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  • Writer's pictureAngelique Woodburn

How to Keep Kids Occupied on a Road Trip without Screens!

boy child with his head out of a car window

"Are we there yet?", is the question parents dread most when embarking on a road trip! So how can we keep the kids occupied in the car when we have a long trip ahead of us? As a caravanning mum myself, I will share with you my top tips for surviving the car trip....WITHOUT relying on screens!

My 6 Top Tips are:

1. Hit the road earlier than what the kids are used to. When kids are woken earlier than what they're used to, they tend to take longer than usual to fully wake up. So have the car ready to go before the kids wake up so as soon as they wake you can all hop straight in the car. Pop them straight in with their jarmies still on to avoid waking them more fully and give them a cosy blanket. This should buy you some extra time! Often kids aren't hungry that early in the morning, so you may not need to pull out the snacks too soon!

2. A baking tray and a puzzle. Don't worry, there's no baking involved!! Baking trays are great for the car as they sit nicely on the child’s lap and they have a lip around the outside so things like cards, lego etc won’t fly off. I bought this one for my kids for $3.50 from Kmart! Buy a new puzzle (or borrow one) they haven’t seen before and get them to do the puzzle on their baking tray. You can buy different puzzles depending on their ages. Magnets are also great for baking trays so find a variety of magnets they can make words or pictures from. I love these animal sets for $6 from Kmart.

3. Treasure hunt. Make your own or download free off the internet. Think of all the things you’re likely to see on your trip and put them together on a grid. For younger children you can include pictures to help them. When they see the object they can cross it off. Have a small prize for extra motivation. Below are some examples you could create or download.

4. Devices without the screens, AKA audio books. Technology really can be super useful on long car trips but instead of giving the kids a screen, try some audio books. We all know that staring at a screen for prolonged periods of time is not good for our kid's eyes and brains but did you know it can also cause hyperactivity? NOT what you want when you're on a road trip! Audio books are great as kids can be engaged in a story that interest them but still be able to look out the window and appreciate the changing scenery. Grab your kids a pair of their own headphones and download some audiobooks before you head off so you don’t need to use all your data. You don't need expensive tech either. I bought these $6 headphones for my kids from Kmart and these ones for myself for $10 at Officeworks.

5. Mentally prepare and be ready for stop overs. The first hurdle to overcome when doing anything with kids, is check your expectations! If you are expecting a nice smooth trip, with no breaks, no fighting, no getting bored and arriving ahead of schedule you are setting yourself (and your kids) up to fail! So before you even head off, lower your expectations and overestimate your arrival time. Take into account extra stops, toilet breaks, fresh air breaks, refilling drink bottles and fuel so that you are already mentally prepared for the stops. And if they are not needed as much as you thought, it will be a welcomed bonus!

If you notice the kids are starting to get restless and are starting to annoy each other and all the other ideas aren’t working, it might be time for a stop. A 5 minute break can be just what they need to stretch their legs, have a run around and a toilet break and reset ready for the next stint. You might even discover some cute little towns you never knew about! Ask the kids to collect something from the town like a stick, a leaf, a stone or a flower and once back in the car they can draw it or write a story about it!

6. Avoid the 'hangries'. I can speak directly into this one as I have a Jekyll and Hyde daughter! If she is hungry, Mr Hyde comes out to play! As soon as she has eaten, Dr Jekyll returns!! It's important to pack nutritious snacks that keep their blood sugar levels stable eliminating those spikes and keeping them fuller for longer. Bananas, nuts, dried fruit, muffins and muesli bars are great snack ideas, even better if they're home made. Click here for some recipes you could try.

A big bottle of water each is a must and don't forget the lollies and chips! Having some special treats to look forward to can keep the kids excited and on task in anticipation for a special road trip treat!

I hope these tips help you and your family have an enjoyable road trip, wherever you might be headed. If you have any other ideas that work for you I would love to hear them. Comment below and let me know what your family does to keep the kids occupied on road trips!

Angelique x

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