“I’m bored”, “How much further?”, “Are we there yet?” If you’ve ever taken children on a road trip, then chances are you’ve heard these comments multiple times. In order to maintain your sanity and ensure the most enjoyment from everyone on your next family vacation, it’s important to not only engage your children in fun and entertaining activities once you reach your destination, but to also keep their minds occupied on the way there. This can best be accomplished by providing them with a variety of games, activities, and other entertainment options to help ward off boredom.
You can find a variety of travel-sized games at your local Wal-Mart or Dollar Store. If you prefer to shop online, you’ll find a wide assortment of travel games from video games and Game Boys to electronic and travel-sized versions of chess, checkers, bingo, even “Clue” and “Wheel of Fortune.” Many of these games can be purchased for around $15 a piece. Just remember, if the game you buy has sound, be sure there is a way to either turn the volume down or mute it completely. Crossword puzzles, word searches, and good old fashioned hang-man or tic-tac-toe are a few other examples of fun games to keep your child busy.
Another fun road trip activity is the license plate game. There are many variations on the game, but the basic idea is that the child keeps a list of the different states he/she spots a license plate for. To put a more educational twist on the game (and depending on the age of your child), you can provide him/her with a U.S. map or atlas so they can identify that state on the map. This method can help your child learn U.S. geography in a fun and interesting way. If your child has already taken or is currently taking a geography class in school, you could even go one step further and quiz him/her on the state capital of the state license plates he/she finds.
Many children enjoy following your travel route on a road atlas, particularly if it’s a new state that they’ve never been through. You can direct your children to read road signs and exit signs for upcoming cities, state parks, etc, and teach them how to spot exactly where you are on a detailed road atlas or map. Not only is the ability to read a road map an essential life skill, but doing so may also help eliminate their temptation to constantly ask you “how much further before we get there?”
If your vehicle has a dvd player or if you own a portable dvd player, consider taking a few of your children’s favorite movies along. Just don’t forget the headphones! Another great idea are books on tape or cd or music cds for your child to listen to.
If your child is prone to motion sickness (and many are), then it’s best to discourage them from doing any activities that would have them looking down for more than a few seconds, as this will just make their car sickness worse. Instead, keep their eyes on the road ahead and remind them not to look down near the car when looking out the window–instead they should focus on things in the distance. The license plate game still works for those prone to motion sickness, and so do books on tape or music cds. You can also engage your child in conversation and use the time together as an opportunity to get to know each other’s thoughts and feelings on just about anything.