Help me keep the kids busy on the road
June 8, 2009 7:58 AM   Subscribe

The family and I are headed to Florida for vacation. I need fun suggestions to keep a 3 year old and a 6 (well almost 6..happy early bday allison) year old entertained on the road trip. We are looking at 9+ hours 2 days in a row.

I am planning on bringing my macbook pro with some movies on it, and some notepads and drawing implements. Any suggestions on fun/goofy road games? Or any sort of distractions are welcome
posted by ShawnString to Travel & Transportation around Florida (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Music! Although I suggest either bringing a CD that is new to them, or that you can bear listening to a thousand times over (anything really- an ex-boyfriend has the entire Peter Tosh repertoire memorized because that's what his dad used to play on car trips). Singing in the car is fun if they like that sort of thing.
posted by variella at 8:08 AM on June 8, 2009

If you're traveling down 95, have them count the Pedro road signs as you come close to South Carolina.

(And, if you don't mind stopping at a total tourist trap, the ice cream at south of the border is pretty yummy).
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:13 AM on June 8, 2009

Best answer: The Alphabet Game helps pass the time. The rules in that link aren't quite the ones my family used. We all acted as a team to find the letters in order. And you could only use a letter if it began a word. You might want to start early, so you get to Q before passing Quantico.

20 Questions is good, too.

First hit on Google for road trip car games.
posted by HumuloneRanger at 8:14 AM on June 8, 2009

Best answer: Not entertainment per se, but when growing up my family regularly took 15 hour long road trips. When we three kids in the back seat got fussy and to that "Mom, she's looking at me! Make her stop!" stage, my Dad would find a place to pull over, make us all get out of the car, and have us run around the car as fast as we could in circles. He would just stand there watching saying "faster, faster" until we started to flag a bit. Then he'd open the car doors and we'd pile back in. Kids do need to run around a bit, and stopping for 5 or 10 minutes to let them burn off some energy helps everyone in the long run.
posted by ambrosia at 8:15 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: oh yea PhoBWanKenobi i love that place.....thats where we are spending the night coming back. Hello Firework store!
posted by ShawnString at 8:19 AM on June 8, 2009

Seconding a goodly number of stops, especially for the three-year-old.
posted by jquinby at 8:21 AM on June 8, 2009

Like Ambrosia, I used to play "Let's run up this hill by the gas station! YAYYYYY!" with my two kids. Also, they invented "I am an Animal." (Like twenty questions, but with UNlimited questions.) One person says, "I am an animal" and everyone else has to figure out which one with yes or no questions. "Do you live in the sea? Do you live in a tree? Do you bite? Would I eat you? Would you eat me? Do you have fur?" And to make everyone laugh, "Do you have a butt?" The only rule is that no one can just start naming 2000 animals, you have to ask questions.

Also, Harry Potter audiobooks from the library, although I think we started that when the youngest was four.
posted by artychoke at 8:26 AM on June 8, 2009

A simple tape recorder with a microphone can keep a kid entertained for a long time. You can get something specifically designed for kids like this or just buy a cheap voice recorder (I'm thinking of the ones that record on answering machine tapes but I'm guessing they are all digital these days).
posted by burnmp3s at 8:30 AM on June 8, 2009

Best answer: We used to play a license plate game - how many different state license plates can you see on other cars? We'd call out whenever we saw a new state, and keep track through the whole trip. It's not a "game" really, it's just a way to give the kids something exterior to pay some attention to now and then.

Mom was always really good at keeping us occupied on car trips. Before the trip she'd go shopping and stock up on cheap little toys, games, books, puzzles, etc. And just about every rest stop, while my brother and I were off, y'know, doing what one does at rest stops, we'd come back to the car and find a new gizmo for each of us in the back seat. Things I remember liking: comic books, Matchbox cars, those little puzzles with the tiles that slide around, and these quiz books with the answers in a special invisible ink - they came with a special pen to write with, I forget what they were called, but they'd have things like brain teaser puzzles or riddles, word finds, etc.

But maybe that's all too low tech for kids these days, I dunno.
posted by dnash at 8:34 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Car Bingo!

Make your own cards that cater to your family at home before you go. My grandma did this for us on all road trips and it was AWESOME.
posted by nitsuj at 8:35 AM on June 8, 2009

I don't know what it's called, but one of our favorites went something like:

First person: In my zoo, we have Aardvarks.

Second person: In my zoo, we have Aardvarks and Black Bears.

Next person (or first person again, depending on how many are playing): In my zoo, we have Aardvarks, Black Bears and Camels.

And so on through the alphabet.

You can easily make up your own variations, such as "On my grocery list, I have Apples, Bananas, Corn, Doughnuts...".

Give special shout outs and thumbs up for creative, goofy, multi-worded entries, like "Pink and Purple Polka-dotted Ponies" for "P".
posted by marsha56 at 8:36 AM on June 8, 2009

When I was a 5-8 year old kid (way back in the fifties) taking long family car trips, my parents would put a small mattress (like from a cot or crib) in the back seat. That way whenever my little brother and I would get tired, we could easily go to sleep. Mom and Dad REALLY liked it when we would go to sleep.

They would occasionally resort to bribery as well. Before leaving on the trip they would shop for little $1-2 surprises and games, then reward us with them after a few hours of being "good." Being good of course meant being quiet and not horseplaying.

