back of the front seats are full of pockets to store juice cartons, books, pens and more without sticky spills and back seat chaos. Even hanging a bag or two over the back seat so kids can keep things stored comfortably out of the way will help give them more space to stretch out and relax.
Unleash the inner artist and help pass the time by packing some cheap, but ingenious, crafty materials. A packet of pipecleaners can turn into all manner of sculptures, and even tinfoil can be used to come up with sculpted creations.
Try sculpture challenges and see who can create the most impressive animals, flowers, foods and more. The bonus - the materials are affordable, lightweight and easy to use and won’t take up room in the car.
Music, music, music
No road trip is complete without a good old family sing-song - and it doesn’t have to be Let It Go from Frozen. Now’s a great time to impart some of your own favourites from your childhood to pass along.
Smartphones and iPods mean we can listen to whatever we like in the car, wherever we are, but switching to CDs or the radio can help expose kids to music they might not otherwise hear. Give them a blast of JazzFM, mix it up with some talk radio or an audiobook, and let them get to know your favourite tunes.
Books, comics, magazines and newspapers
While Kindles do a great job of recreating the look and feel of reading from the printed page, nothing quite beats the real thing. A road trip is a chance for kids to sit back, relax, and get some reading done.
Newspapers come with the added time-killing challenge of puzzles, crosswords and Sudoku - and you never have to worry about battery power, cables and leads with a book.
One way to get your kids more involved in your trip is to rope them into helping you document it. Supply each of them with a journal before you set off and encourage them to document the journey.
They can stick in mementos along the way - like tickets, pressed flowers or the wrapper from a new favourite sweet they’ve discovered on your Euro road trip. While there might be cries of ‘This is too much like homework!’ from some, it will give them a treasured little sneak peek back into their past when they’re older.
Pack some creative snacks
As well as giving children a much-needed energy and nutrition boost on the road, snacks can provide a source of fun too. Get inventive with the snacks you make and how you pack them and kids will look forward to these treats even more.
Babble has compiled 25 deliciously inventive snack ideas for kids’ road trips, from snacks on a string to turning tackle boxes into mega-snack boxes. They’re not just tasty; they’re quirky and space-saving too.
Time for a chat
Without the electronic distractions, road trips are an ideal time to connect with your kids. Use the time to talk to them and start conversations. From school and hobbies to recent news stories and movies - this time on the road gives the whole family a space to talk, joke around and get to know each other better.
You might just have some of the most memorable chats with your kids in the car.
Take a tech break for part of the journey
If your journey’s a long one, you might not be willing to part with that much-loved in-car DVD player, and the cries of ‘I want my iPod!!’ might get too much. On longer trips, try introducing a tech-break for part of the way, so everyone gets a breather and a chance to try life pre-Google for a while, without terminal boredom setting in.