Keeping children entertained in the car

I am sure there are many of you who will be travelling in the car over the Christmas holidays.

This can be really stressful for both children and adults. Children do not generally enjoy sitting in one place, particularly for long periods of time, and particularly when strapped in a car seat, but with a bit of preparation you can make the journey more manageable for everyone.

Here are some Top Tips for planning those journeys:

  1. Picture of child in a car seat
    Photo by Alexander Grey on Unsplash

    Make sure during the journey, and when you are at your destination, that you give children time to run off some physical energy. Plan for outside play throughout the day. Plan regular pit stops and try to choose places where there is a physical play area if you can. Before you leave and once you arrive, if there is the opportunity to have some outside play, take it!

  2. Before you travel, plan with your children a playlist with their choice of songs and music. Give them some ownership of it.
  3. Pit stops are important for physical movement (see number 1) but also to go to the toilet or have a drink. It is also necessary for comfort and safety. Babies and children should be in their car seats for a maximum of 2 hours and then they will need time out of their seat. This is because of the position their heads are in when in car seats. If your baby is asleep at this point, or when you arrive at your destination, always get them out of the seat as soon as you can. It is important not to leave babies asleep in car seats once removed from car.
  4. Devise some games appropriate for your child’s age. I Spy, Counting Cars of a certain colour and making up stories together allows children to engage with the adults positively rather than seeking attention in less positive ways.
  5. Provide each child with a lap tray and then some toys that they can play with in the car. I find giving each child a lap tray and a drawstring bag can reduce boredom and actually make the journey quite fun and exciting.
  6. Snacks. Make sure you have plenty of snacks and drink available. Try to limit sugary/sweet foods as these can make children more restless and energised.
  7. Tablets and iPads can be useful on car journeys. Make sure you have downloaded movies the children can watch. Just be mindful not to use when travelling at night or close to bedtime as this can really have a negative impact on your children being able to wind down and settle for the night.
  8. Listen to audiobooks of your children’s favourite stories. If you have the actual picture book of the story, this can add to the experience. If you have a range of ages you might have to set things up so that they can individually listen to their individual audiobooks using headphones.
  9. Bag of toys
    Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

    Have a ‘surprise’ bag of toys to bring out at different stages of the journey. These need to be practical for the car and appropriate for your child to play with on their own (unless an adult is in the back with the children and can interact with them). Sticker books, new colouring books, picture books, fuzzy felt boards and a deck of cards can all be suitable.

  10. Have a mirror available so that you can see the children in the back and keep an eye on what is happening.
  11. Make sure children are not too warm in the car as this will just be uncomfortable for them. Have a blanket for each if you feel they might need an extra layer.
  12. Finally: be realistic. Try not to have consecutive days of long journeys. Have breaks in between and plan as well as you can to be able to meet your children’s needs.