Long car journeys or flights can be incredibly stressful if you are travelling with (young) children – as can restaurant mealtimes when you want to keep their little hands and mind occupied for them to be quiet and well behaved and not show you up in public! Being parents ourselves now really makes us appreciate what we put our parents through many moons ago with the “are we there yet?” or “I need a wee” or “I’m bored, what can I do?” or “when’s my food coming- I’m hungry?!”.
Yes, we’ve all been there! Unfortunately, being confined to a small space and being unable to move around is not a fun or enjoyable activity for a normally active child so advanced planning is absolutely key to making the experience more bearable for everyone involved after all, we meticulously plan when travelling with a baby by making sure we have nappies, wipes, bottles, cloths and a favourite toy, so the same principle should apply and when travelling with a toddler or just children in general.
It also helps to set expectations for future road trips or meals out – assuming the first one runs according to plan! Here are some ideas, not involving screen time nor reverting to electronic gadgets, that have worked for the team here at Teia Education & Play…
Road trip activities for children of all ages
Before you leave home, print out some activity sheets – either ones you create yourself or there are lots of good free online resources. Include a mixture of observation games and colouring in. You can complete them together on the journey (assuming you aren’t the driver, in which case, this is a definite no-no!).
With younger children, the key is keeping it simple but fun so ticking off objects on the list is always a winner like when you spot a yellow car, a green van, a post box, a caravan – you get the idea. Our top tip is the more objects on the list, the longer they will be engaged and a happy child makes for a happy car journey!
Another easy win is a game of ‘I spy’’ but to keep it simple for little ones, you can incorporate colours e.g. “I spy with my little eye, something that is the colour blue…” These types of observation games help keep children engaged and interested in their environment inside and outside the car. Just make sure the objects chosen are reasonably obvious and easy to spot to avoid a melt down!
Creative solutions for on the road
Books are also great way to encourage independent play in the back of the car whether it’s an activity or picture book. The more colourful and creative the pictures are, the longer a toddler will be distracted. Colouring books are also good for visual stimulation and if you can get a thick book, it makes it easier for little ones to work on because there is less likely of tearing the page on uneven surfaces or laps in the car – unless you are lucky enough to have pull down tables in the back of the front seats or are traveling by train or plane!
Educo’s draw and wipe set is robust and reusable with wipe-clean boards containing a variety of different image that can be coloured in or have more detail added. They can be used time and time again. Which is great for the environment as there’s no waste and the set lasts for years, but also excellent for keeping in the car for longer journeys.
The clever children’s chalkboard laptop i-Wood from German brand Donkey Products has two chalkboard surfaces – the screen and the keyboard. It is small and compact enough to fit into a bag and is the perfect “analog solution” for children to draw and emulate the grown ups!
Dinner table boredom busters
Keeping little ones entertained, occupied and engaged to avoid them running around and causing havoc in a restaurant can be quite a challenge, particularly if they are too big to be secured in a high chair so. Before you leave the house select a few small items that can just be thrown into a bag and brought out in between courses whilst you wait for the next distraction.
Card games are a great way to engage the whole family – even toddlers – and they are a fantastic way to distract little ones whilst they await their feast. 5 Little Bears indigenous alphabet matching puzzle incorporates fun and engagement whilst matching numbers with letters plus learning about Australian nature and wildlife. It also encourages language development so will help increase your child’s vocabulary at the same time. Grimm’s number and alphabet card games are colourful, small and compact and are beautifully illustrated to help children learn their numbers, basic maths and letters.
Drawing and colouring in has long been a popular choice of activity – a small pack of crayons or colouring pencils, some paper, an activity book or a drawing pad are very easy to throw in the bag and provide lots of distraction time.
We also love the activity sets from 5 Little Bears. They have produced a selection of themed sets that are guaranteed to keep little hands and minds entertained. Filled with themed activities like transport, bugs, dinosaurs or space the sets include play dough, stamps, games and colouring cards. They also make great gifts if you know anyone planning a holiday or taking a trip. It’s compact in size and comes in its own drawstring bag to keep all components secure.
Keeping children’s minds and hands occupied
A classic game which has withstood the test of time, Sarah’s Silks string games in rainbow colours is an all-time favourite for many parents to carry along on trips, to restaurants, and visits with relatives as a way to pass the time and share tricks with their children! Creating string figures also has been proven to help in brain development and the development of fine motor skills.
Another great traditional children’s pastime to keep little hands busy is to knit. The Glückskäfer wooden knitting helper is a simple Waldorf handicraft tool to introduce knitting crafts to children quickly and easily, even for the youngest children. The knitted braid produced by the helper can be used to create bracelets. This activity provides a highly tactile experience and requires a lot of patience!
Travelling with older children
If you are travelling with older children, all you really need is a pad of paper or two, some pens or pencils and a list of activities or games. Here are a few of our favourite car games:
The number plate game
Search for plates from different countries. When you spot a new country, you get a bonus point if you can identify the capital city or the colours of the flag or even the food you associate with the country e.g. Italy and pasta.
Guess the person
Everyone in the car can ask questions after the ‘it’ person has secretly chosen their person – it can be a relative, celebrity, sports person, basically anyone that the others are likely to know. Everyone takes turns to asks question – 20 questions in total – and the winner is the person that guesses correctly.
The memory game
This is a good one that all ages can get involved in. Someone starts with “when I went to the supermarket, I put a ….. in my trolley.” The next person then repeats what the previous person has said then adds another item. If everyone has good memory recall, this game could last a long time but getting an item wrong will result in expulsion from the game! The last person remaining is the winner.
Times have been challenging recently for travellers seeking adventure but with the relaxation of pandemic rules it has meant that we have been able to plan adventure – whether it’s a ‘staycation’ or flying further afield. We hope that you have found some of our hints and tips helpful. Happy travelling!