Hacks to keep your child happy and calm in the car

Taking a trip with the kids? Try these seven tips to keep your children busy and calm in the car.

 Long car trips don’t need to ruin the start of your holiday. With a little planning you can keep your kids calm and happy while travelling.

Ask any parent and they’ll tell you the hardest part of going on holiday with kids is the drive! It’s a sad truth: Your car used to be your ticket to freedom, but now it’s purely functional – a torture house on wheels, as you drive for hours on agonising end towards your much-needed holiday. But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. There are ways of cracking the complex algorithm of how to keep your kids occupied while you’re in the car so that you can avoid starting off your holiday feeling even more frazzled than you did the day before you left.

Try these seven ideas to keep your journey as calm and pleasant as possible and to arrive at your destination not completely worn out:

The trip will take longer than you planned

The sooner you realise that your journey will take longer than it used to before you had kids, the better. The reality is that you’ll need to stop at least every two to three hours along the way: little people – particularly toddlers – need regular breaks to curb boredom, go to the loo and run around in the fresh air. If you do need to break the journey up and stay overnight somewhere, choose somewhere scenic (and family-friendly) and make it part of your holiday, rather than seeing it as a delay.

Give in to screen time

While limiting your child’s screen time is generally a good idea, it’s worth breaking this rule on a roadtrip for some parental sanity. To feel less guilty about it, preload your iPad with educational games so that your tot is learning something while also staying occupied. If you have more than one child and only one tablet, either work out clear sharing schedules (good luck!) or buy something that allows you to hang the iPad over the back of a headrest, so all the kids can watch a movie together.

Put on some tunes your tot will enjoy

Unless you’re travelling with a newborn, give up your dreams of listening to your beloved music collection that’s gathered dust while you’ve been parenting. Instead, pull out the nursery rhyme CDs and make a game of singing along with your kids.

Don’t forget the snacks

This is a great anticipation tool that helps break the journey into chunks. Set the expectation for fun snacks every half an hour, so they have something to look forward to. Raisins, rusks, sticks of biltong – go for dry snacks that won’t make too much mess and require a change of clothes.

Play old-fashioned games

There’s a reason games like “I spy” and car cricket have been around forever – they’re still entertaining and require but a bit of mental effort. Plus they help teach skills like spelling and Maths and they’re a great way to get the adults involved too.

Lucky packets and surprise gift bag

Kids love toys that come with novelty and excitement, not necessarily an expensive price tag. Go to your local Clicks or Dis-Chem and buy a handful of cheap toys (bargain bins are great for this!). Wrap them up individually in colourful paper and give one to your child for every hour that passes. You can also use these as rewards for good behaviour.

Let them capture some digital camera shots

Most people use their phones to take photos these days, so if you have an old digital camera with a playback screen lying around, consider letting your kids use it to take their first selfie series during the journey. If there’s one thing they’ll love more than taking the actual pictures, it will be looking at photos of themselves on the camera afterward.