Child-friendly road trip pursuits

Many young families will be heading
overseas for a week or longer. Nothing derails a family road trip faster than
bored backseat passengers. A well-stocked activity bag can mute the “Are we
there yet?” melody from the rear and help you log some serious miles in peace.

How elaborate your activity bag
should be depends on the length of your trip, how many children you’ll need to
entertain, and their ages and attention spans. These parent- and kid-tested
supplies will help you motor without meltdowns.

Books on tape or CD: Nothing makes
the miles fly by faster. Fairy tales and other familiar stories are your best
bet for keeping toddlers’ attention. Starting at about age 3, most kids can
follow a more complex story line, and books-on-tape become a great way to pass
time on the road. You can all listen together to family favourites like Harry
Potter, or the kids can listen on individual portable audio players with
headphones, allowing the adults in the car to rock out or listen to something
more sophisticated. Check your local library for free rentals.

Portable CD or tape player/s:
Remember headphones and plenty of AA batteries.

A 9” x 12” baking sheet: Use as a
playing surface so crayons, Matchbox cars, Lego, and other small items don’t
roll away. (Repeatedly retrieving dropped toys gets old really quickly.)

Magnetised letters, numbers, and
shapes: Use these with the baking sheet to make words, spell names or create

Sticker books, activity books and
stick-on plastic picture sets: Particularly great for toddlers — they allow
your child to express creativity without using pens on the upholstery.

Crayons or markers: Markers are
best for kids age 3 and up, crayons for kids under 3.

A trip notebook: A great way to
capture memories of your family’s road trip. Your children can draw and place
stickers en route, and you can help by adding a few notes about the trip at the
end of the day.

Sticker cameras: These zippy little
cameras (like the I-Zone) spit out miniature instant photos with adhesive
backing. You can really burn some rubber while your kids wait for their photos
to develop. They can add these images to their trip notebook.

A few gift-wrapped surprise
presents: Hint: if you wrap them in several layers, they take longer to open.
You can even recycle old toys — several months before a trip, find a few small
toys that your child enjoys but hasn’t played with in a while and pack them
away. Then wrap them and give them to your child on the road.

Coloured pipe cleaners: Make
animals, people, jewellery, or just crazy shapes.

Soap bubbles: Don’t worry about the
upholstery; you can wipe it down later (with soap!). Blowing bubbles keeps kids
of all ages busy. Blow them out the window and have one person keep watch for
the reactions in other cars.

A small flashlight: Useful for rest
stops at night, but also fun to shine out the window (as long as it’s not
pointed at other drivers). Can also make it easier to read or draw in the back
seat without bothering the driver.

A miniature battery-powered clip-on
reading light: Absolutely essential for older kids, allowing them light for
reading, card games, and other activities without distracting the driver.

A portable DVD/video player: A
sure-fire sanity-saver on a long trip. If your car isn’t equipped with one, you
can rent a portable player online and they’ll ship it to you.

Restaurant fun box: Put crayons,
pens and colouring books or paper and some plastic animals, cars, or blocks in
a separate box or giant resealable plastic bag that you can bring into
restaurants with you to make wait time go faster.


Take a supply of kid-friendly activities and help the miles fly by on holiday road trips.
Photo: File