How to Keep Children Entertained  When Travelling

Children are born to move not sit in restraints. Herein lies the challenge when travelling with children:  how to entertain them, distracting them from their discomfort and frustration and teaching them how to self-regulate so that they can cope and keeping family sanity at the same time.

I have been advising parents for many years on how to parent effectively on the run including the daily commute or on long distance travelling for holidays. There are some evergreen tips and advice for having fun and keeping your family sanity.


10 Rules for Travelling With Children

  1. You need to engage with your kids. They will not be able to distract themselves for the entire journey (unless you give them permanent access to your cellphone or tablet!). If you don’t want them glued to a screen, then you must be prepared to be get involved with them.
  2. Get in the back seat with your kids. If you have two warring children in the back seat and there are two adults present, then take turns to sit between the children for at least 20 minutes at a time to distract them from each other.
  3. Understand that kids misbehave usually to get your attention. If you pay conscious attention by engaging with them, the need to get your attention reduces dramatically.
  4. Use the art of distraction. By having fun together you distract them from their discomfort.
  5. Always try and travel when it would be sleep time. If you can plan your travels around your child’s normal routine, such as travelling by car in the dark of the early hours of the morning, you are likely to have fewer hours of awake time.
  6. Maximise family connection time in the car. Sing together, play word games and include some travel-friend games and toys in the mix.
  7. Pack a Fun on the Run bag or suitcase of toys for the car. More on these in the next section.
  8. Keep interesting snacks and drinks on hand. Use them in between play times.
  9. Take regular breaks to let your children run, jump and go to the toilet.
  10. Teach your child to learn how to cope. Being trapped in car seats and seat belts as it is something they are going to have to deal with for their whole lives. If you can turn travel time into happy memory making time, they will have positive associations with travel and it will not become the annual family nightmare. Learning how to travel well is a life skill.

Toys and Games for Travelling

The types of activities for packing in the Fun on the Run bag or suitcase include some of the following:

  • Stickers and sticker books
  • Something to draw with and on that is age appropriate
    • A magic magnetic sketcher
    • Water drawing activities
    • Colouring in books
    • Activity books
  • Something to read
    • Board books for babies
    • Sound books for toddlers
    • Reading books for older children
  • Something to fascinate
    • Bendy, twisty toys
    • Pipe cleaners for older children
  • Building toys
    • A small suitcase of click together construction toys like Zoob can keep kids busy for ages
  • Top Trumps cards (there are so many kinds available you can choose something that matches your child’s interests eg. comparing dinosaurs or fast cars etc)
  • 30 Seconds or Trival Pursuit cards (whip them out of the board games boxes and take the cards on your travels for on the run fun)
  • Pez Man sweets (something to eat and fascination combined)
  • Craft activities (a knitting Nancy, or crochet, for example)
  • Brain games of logic with lots of challenges (there are many travel sized ones available)

Variety is important when selecting games and toys for travelling. Think about your child and what would interest them and hold their attention. Go through their toy cupboards and you will find lots of items that they may have forgotten about that would be great to take along if they are portable enough.

The Use of Tech When Travelling With Children

We live in an increasingly digital world. A tablet or cellphone with kids gaming apps will always keep your child focused and sitting still. Just make sure it is not the only thing your child is engaged with on your travels. If you have children under 12 you need to be the boss determining when they play on a screen and for how long. This also means you need to be available to engage with them when screen time is up!

Travelling with children provides busy parents with the perfect opportunity to connect and build memories and relationships. Make sure you use the time to your advantage by spending as much face-to-face time as possible with your kids and creating fun wherever you are with whatever you have at your disposal, whether it be a paper serviette and a pen, or a deck of cards. Make your travel time count.

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