Get Out the Snacks, Build a ‘Wall of Peace’… 10 Guaranteed Screen-Free Ways to Keep Kids Entertained in the Car | Family

Play the pub game

When I was a kid there weren’t any screens so we played the “pub game”. You search for ads on your side of the car and receive one point per ad. However, if the pub name is something with legs then you get extra points – one point per leg e.g. man and dog would be seven points (two for man, four for dog, plus one for the pub itself). I once had The Shepherd and Flock and was delighted! It is also minus a point if the name contains “weapons”, for example, the king’s arms. Kate Griffith, Shropshire

In the land of history … Photograph: MoMo Productions / Getty Images (pose by model)

Listening to audiobooks

My kids are grown up now, but we’ve always listened to audiobooks. There were occasions when they continued to sit in the car (even after a long drive) to finish listening to a chapter. I believe this activity enhanced their love of books, their creativity, their ability to tell a story and their comprehension skills in an academic setting. Darlene Simmonds, Director of Community Relations, Florida

Two sisters asleep on roadtripGettyImages-1015400126
Good fences make good neighbors? Photography: Justin Paget / Getty Images (poses by models)

Install a “wall of peace”

My two now adult daughters have been constantly annoyed and bickering in the backseat on long drives. My solution was to create a “wall of peace” by placing a large piece of triple-ply corrugated cardboard between them. It stretched from the roof to the seat and showed only an inconspicuous line in the driver’s mirror. They were completely isolated from each other, but I made a small opening window for them to pass objects. While traveling, they decorated the “wall” with stickers and crayons; it was the perfect solution for a peaceful trip. They loved it and we probably used it for about three years. Jim Ford, retired, Watford

Hiccups in the movie How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.
Hiccup in the movie How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World… the original books are very popular for long journeys. Photography: DreamWorks / AP

Create a playlist

We use audiobooks for the long haul: How to Train Your Dragon (by Cressida Cowell) is very popular and the horrific stories are great too. We also download radio plays and use kid-friendly CDs to learn a bit of the language of the country we are visiting. The best have songs that we can then rehearse. We use Spotify to create different playlists for our trip, with music from the country we are visiting or favorite albums from our childhood. The soundtracks for the movies are excellent and varied – Top Gun was a favorite. Or we get a friend to make a playlist for us, as it’s a good way to listen to music that you wouldn’t normally choose. We also try to sing a few rounds (like Frère Jacques) and we try as long as possible to resist the screens … Anonymous, Wales

Assorted Color Ink Highlighters
Rainbow happiness … Photograph: Douglas Sacha / Getty Images

Take coloring books

Just returned from Cornwall to Stourbridge – a four hour trip on a good day – I was amazed at how amused our two children (an eight year old boy and a five year old girl) were with a news coloring. book and markers. I had assumed we would have screams for tech within five miles of our departure, but they were happy for at least an hour! Colin Maltby, Project Manager, Stourbridge

Play counting game

No one is allowed to look at each other or communicate in any way. The first person says the number “one”, and anyone can follow up with the next number, and so on. If two people say the same number at the same time, the game starts over at one. The idea is to see how much family can count – it rarely hits 10 if no one is cheating or taking turns. The silence while everyone is waiting and deciding whether to speak or not is amazing. Duncan Drury, IT consultant, Cumbria

Close up view of child's hand holding and eating cookies while traveling by car.
Nibbletastic … Photograph: yevtony / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Pack snacks

Our kids are seven, five, and two, and we go 600 miles round trip to see my in-laws about three times a year. When they were little we would try to drive at night while they were sleeping. Now that they’re older, we’ve found it best to leave as early as possible in the morning – in a way, that puts everyone in a better mood. Plan the trip ahead of time and say how excited you are about the actual trip – never tell the kids you’re worried it will be boring. Most importantly, pack snacks – the most forbidden snacks! Snacking rules are suspended for the duration of the trip (but take charge of water bottles, otherwise they will need the toilet after 30 minutes). Sophie, researcher, Guildford

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Put it into words … Photograph: Fuse / Getty Images (posed by models)

Talk to each other

Have conversations! It will help you stay alert while driving and it’s nice to use potentially boring long journeys as a chance to talk about anything and everything, without any other distractions or demands for time. Talk about whatever interests your kids, even if that means finding out what they plan to build next in Minecraft, or what they love about their favorite YouTuber. Angelo Basu, lawyer, Leeds

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It’s at the top! Carefully hide your thimble … Photograph: Andrew Thomas / Getty Images

Play I hid a thimble

Our preschoolers love games like Which Is Bigger? and what costs more? – a simple game to help small children understand the comparison between two elements. They will find it easy to guess what costs more between a cookie and a house, but more difficult when it comes to a book and shoes, for example. Another favorite for older kids is I’ve Hidden a Thimble. Players take turns to “hide” an imaginary thimble somewhere at any point in the story, in any real or fictional universe. The other players ask questions to find the secret hiding place. Could it be on top of Big Ben? Could it be under Grandpa’s pillow? Could it be in Shrek’s pants? The possibilities are endless, so it’s a good filler time and always a fascinating insight into how players’ minds work. Holly Smith, wedding officiant, Hertfordshire

Car phoneGirl using a vintage Bakelite phone in the back seat of a car.
Get these plush toys on the line! Photograph: Donald Iain Smith / Getty Images (pose by model)

Call teddy at home

When we were three, our son made us dance to Baby Shark on loop in the car for about five hours. As he gets older, he is sometimes content to listen to his favorite songs without forcing us to dance (old Hindi movie songs from the 1940s and 1950s are his favorite at the moment). We also talk about what we’re going to do once we get to our destination; comprehensive planning, hour by hour, passes the time (“I’m going to wake up, pee, brush my teeth, go for a walk, have my breakfast, what’s on the menu? breakfast? ”You understand!). If this is a group trip and there is a friend in the car, we have a contest to see who naps first and longest. When he was younger, our son pretended to have phone calls with the stuffed animals he left at home; as he gets older he has real phone calls with his grandparents, where he can relate everything he did or said in the car. Tanya Aggarwal, lawyer and part-time writer, India

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