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Keeping Kids Entertained

Keeping Kids Entertained

Parent Tips > Travel, Transportation & Tourists > Keeping Kids Entertained

Keeping Children Happy and Occupied When Traveling

So what can you do to keep the kids occupied while you concentrate on driving?


For Babies

  • Pack soft toys that are age appropriate. All play objects are potential missiles; therefore, take care to find toys that are soft and will not cause harm if airborne.
  • Bring along tapes or CDs that have baby's favorite tunes.
  • Have a parent or older child sit in the back seat and read, talk or play with the infant.
  • A hungry baby is often an unhappy baby. Fill bottles with warm sterilized water for formula and put them in an insulated bag. When it's time to make up a bottle, the water should be just about right.

For Toddlers

  • Provide each child with his own backpack to carry some special items to be used only in the car.
  • In addition to picture books, create a small album with pictures of people and places your child already knows.
  • Carry non-messy drinks and snacks, such as juice boxes, rice cakes, bagels, cereal, granola bars and pretzels.
  • Schedule travel times around naps as much as possible. Put blankets and sleeping friends (like teddy bears) next to toddlers for comfort and inspiration.
  • When traveling with small children, allow more time to reach your destination.
  • Play areas are great for blowing off some steam -- look for rest areas and restaurants that offer play areas and family-friendly restroom facilities.

For Older children

  • Look for the travel versions of popular games.
  • Older children can be the "navigator" on a family trip by plotting the route on a map and providing the driver with directions.
  • Have children keep a list of automobile mileage, gasoline fill-ups and money spent on fuel.
  • To practice numbers on a trip, ask your child to make a list of license plate numbers and put them in numerical order.
  • See how many of the 50 states you can find by counting the number of out- of-state license plates.
  • Discuss cities and states you visit. Describe to your child how a country, and a state, a county, and a city are different from one another.
  • Play the alphabet game: Look at road signs and/or license plates and spot the words that begin with "A" then "B" then "C," etc. The first person to reach "Z" wins.
  • Have a child keep a "traveler's log" of the places you visit. Provide your child with a special notebook and pen to write about the places and people you visit. Also provide children with a folder or notebook to keep brochures, post cards and other free items from the places you visit.
  • Audio books are an excellent alternative for kids who get motion sickness from reading in the car. If available, buy or rent something your child's teacher recommends for summer reading.
  • If you have a TV and DVD player in your vehicle, take along old favorites and buy a new selection or two to debut on your next trip.
  • Even older children can benefit from naps. Encourage them to take naps in the car by making small pillows and blankets available. But be sure to stay buckled up.

For Teens

  • To reinforce the notion that driving comes with a host of responsibilities, put teens in charge of doing the pre-trip car equipment check.
  • While on the road, observe the behaviors of other drivers and use it as a teaching tool. Both bad and good habits can turn into teaching moments for teens.
  • Quiz your teenager on the meanings of signs and lines and reinforce the concept that speed limits are not suggestions, but are meant to be obeyed.
  • If you have a responsible teenager with a driver license, consider letting him or her do some of the driving.

Keeping Kids Entertained

  • A few toys are always great (you dont have to take them all. You will be surprised how many things they are entertained with at their new destination.
  • Books
  • Coloring books/crayons (I do not recommend felt pens)
  • Stickers
  • Play-doh (great on the plane)
  • Magnet board & magnets, Magnadoodle, Etch-a-Sketch
  • A few legos
  • Box of fun band aids great for 18 month old-3 year old. The process of unwrapping and applying to self will keep child absorbed.
  • Wrap a few small gifts to be distributed throughout the day. It gives them something to look forward to when the boredom sets in.
  • Fun snacks
  • Electronics: Portable DVD players are wonderful-they are small & easy to travel with (car adapters & extra batteries available). They keep even young children entertained if you bring the right videos. You are also not depending on the airline choices for long trips. For older kids, Gameboys provide hours of entertainment.
  • For older kids: Give each of the kids a roll of quarters. Every time they misbehave, take 1 quarter from the person(s) responsible. Once you reach your destination, the child can spend the money they have left on whatever they choose.

