It’s an all-too-familiar refrain, sometimes occurring as early as 20 minutes into a journey and lasting for hours: “Are we there yet?” Bored kids, exasperated parents. No wonder we dread long car trips with young children.
According to this Daily Telegraph article, researchers commissioned by Disney discovered that, of 5,000 parents contacted, more than 80 per cent gave their young passengers a tablet such as an iPad loaded with games, films and other entertainment to keep them amused on lengthy trips. Fifty per cent of those surveyed said that they got up to an hour’s unbroken peace and quiet as a result.
Just 20 per cent enjoyed the same amount of happy silence without the help of apps and electronic devices, with traditional time-killers like ‘I spy…’ on the way out. Only 14 per cent of parents quizzed found such games useful.
There are many tips you can employ to prevent you pulling your hair out the next time you hit the motorway. You can start well before even planning the next family holiday. When it’s time to buy a new family car, take your kids with you. When you get to T W White & Sons or other such dealers, explain the situation: you take long trips together as a family, you’re conscious the children get bored, what do you recommend for young travellers?
You might find a new car with in-built entertainment systems, a novel seating arrangement or a glass roof eases long journeys for those in the back and front seats. Here are six more ideas to try.
Audio books: Lots of parents swear by these. You can turn every journey into one of discovery both inside and outside the car. As the story of the BFG unfolds or the world of Harry Potter is detailed, kids can become engrossed while remaining engaged with the scenery flowing past the car windows.
A tablet: Not the sleeping kind, we hasten to add, but the sort made by the likes of Apple and Samsung. It’s an expensive answer, but incredibly flexible and will offer multiple attractions in one small package. Films, favourite cartoons, ebooks, games, art apps, even educational pastimes - when they get bored of one, they can move on to another. Pro tip: invest in some noise-insulating headphones.
DIY games: Your kids could use those iPads or smartphones to snap photographs throughout the journey, ticking off a list you made prior to setting off. Include famous landmarks, towns, other types of car and then offer prizes at the end of the trip depending on how many subjects they snapped.
Plan plenty of exploration stops: You’re going to need to make loo breaks along the journey, so why not combine them with something more interesting for everyone? You could pull up in a new town, at a National Trust or English Heritage site or simply a spot with a fabulous view.
Filling snacks: Invariably children get more irritated when they are hungry, so keep a ready supply of snacks to hand - but go easy on the Haribos. Instead, choose something that’ll take time to eat and releases energy slowly. Dried fruits and, for older children, nuts are good choices.
A good old-fashioned colouring book: Even adults are getting back into colouring books, but for kids, they hold near endless fascination.