How to make long journeys bearable with kids!
Inspired by Jessica’s recent post, Three Special Things, I thought I’d share our family’s favourite car journey entertainments too.
I do not have an in-car DVD player, and I will resist buying one as long as I possibly can because I know that once we have one we will never go back to using our journey time to play family games together, or quietly contemplating life as we watch the world whizzing by outside. Children live in a very hyped-up over-stimulated world already, and I personally believe that long car journeys are good for children in that they teach them about spending time more calmly: talking, singing, listening, and thinking.
Much of the time we listen to music or talk as a family. There are often long silences while we are all lost in our thoughts staring at the countryside. And on the whole we enjoy long car journeys (and we do them a lot!), but my children are not always angels and sometimes we do need something to entertain them and stop the bickering. For times like this we have a collection of old favourites on standby:
Pub Cricket – Best for A roads rather than a motorway. Decide who is ‘batting’ first, then that person gets a ‘run’ for every leg in the name of the pubs you pass (Queen Victoria = 2 runs, but The Queen’s Head is zero). The batsman is IN until you pass a pub with no legs, and then they are OUT and the next person takes their turn to ‘bat’. You can also split into two teams instead of all playing individually. You might want to set limits on plurals such as the Fox and Hounds and just award 12 runs (4 for the Fox, and 8 for 2 x hounds) otherwise it can get silly!
Car-tease – a great way drag out eating a packet of Smarties! Take turns to pull a random Smartie out of the tube, and whoever’s turn it is cannot eat their Smartie until they see a car/lorry of that colour!! Pink and purple are very rare so depending on how cruel you are, you may want to pull all these out and reserve them for any time instant bonuses by awarding them to whoever spots a pink or purple vehicle at any point in the game.
Dry-wipe pens – We love dry-wipe pens. I let the kids use them on the car windows! They find this really novel and like to write mirror messages to passing cars, or play hangman, draw pictures, etc. A word of warning though: if they accidentally get pen on the upholstery then it will probably be there forever 🙁 An alternative would be to get a small A4 sized whiteboard for each child to keep in the car.
Dry-wipe Activity Cards – We have always found the range of Usborne Activity Cards useful on journeys or on holiday. They are full of different doodle ideas, games and puzzles. They are often available from the Book People for a reduced price. See 100 Things for Little Children to Do on a Journey (Usborne Activity Cards) for an example, but there’s about 20 different themed sets in the full range.
The Band Game – This one is more suitable for adults and older children because younger ones won’t have the vocabulary to keep it going for long. The idea is that one person says an artist or band name, then the next person has to think of one beginning with the last letter of the previous one called (eg. Blondie, Ellie Goulding, Go West, Tinie Tempah, etc). The person who hasn’t been able to think of someone on their turn by the time you reach your destination is the loser. You might want to consider amalgamating W, X, Y and Z… and also start building up your repertoire of bands beginning with S and E now!
I went to a festival and I took… – a twist on the classic shopping list game, where each person has to add an item to the list. So the first person might say “I went to a festival and I took… a tent” then the next person has to say “I went to a festival and I took… a tent and some bog roll”, then the next one would say “I went to a festival and I took a tent, some bog roll, and a glowstick” and so on. The winner is the
Of course there’s always the classic like I-Spy (and I hear with my little ear), Animal-Mineral-Vegetable, 20 questions, etc too… And if all else fails we bribe them with a new magazine or comic at the Services.
Oh, and I always have a couple of lollipops in the glove box. My children don’t normally eat many sweets so a lollipop is a real rarity and somehow manages to keep them quiet and stop their moaning for the whole 10 minutes that they are sucking it. And by the time they have finished the argument is usually long forgotten!
Happy travels! x
PS. We’d love to hear your best travel games so please share them by commenting below.