Family Road Trip: Keep the Kids Occupied

Spring break has arrived, and my son and I are on a road trip again. Traveling when you have kids has its challenges, especially if you are on a long family road trip. I’m fortunate that my son is 10 years old — and that there’s only one of him.

However, even he gets bored sometimes.

If you are bringing the kids along on a road trip, here are some ideas for keeping them occupied.

Electronic Devices

This is not my favorite thing for kids. However, gadgets can make it a little easier to keep the kids quiet and happy while on the road. My son plays for an hour or two on his DS, but then finds something else to do during the trip. With hand-held devices and in-car DVD players, it’s almost always possible to provide a distraction for the kids while you are in the car. Just remember that there are other reasons to travel than to play with a device you can use at home.

Educational Experiences

My son and I spent a good chunk of this trip talking about geology. We talked about the sedimentary rocks we could see, the erosion marks on the cliffs, and the fact that the mountains are red because of the iron deposits. There was a lot to talk about, from the way the Virgin River cut out a gorge over the course of millions of years, to noticing some of the shapes of the bluffs we passed.

Consider ways to make the trip interesting. Many children like to learn new things — especially if they are old enough to look at the world around them and ask, “Why?”

If you will be passing through historical areas, consider reading up on them before you go by, or learning about unique features of an area. Then, you can talk about them. If your child is old enough to read, get a good guidebook or forest service pamphlet and have your child read aloud. Then, look for the features described.

My son also enjoyed some time with the road atlas we keep in the car, looking for where we were, and tracing our route.

Play Games

We recently bought some travel games. These magnetic games are fun for kids to play, and it can get them to interact. I can’t play with my son in the car, though, since I’m driving! But they can be great if you have more than one child.

It’s also possible to play other games with your kids. Have your children keep track of how many different states’ license plates they see on the road. You can also play the “alphabet game,” in which you look for words with different letters, and see who can get through the alphabet first.

My son enjoys going on a “scavenger hunt.” He uses his camera to look for certain items that have been picked out in advance. By the end of the trip, he needs to have a picture of everything on the list. It’s a fun game that kids can really enjoy.

What do you do to keep your kids occupied while you travel?

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