Thanks to the many electronic advances in the past decade, long trips aren’t nearly as painfully boring now as they were when I was growing up. My teenagers have the luxury of watching DVD’s, playing Xbox, texting their friends and updating their Facebook profile all along our route. On our 1,000 mile trip to Florida in December, I didn’t hear “Are we almost there?”, until we crossed into Florida. I think that’s a record for my crew.
Electronics in the car may help pass time but sometimes I want my teens to remember a bit more of the trip than what movie is playing in the DVD player. Over the years I’ve come up with several ways to occupy the kids on road trips without electronics- if only for a short portion of a long road trip.
1. Talk to your kids.
Road trips are a great time to talk to your kids. Many of the deepest, most meaningful conversations I’ve had with my kids have taken place in the vehicle.
2. Listen to a book on CD.
Technically, you could probably count this in the electronics category but I’m going to keep it on my list anyway. When my kids were younger, I was better about turning everything into a learning opportunity. I was sure to visit the library before a trip to see if I could borrow a book or two that referred to our destination. If that didn’t work, I could always find a classic story that they’d enjoy listening too.
3. Play a game.
My kids still love to play the memory game, “I’m going on a road trip, and I’m going to pack…” Everyone takes turns saying what they will take while reciting each earlier response. The only difference between playing this game now as opposed to when they were younger is now they try to shock me with their response.
When my kids were younger, they’d play the license plate game, I Spy, Road Trip B-I-N-G-O or eagerly check items off a custom scavenger list that I’d prepare for the occasion.
4. Have your child help you navigate.
I remember the days before a GPS was commonplace. Sometimes the kids and I would travel 8 to 9 hours to meet my husband when he was on the road. They weren’t very old but I taught them to be familiar with a map so they could help me navigate. I’m pretty good with directions so I didn’t normally have a problem, but they did enjoy holding such an esteemed position when daddy wasn’t around.
5. Create a photo journal of the trip.
My kids used to get a brand new journal right before a trip. I would give them prompts and encourage them to jot down the important who, what, where, when and why’s. They didn’t particularly like this exercise and considered it way to “school-ish”, but they enjoy glancing back at those journals now. My daughter was exceptionally diligent and even took the time to write down the time we passed into another state, what the weather was like and any notable changes she witnessed when compared to our home state.
Now that the kids are older and each have a camera of their own, I encourage them to create a photo journal of our trip. They may photograph road signs, traffic jams, roadside attractions and photo opps at rest stops along the route. It’s fun to look at their pictures and see their three distinct photography styles and areas of interest.
6. Pack some books, a magazine or Mad Libs.
I’ve been known to read to my family while in the car. A book has saved us from absolute boredom on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, my kids aren’t especially tolerant of read alouds anymore. They’d prefer to pack their own reading material, normally in the form of a magazine. Mad Libs are a fun way to pass the time for younger kids.
This is probably the number one way my boys prefer to spend their time in the vehicle. They love to sleep and road trips give them the opportunity to do just that. After all, teenagers require quite a bit of sleep, you know.
Normally, electronics on a road trip aren’t a big deal to me, but in my book, road trips are synonymous with family time. And quality family time is too often neglected due to distractions. Road trips are the perfect time to unplug and reconnect to the people in your life.
What are some of the ways that you occupy the kids on road trips without electronics?
© 2013, Tonya Prater . All rights reserved.