Let me start by saying that I am in no way an expert in keeping children quiet in the car and that I still haven’t found one secret formula that works all the time. To be honest, I often end up in a back seat between our younger boys while the oldest rides in a passenger seat in front…
Kids need space and constant entertainment and young children are simply not capable to remain quiet when sitting in a car for hours in a row…
Having said this, let me share a few tips which helped us time and again.
7 tips on how to keep children quiet in the car
1. Separate the kidsIf your car is big enough, make sure that your children sit as far from each other as possible. At home we drive a minivan, but on a road trip, as I said, I sometimes go and sit in the back to separate the kids. The advantage is that you can interact with them, point out some interesting things on the road, play a game, read a map together, or simply let them lean against you if they want to sleep.
2. Play gamesYou could look for a car, a truck, a bus, a house… in one or another color, or guess words starting with a specific letter, count something, read signs, tell jokes, tell stories… The key here is for you to stay involved. This is something children always love to do, no matter the age. The only problem is that you will get tired of this long before they will.
3. Let the kids moveStop at the places where kids can move. A playground is perfect for smaller kids, a short hike or a picnic will suit any age. If there is really nothing exciting on the road, think of taking a ball with you or buy one – it’s the best investment you will make.
4. Plan your tripPlan your road trip activities in such a way that you can go somewhere first thing in the morning before you have to sit in the car for hours. It’s not always possible, but it does wonders, even if you only make a short walk. That way the children will have moved a bit and the little ones might even get tired enough to fall asleep in a car on a way to your next destination.
5. Stock up on healthy snacksGive your children something small to eat: apples or grapes are good, a carrot is perfect as it will keep them busy for a while… I would not recommend anything with too much sugar in it as it will only give your kids more energy which they will not be able to get rid of in the car, not to mention sticky hands and crumbs all over the seats, etc.
6. Music and fairy talesIf all of the above won’t help then the media sure will. Put on a cd with their favourite music or stories. Even if your kids (and you) have heard the same fairy tale 200 times by now, it’s totally worth it as it will keep them quiet and you sane. It does wonders for us every time, but we only use it as a (one before last) resort, so it may not work as well if you keep the stereo on all the time.
7. Tablets, films, and gamesThe last resort for us is to switch on a movie in a car. If you don’t have those built in screens, you can use a portable DVD player or a tablet, and it will sure keep your kids quiet. Well, at least for the duration of the film or a game, because afterwards they might be quite agitated from all the impressions from the screen. That’s why I prefer ‘screen free’ activities in the car. I also find that the children (and the parents) enjoy a road trip much more if they are more involved and aware of the surroundings, instead of looking at a screen the whole time.
That’s just my 2 cents. Feel free to comment and share your tips on how to survive long family trips in a car.
Flying with children? Read here our essential tips for a stress-free family flying experience.
Update March 4, 2016: We might have just found the magical solution to keep kids quiet in the car during very long rides. This will not work for the very young kids, but it did wonders for our 5 and 7 year olds.
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