How to keep the kids entertained during a long car journey

With the Easter hols in full swing, you may be thinking about travelling somewhere by car (either your own, or a hire car).  Fortunately for us, we don’t do too many long car journeys other than to visit the in-laws, or on the occasional family holiday (our last was to Cornwall, it took almost 8 hours to reach our destination thanks to accidents on the motorway…). We’re also fortunate that mostly, our two little monkeys like to nap in the car, however this doesn’t always happen, and as they get older, we’ll have to find more inventive ways to keep them entertained as we drive along. Here are my favourite tips for keeping toddlers entertained during a journey.

Tip #1: Portable DVD
For a trip to Wales, we borrowed a portable DVD player with a screen that clipped onto the back of the front seat. We popped in a Timmy Time DVD for Toddler to watch, which he loved. For Mummy and Daddy however, 1 ½ hours of hearing (but not seeing) Timmy and his friends getting into all sorts of escapades was enough to put us off Timmy Time for good. More alarmingly, on arriving home, Toddler decided that he would communicate only by ‘baa-ing’ for the next several hours. The moral here is that DVDs whilst useful should be used sparingly, and perhaps mix up what is being viewed a little during service station breaks.

Tip #2: Travel tray
A friend had one of these for a car trip to Holland. The ingenious tray clips onto the car seat and was used by her toddler to do some colouring in, build some blocks and then to have a snack on. The only tricky thing here is when something is dropped out of reach and they start yelling for it, makes it a little difficult for a parent to concentrate on the driving.

Tip #3: Sing-a-long
One of my favourites is to pop on our ‘Wheels on the Bus’ CD, which has 50 nursery rhymes and songs for us to sing along to. This is great to fill half an hour or so (or when your voice gets worn out as it tends to do after singing Row your Boat for the 12th time). Also good as I usually drive with music playing so this option isn’t particularly distracting for me. When we’ve worn out the Rhymes CD, I pop on our ‘Rainforest music’ CD (usually played at their bed time); very relaxing for me and usually sends the monkeys to sleep thus giving me a little peace – win!

Tip #4: Treasure map
A great idea that I will be using on our next long trip, and possibly one of my favourites – draw a ‘map’ showing landmarks or particular things along the way e.g. a garden centre, some cows etc. that Toddler can keep hold of. When Toddler spots the item, he can add a sticker to the map, or does a particular action e.g. sing a song, claps his hands – anything basically to keep him amused and that he can do in his car seat. At the end of the journey, if Toddler has been good, then present him with some ‘treasure’ – possibly a super big sticker, a little colouring book or new toy (nothing too big or expensive or he may expect this on every journey!). The great idea about this map is that it can be tailored to the journey, made seasonal (spot the snow, spot the daffodils etc).

Tip #5: Story Time
Recite a favourite story and ask the little ones to join in. A particular favourite of ours is ‘Hippos go Berserk’ by Sandra Boynton. It’s a counting story that we’ve read so many times that we know it off by heart and Toddler loves joining in with. Alternatively, make up a story that involves your little one in some way (‘Alfie was a little boy who loved to eat peaches for his breakfast, but one day all the peaches had run out and so instead he had…’ your little one could add in a food here. The story could continue with the other things he usually does in the course of a morning but encouraging him.

Hopefully these tips will come in handy for your next journey.


This post was written and submitted for the Tots100 / Travel Supermarket competition; click here if you need to hire a car for your next journey.