Tips for Road Tripping with Kids (#2)

Forget about distracting the kids with a handful of vids; instead, keep them engaged with the real world. In fact, sometimes the whole family can actually learn something...

The second in our ongoing series of road trip tips. We've logged over 16,000 miles in the past four years with kids in the car (often with our 120 lb. Great Dane/German Shepard mix, the late, great Wookie).

Skip the DVDs, use books and other interactive media

DVDs make kids dumb, books don't. Puzzle-, coloring-, game-, and comic books can keep kids involved without creating that glazed-over vidiot look. A lot of times, we'll use a video as a reward for great behavior: at the end of the day, he can watch a movie. This works well because when it's dark in the van, it's hard to the read books. The down side is that movies keep kids awake.

The Klutz game book is a pretty good option (although there are lots of little game pieces that could get lost pretty quickly in the chaos of the backseat); there are quite a variety of activities in there. A yellow pad and a pencil keep Tommy busy for hours, but some kids may not be as enthralled with art as Tommy is. Magna-doodles are magnetic drawing slates that make learning to read and learning basic arithmetic fun. Etch-a-sketch works well (it helps if one of the parents is an etch-a-sketch wiz, as is Tinsley). A car seat tray is a convenient way to keep their toys, pencils, game pieces and goldfish off the floor.

One of the best tricks we've found is to give Tommy a road atlas with our route highlighted in yellow. As we make progress, Tommy tracks it with another highlighter pen (blue, green). Now, the signs and town names make a little more sense to him because he can see them out the window. And he doesn't have to ask "are we there yet?". Tip: don't try to share the atlas with your back seat adventurer, and don't get one with teeny maps, big maps are more interesting.

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