Ways to Occupy Young Children on the Road

Many of us remember during our own childhood adventures sitting in the back seat with a sibling or two and feeling restless. While the family station wagon has been upgraded to include comfortable seating, DVD players, cup holders and many other wonderful perks, we still wonder how to keep our children educationally enriched, or, at least, entertained during those long hours on the road. While having plans A, B, C and D are helpful for those “at the end of your wits” moments, here are a few alternatives to consider.

Audio Books

Check with your local library to view the list of available audio books.   An instant winner for everyone may be selecting an author such as Roald Dahl or E.B. White, Cornelia Funke or Rick Riordan, who promises to deliver humor, adventure and moments of nail-biting anticipation. While kids may not initially want to listen to a book in the car, they may be surprised to discover a captivating book will help those long hours pass quickly.  


A summer road trip is a great opportunity for your child to learn a few new computerized games; therefore, let your child try

  • Superhero Comic Book Maker by Duck Duck Moose (iPod Touch, iPad). An app for preschoolers that helps children create their own comic book.
  • Thinkrolls (iPad, Android, Kindle Fire). Five-year-olds can learn about problem-solving in this high-interest game.
  • Toontastic (ipad). Six-year-olds may love the ease in creating their own animated films.  

While the apps listed may not be available on your device, there may be a similar or an alternative option for your child.

Involve Every Passenger

Breaking out into song may not improve your moody passengers; however, you could try playing a game that everyone can enjoy.

  • The license plate game asks “Who can identify the most states on the trip?”
  • I Spy will help young children build their vocabulary while noticing their surroundings.
  • The alphabet game will help children become aware of their environment by finding objects using each letter of the alphabet, starting with “A.”  
  • The memory game can help young children develop their ability to recall objects chronologically. One person can begin the game by saying, “I’m going on a road trip, and I packed….”

Navigators Wanted!

Ah, squash the words “Where are we?” or “How much farther?” by giving your child the tools needed to navigate the trip. Armed with either a print-out of directions or a map, young children could learn about distance and mileage, and observing highway and other important landmark signs.

Snacks and Drinks

How many arguments began because one sibling wanted another sibling’s snack? Therefore, create personalized “snack bags” for each child. By eliminating wrappers and using individual snack-sized Ziploc bags, you can offer the kids animal crackers, pretzels and gummy or dried fruit. While fewer complaints are buzzing irritably around in the car, dads and moms will be able to reflect back to their own family road trips and say, “Why couldn’t my parents have thought of these handy-dandy tricks?”