Keeping Kids Entertained on Summer Road Trips while Giving Technology a Break

How to Keep Kids Entertained on the Road WITHOUT TechnologyIt’s summer and for many that means family road trip! I decided to search the internet for ways to entertain my son on the road and nearly everything was technology related. There were mentions of Nintendo DS, iPads and tablets, and even lists of the top 10 apps. I love technology as much as the next person, but on long road trips, we have a couple of issues. First and foremost is that my son gets car sick so if he spends a long time looking at a screen, he will get nauseated. Second, while many can be plugged into the vehicle’s DC outlet, gadgets can and do die. Third, sometimes we just need a technology break. With that in mind, I asked around and found some new technology-free ways to entertain kids (and adults) on road trips as well as remembered a few from my own childhood when technology wasn’t an option.

Rubik’s Cube – Remember these? They still make them and kids still love them. My son saw a friend at summer camp with one and actually wrote to me requesting one. I even picked it up myself a few times and remembered how bad I am at actually solving it. Oh well. It works on keeping him entertained and that’s what counts.

License Plate Bingo or Map – There are many versions of this game, but the basic premise is always the same. Players must find cars with license plates from different states. In the version with which I’m most familiar, players are given bingo-style cards with different states listed in the squares. Just like in real bingo, each player has different states and a different configuration. A great place to get the cards is scholastic.com. The winner is whoever gets five in a row first. In a map version I’ve seen, players are given a map of the United States. The first player to spot a license plate from a state gets to color it in on his or her map. The one with the most states colored in at a pre-determined time or location wins. This might be a great way to get a little geography lesson in as well.

Yellow CarBanana Game – Players watch for yellow cars and shout out, “Banana!” when one is spotted. The first to shout banana gets a point. The one with the most points at a predetermined time or destination wins. One variation adds monkeys. When a UPS truck is spotted, the first person to spot it shouts, “Monkey!” and that is an automatic win.

Grocery Game – Starting with the letter A, players take turns naming things that can be found in a grocery store. For example, the first player must say something that begins with A like apple. The second would have B and could say banana and so on. Players are eliminated when they can’t think of a word for their specified letter. The last one remaining after all others have been eliminated wins.

I Spy or Bottled Treasure – The premise of this is very simple. One looks for small objects hidden in a bottle. I’ve seen them for sale at my local Target, but they can be made as well. Choose an assortment of hard, unbreakable, small items such as a paper clip, dime, safety pin, die, buttons, tiny toys and figures, and jewelry charms. Lay out the items and take a photo as a guide to what can be found. Using a funnel, fill a small clear bottle such as an empty water bottle with all the labels removed or a canning jar and fill it about an inch with filler material such as multi-colored rice, multi-colored beads, and maybe a little glitter mixed in. Then add a few of the trinkets. Add a little more of the filler then a few more trinkets until the bottle is about 3/4 full. Glue the lid onto the container and you’re finished.

Family Trivia – We actually play this game at our family reunion and it’s a great way for kids to learn about their extended family. Think of fun little facts about your relatives outside of your immediate family and ask questions. Who owns a dog named Buster? Who is a kindergarten teacher? Whose favorite movie is Cinderella? I kind of took it for granted, thinking my son knows what I know about my family, but had a wake up call when my son just learned that his grandpa used to be an EMT and that his great-grandpa fought in World War II.

Journey Treasure Map – This one takes a little advance preparation, but it’s a great way for kids to follow along on the progress of your trip instead of asking, “Are we there yet?” I’m sure there are other ways to make one, but what I tried was putting in our trip from start to finish on Google maps and then print screened it to a Word document. I then Googled to find photos of places that could be found along the way. It might be a local grocery store, a sign, anything that would be seen along the road during your trip. Once a location is found, a little, related treasure is given. For example, if the picture is of a grocery store, the treasure could be a favorite snack. It really cuts the trip into smaller, more manageable chunks and allows a child to see at a glance if the final destination is close.

Scavenger Hunt – Players are given a list (or photos) of items to be found along the trip. For example, items might be a red truck, a yellow school bus, a cow – literally anything you think you’ll see along the way. The first person to name an item as it is seen gets to cross that item off their list. The first one with a completed list wins. If you need ideas on what could be included on that list, there are some great ones at scavenger-hunt.org.

Magnetic or Similar Travel Games – My son loves Connect Four so when we found a little travel-sized Connect Four, it was perfect. I was a bit concerned that we’d lose some of the tiny pieces, but we’ve had it over a year and so far so good. I’ve also seen small, magnetic travel versions of checkers, Chinese checkers, backgammon and more. Playing cards are also great if there’s somewhere in the vehicle to play.

Reading/Coloring/Games in Books – I left this to last not only because most people immediately think of books, coloring, and word search or crossword puzzles when thinking of entertainment without technology, but also because for us, they cause the same motion sickness issues as a DS, video, or iPad. I couldn’t leave them off the list, though, because for most kids, they are a great option. For coloring, I really love the Crayola Color Wonder series because I never had to worry about marker or crayon on my car’s upholstery. My son also loved the Highlights magazines which have a great mix of stories and games for kids.

Do you have anything you do to keep your kids entertained on road trips when it’s time to give the technology a break? If so, I hope you’ll share it in the comments.

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