Most people I know are hitting the road this summer, both for quick day outings and those long, memorable family vacations. Road trips are some of the best memories a kid can have, but for parents, being cooped up with them for long stretches can be tiring.
If your kids are anything like mine, their attention is all over the place. Still, I prefer not to hand them a tablet or smartphone for entertainment. Instead, I bring a few “screenless” activities for kids every time we load up.
Parents should be proactive so their young ones don’t come up with their own mental challenge, which usually means picking on one another or seeing what they can “get away with.” Here are five games that can turn trouble into learning without a TV or mobile device.
Classic Bingo – But For Travel!
Although it’s tempting to break out the toys right away, I prefer starting with a game the whole family can participate in. Before leaving home, print a sample doc for each player. My son’s favorite bingo squares are the ones with trucks and earth-moving machines. My preschooler is just learning letters, so her favorite bingo card is one with simple road signs.
To play, everyone receives an individualized bingo card. Then, when someone spots an item outside of the vehicle that’s on his sheet, he or she says it aloud so everyone can identify the sign or item, and verify the find. The first player to mark off enough squares on their sheet to make a 5-in-a-row run, wins!
Upcycled ‘Eye Spy’ Bottle
Of all my favorite activities for kids, I love this one, because the kids can help to make it days in advance of the trip. And when a child contributes to the preparation of a game, he or she is much more likely to enjoy playing it.
- A recycled water bottle
- Birdseed or rainbow rice
- A handful of hodgepodge-shaped noodles
- Paper clips
- Googely eyes or craft pompoms
- A few marbles
- Clothes pins
- Barbie shoes
Encourage random little additions they may find also fit into a water bottle, and make a list of each item. To assemble, let your little spies collect everything on the list from around the house. Using a funnel, help them fill the bottle with all these little treasures and mix them together. Use super glue when screwing on the cap so you can be sure none of it turns up beneath a car seat next month!
Once on the road, hand your kids the list you made of each item that went inside. They’ll enjoy turning the bottle to find each one.
This activity is quiet, and it lets us adults talk uninterrupted. Lacing cards are inexpensive, but if you’re feeling crafty, save money and make a few yourself.
Because threading a string through tiny holes goes just beyond the abilities of a toddler, lacing is a winning activity that helps develop focus and fine motor skills. Add with the unpredictable bumps and turns on the road, your little one will be lacing for what may seem like hours.
One of my kids loves puzzles, so I put together a “travel puzzle” just for her. With three supplies and a few minutes, you can do the same.
What you’ll need:
- A full-sized recycled cookie sheet
- A favorite children’s puzzle (roughly 26″ by 18″)
- Self-adhesive magnets
Before your trip, have your brainy child peel back the paper from each magnetic dot and stick it to the back of a puzzle piece until all the pieces are magnetized. Puzzle pieces can be stored in a zipper bag until your trip, and the cookie sheet can fit in the back pouch of most driver and passenger seats.
Music on Wheels
Because our house is usually full of music, it should be no surprise that our car is, too. Not all games need visuals; to connect in this way, crank upbeat tunes and see who can keep time by clapping along.
Want to relax in silence? Offer headphones and the ability for your little ones to control which track is played next. Just remember to set the “max volume” control on your device before handing it over to young listeners.
Image sources: Bethany Johnson
This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.