Plane Travel

  • Although children under 2 are not required to have their own seat, it can make your trip easier. By purchasing a ticket for your baby, you can take a carseat which they are more apt to sleep in. Some airlines will take 50% off for a child under
  • Strollers can be a big help both in the airport and at your destination. You can usually gate check your stroller prior to getting on the plane.
  • Pack plenty of snacks for your child. Airlines do not always have a lot of choices.
  • Pack extra formula and diapers in case you are delayed.Bring an extra set of clothes as well.
  • Some airports have play areas for kids - this is a great way to burn off energy before you get on the flight.
  • I have travelled 3 times to Europe with my daughter (now 3)and have the following suggestions for airplane travel with young kids:
    *If you travel across many time zones, try to get a head start by adjusting an hour every day for a few days before you leave and the jet lag will not be quite as bad
    *There are homeopathic lozenges called "No Jetlag" available at Lazy Acres and sometimes Trader Joes and they work great on kids as well.
  • Bring different colored sticky pads - the kids can write, color on them, then stick them all over their seats, etc. and they are extremelyeasy to clean up - no mess!
  • When you book the seats for 2 people, always book the window seat and the aisle seat in a 3 seat row. Most people dont want the middle seatand so you have a good chance it will stay empty and you end up with 3 seats for the 2 of you (this works also for the middle row). If the plane is completely booked, the person sitting in the middle between you and your child will gladly change to either a window or aisle seat.
  • Bring cards with animals, etc. for kids around 2 years old - they love to look at the pictures and you can imitate the sounds the animals make tokeep them entertained.

Car Travel

  • It helps to leave at night when kids will sleep or during naptimes.
  • Stop every couple hours for a bathroom break, stretch and a snack. It is great if there is space to have them run around. You can make it a game by having mini races.
  • There are great travel books for kids with fun ideas and family games you can do on the road.
  • DVD players are a lifesaver in the car.
  • Sing songs, make up stories, play 20 questions or I Spy.

Favorite parent travel tips

--Submitted by parents

Equipment: If possible, borrow (or rent) as much equipment as possible. It makes traveling a breeze!

Timing: Give yourself more than enough time to get where you are going so you can stop along the way and spend time with your children. Relax and enjoy the one-on-one time with your kids.

It goes so much smoother if you can stop and play along the way. The journey is part of the experience too – it’s not just the destination. Figure out places to stop and play - parks or playgrounds, so kids can run around and burn energy.

Make sure children get plenty of sleep prior to leaving for the trip, particularly when you are changing time zones.Travel at night or at nap time when going by car.

Airplanes: Always board the plane last with the little ones after your spouse has gone ahead with your carry on and got your seats settled. You want to spend as little time on the aircraft before it's underway as possible.

When traveling by plane make friends with other kids. Kids are curious about other kids and this is often great entertainment. They can play games and share new toys.

Entertainment: Bring surprises. New simple things they hasn't seen before. Wrap a new toy for every 3 hours of flight. It kept them excited with something new as well as motivated to behave on the journey.

Plane, train or automobiles, never leave home without a vast collection of their personal music & headphones. Investing a little money in a portable DVD is money well spent! (DVD’s are a lifesaver when you get delayed between flights.)

Verbal games work well. Don't give up planning dozens of verbal games for travel time, even after they're teens, for instance expanding Twenty Questions to geographical locations and historical characters related to your vacation will challenge everyone and eliminate car-sickness, arguments over crayon colors, and lost game pieces...

Blowing bubbles with Bubble Yum is a fun way to pass the time, it kept the ears popping instead of aching (for altitude).

Quiz each other with questions from "Brain Quest" cards.

Bring lots of travel activities a child can do on their lap:

Mini Etch-a-Sketch, deck of cards, small pencil case filled with crayons, stickers, scissor, tape and a stack of card stock. They can make ""postcards"" on the way and then address and send them when you get to your destination.


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