Expert gives top tips for how to keep the kids entertained on car journeys during the summer holidays

All parents dread the question ‘are we there yet?’ from their children on long trips

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Any parent or carer will tell you that one of the most dreaded questions to come out of children’s mouths is ‘are we there yet?’ when travelling in the car. Now the summer holidays are here, the chances of hearing that question increase as you head out on family day trips or holidays.

It is almost inevitable that these words will be uttered by little ones on journeys, unfortunately, as they become bored and fed up as they sit in the same position for minute after minute and possibly even hour after hour. For some families, it’s also guaranteed that children will ask this question only moments after leaving home.

It’s difficult for mums, dads and carers to entertain their kids in the car though. They are usually the ones driving, of course, and even if they’re not they may be needed to help the driver with directions. Even if this isn’t the case, it’s always trickier to play with a child in the confined space of a car.

But, fear not, NationalWorld has spoken to parenting coach Anita Cleare to get her top tips on how to make sure the kids - and you - remain happy and occupied during the duration of any car journey. Plus, keep reading for suggestions of games the whole family can play.

How to keep children entertained on car journeys

These are the five top tips from Cleare:

Take more activities than you think you’re going to need

You will run out of activities at some point during the journey, so it’s a good idea to have plenty of back-up options. However, she advises to keep some of them back and don’t give them all to the kids at once so that if they are getting a little bit restless you’ve got something you can bring out.

Make a list of games

Cleare advises ensuring you have a list of the games which are available to you, either on a piece of paper or in your head, so you can quickly introduce a new one if one game suggestion isn’t preferred or the kids are starting to fuss. This also stops you from getting flustered or stressed.

Bring snacks

Food and drinks are a must for a peaceful car journey with children. Cleare says these are “top essential items” to keep the kids going.

Expert tips for how to keep children occupied on long car journeys, and game ideas all the family will enjoy.Expert tips for how to keep children occupied on long car journeys, and game ideas all the family will enjoy.
Expert tips for how to keep children occupied on long car journeys, and game ideas all the family will enjoy.

Bring books and toys

“The more prepared you can be with different activities, different ideas, different resources, the smoother the journey is going to be, because kids get bored really quickly,” says Cleare, so she suggests adults pack a small bag for children which they can carry with them full of their favourite toys and books. 

Stop off at your local Welcome Break service station

If you have run out of games to play with children, then stop off at a Welcome Break where you’ll be able to pick up a special activity pack the service station has created in conjunction with online education resource centre Twinkl. This includes a range of activities and puzzles which will engage children with their surroundings.

Games to play with children on car journeys

Here are six games you can play with children while travelling in the car. They are all fun, easy and require no prior preparation.

The number plate game

The premise of this game is simple, ask the kids to keep a really close eye on the cars around you and the first one to see a number plate beginning with a certain letter wins.

The alphabet game

Everyone in the car looks out for road signs that include each letter of the alphabet, starting with A and ending with Z - but you can only move to another letter when the one before has been seen.

Eye spy

A traditional game which can be played anywhere any time, and asks everyone to take it in turns to say what they see. One person says that they can see something beginning with a certain letter from the car and then everyone else has to guess what it is they can see. You also have to use the phrase ‘I spy with my little eye something beginning with’.

Memory game

There are different variations of this game, but one player usually starts with the line ‘I went on a picnic and I brought with me’. They then say an item and each person in the car takes it in turns to repeat the line, plus the items other players have said and then add on their own. It gets harder as you go around the group multiple times, with everyone adding on a new item each time. It’s up to you if you want to add in a rule which says the items have to be remembered in order or not.

Word association game

One person says a word, which could be literally anything, and then each person has to take it in turns to say a word that is somehow related to it. So, for example, you might start with the word ‘garden’ and then someone else may say ‘flower’ or ‘grass’.

Encourage the children to stay quiet for longer by telling them they are in competition with each other to see who can stay quiet for the longest. The one who is the last to say something wins.