Here's hoping you have a wonderful family adventure.
posted by netbros at 8:42 AM on June 8, 2009

Lots of finger food to dole out bit by bit. Don't waste time with stopping for meals. When they sit still you want to drive, not eat. Put suitcases or boxes or something behind the front row seats so that when they endlessly drop something it drops within an adult's reach without flailing all over trying to pick it up. We found that ipods were great because after about hour 3 I was really ready to lose it listening to any music that kept their imagination. Once when we were stuck driving in a snowstorm with no stops available I eventually gave the kids gravol (dramamine) to settle them down. If motion sickness is a possibility, stock up with that, paper towels, plastic bags, wet wipes, and lots of changes of clothes that are handy packed (bonus if it doesn't need to be pulled over the kid's head). Every potty stop is a mandatory exercise stop (pack a frisbee for them to chase after, or a ball). If your kids haven't been initiated into how to pee at the side of the road without soaking all of everyone's clothes, then some practice and/or preparation might be in order.
posted by kch at 9:08 AM on June 8, 2009

Singable songs. Lots of them, on cd and just you all singing. Can the older one read? Books. Whatever crafts you can do in the car. Nothing with beads, but even at 6 in camp we did gimp bracelets and the crochet round thing, where you get a tube out of it. There are a load of gimp instructions at boondoggleman; the easiest one is butterfly, but brick is also possible.

Snack foods. Have treats to dole out every however often. Games -- alphabet game, I spy game, first person to see a [whatever] game, where whatever can be a horse, a yellow car, anything. "A my name is Alice and I live in Alabama and I love apples" (you may want to get rid of the "live in" part for your younger child). My parents used to ask me which thing was bigger/faster/taller/whatever -- all I remember is being shocked, and somewhat dubious, that clouds moved faster than cars on a highway. They also did legal or illegal, where I got to say if things were legal or not. I was closer to 3 than 6 when I played these, and I loved it.

And we have wonderfully cheap electronics now. A portable dvd player is very inexpensive, and less liable to get hurt than a laptop. If you have two portable tv things, you save a lot of fighting. There are inexpensive old portable game consoles around, too.

When you eat, have towels on your laps. Have one towel per person per meal (this goes for the adults too). Makes cleanup very easy.
posted by jeather at 9:21 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I used to go to the Goodwill and buy a bunch of cheap little plastic toys, like Happy Meal toys. Then, if I was feeling super parentish, I would wrap them. Failing the wrapping - but the wrapping is a really good idea, because then it becomes a Present - they all went into a special bag. When the kids started getting fractious and bored, or when they were being extra good or just out of the blue, I would toss a couple of Brand. New. Toys. into the back seat. This works quite well although yes, they will fight over the toys a bit.
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:00 AM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am planning on bringing my macbook pro with some movies on it

You might want to buy a headrest type of dvd player where the buttons could be "turned off" from prying little hands. I'd be really scared to leave my almost 3 year old in the back of the van with a laptop all to himself (even with the keys disabled). The dual dvd/screen player we found at Target is a lifesaver on our regular 4-5 hr car trips.
posted by doorsfan at 10:19 AM on June 8, 2009

Radio Shows!
posted by litterateur at 12:23 PM on June 8, 2009

Best answer: We did this when our kids were about the same age (3 and 6, driving for 9+ hours a day for a few days). We did it "old school" in that we did not take a dvd player or anything with us (but not "old school" like my parents did it in the 70s, where they just threw me and my siblings of us in the "way back" of a Pinto and let us roll around back there doing whatever as we drove across country).

It actually wasn't so bad -- I got two boxes together, one for each kid, and let them load them up with as many toys and books as they could fit. (I used those square fabric storage bins like you find at Target.) Then we put together another box of snacks/juiceboxes. Then we just put the boxes within arms' reach of their car seats and let them play as we drive. We also took a bunch of CDs (a mix of kids' choice and parents' choice). Anyway, although there were definitely run-around-and-get-exhausted-please stops along the way, and although there were a few mom-in-the-backseat-breaking-up-fights moments, it all went pretty well. It's a formula we've repeated every time we have to travel far by car. And bringing the toys in the fabric boxes is great, because the toys/books/whatever can be easily carted into the hotel or wherever we're staying and the kids can continue their games.

Now that they're a bit older (6 and a half and newly 10), we let them go nuts with an old Flip videocamera, and they inevitably bring their DSes -- but they still love to load up a box with little toys and whatever. It's their favorite part of any trip.
posted by mothershock at 1:01 PM on June 8, 2009

Oh, also: it's a good idea to have a secret parent stash of coloring books and crayons (or those markers that only work on special paper), kept on reserve up front as surprise change of pace for when the inevitably cry of boredom rises from the back seat.
posted by mothershock at 1:04 PM on June 8, 2009

My mom and dad gave us the atlas on roadtrips so we could "help" find the way there and asked us questions about where we were as we passed relevant roadsigns. We never had to ask how soon we'd be there, and the three of us were competent navigators well before we could drive anywhere. I guess that would work for a six year old? I can't remember how little I was when we started that game.

These days I keep a set of washable window markers in my back seat for when I've got friends along, which is occasionally not unlike travelling with children (hopefully your kids know fewer bad words with which to adorn the windows than my friends do).
posted by little e at 7:32 PM on June 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

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