I recently came across two articles in well-known publications with tips for family road trips where both included helpful reminders to not only pre-charge and pack up all your family’s favorite electronic devices (tablets, phones, other electronics), but one went so far as to recommend bringing extra car chargers and a splitter to make sure they can continue distracting the kids at every possible moment of your drive.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m no stranger to screens and neither are my kids. But it worries me that so many kids are becoming conditioned to pull out a gadget or game every time they need to wait or experience a quiet lull in their lives. And on family road trips, where the world is literally passing them by through the windows of the car—they might not even know where they have been.
On your next family road trip, I hope you’ll try to minimize–if not eliminate–the screen time during your driving hours and instead maximize the memories. Here are a few ways to make the drive time more fun and more memorable for everyone.
1. Create an in-car zip line.
You know those little flip-down coat hanger hooks in the back seat of your car? Here is what they’re good for. Attach one end of a cord or string to the bar of the head rest of a front seat and the other to the coat hook. Using a carabiner clip and rubber band, attach one adventuresome action figure or plastic pony to the cord and voila. This gets more entertaining the more kids you have in the car, especially if you have two rows of back seats. It can even be used to help pass snacks siblings.
2. Talk about where you are. Seriously.
Even in the ugliest, smelliest corners of America, there are things to be learned and gained by discussing what you are seeing with your kids. Perhaps especially when driving through the ugliest, smelliest corners of America. To let your kids just tune it out and stare at the same game they’d play at home on a rainy day is to miss the entire point of traveling with your children. And when you are traveling through the country’s most beautiful regions? Stop the car and make sure your kids take note—if not several pictures of their own. It’s a shame to cover so much ground without putting your feet upon it.
3. Sing your hearts out.
There’s no law that says the soundtrack to a family roadtrip has to include furry characters or tween pop stars. School your kids on the classics and get them singing along with you before they are too old and too into their own collections to think they know better. Personally, I go for an eclectic mix to keep them guessing what’s next: ABBA, Ella Fitzgerald, The Commitments, Pink Martini, Bob Dylan, Blondie—you just never know who mom will surprise you with next. And remember, if you don’t like the way someone sings in your car, then you’re not singing loud enough!
Do you have a favorite screen-free way way to enjoy the drive time with your kids? Share in a comment below!
You might also like this other post I wrote for TravelswithBaby.com: Five screen-free favorites to keep kids entertained during long flights. Safe journeys!