Travelling by car with the kids: a strategy to combat stress

‘Are we nearly there yet?’ This question comes just as surely as night follows day – and usually just before you are about to set off!

And then the journey stretches out like chewing gum. And the challenge increases – for the little ones as well as for the adults. Here are a few tips that will help to avoid stress during long car journeys with the children.

The following items should definitely be within easy reach in the car (depending on the age of the children):

  • Soft toys
  • Pacifiers (plus backups)
  • Toys (plus backups)
  • Magnetic board for drawing
  • CDs
  • A few biscuits
  • Drinks

It is also a good idea to have one or two surprises at the ready for each child. Something new is always more exciting and a very good form of distraction (purchase in advance). Examples include, a new CD, finger puppets, a book, a magnetic game, or a game of Happy Families or Top Trumps. Many pre-schoolers enjoy weaving and plaiting; you could simply attach a few threads to the back of the headrest.

10 games to play on a car journey

Game #1: I spy, with my little eye …

The all-time classic! This game can be challenging when you are travelling fast along the motorway. However, it is great to play with a hidden picture book, such as Where’s Wally? (as long as reading doesn’t make anyone feel sick …).

Game #2: Counting games

One person chooses what he wants to count (e.g. red cars that are travelling in the opposite direction) and the others have to guess what is being counted. You can count practically anything, e.g. tunnels, bridges, blue cars or red cabriolets …

Game #3: Car theatre

What about a finger puppet theatre? You don’t necessarily need puppets; your children can put on a performance with soft toys, dolls or even toy cars. Perhaps the tickle monster could come to visit? If necessary, you could even use a piece of paper that is folded into a little ship or hat that will fit over a finger.

Game #4: Thingamabob – guessing game

One player thinks of an object (the object does not necessarily have to be visible) and then describes its characteristics. The others guess what the object could be. An example: ‘My thingamabob is yellow, slightly curved and you could injure yourself with it if you are not careful. However, you can also eat it and it tastes delicious …’ (Solution: banana)
 Variation: Sometimes children enjoy describing as many things about an object as possible without actually naming it. You don’t necessarily have to turn it into a guessing game. The children can take it in turns to describe the object or they can give the clues together.

Game #5: Children’s car licence plate game

There are several variations to this game:

  • Guess the licence plate: Where does the car come from (country or area code)?
  • Create sentences: Every letter in the licence plate is the first letter of a word. The sentence does not need to make any sense if small children are taking part and the words do not need to relate to each other. You can also limit the words to a particular theme, such as animals.
  • Licence plate bingo: Each player writes down ten licence plates. The quizmaster calls out the numbers on the car licence plates as the cars drive past. If any of the numbers that are called out appear on a player’s sheet, it can then be crossed out. The first person to cross out all the numbers on the sheet has won.
  • Licence plate maths: Decide at the beginning of the game which number operation you are going to do: add, subtract, multiply, divide or checksums. The speed at which the sum is calculated determines who is the maths king or queen.

Game #6: Palm reading

Player 1 closes her eyes and holds out her hand (palm facing up) to player 2. Player 2 draws a shape on the palm of the other player’s hand. Player 1 guesses which shape has been drawn. This also works with letters and numbers.

Game #7: Pack the suitcase

The first player starts the game by saying, ‘I am packing my suitcase and I am taking: a hand towel.’ The next player packs another item, ‘I am packing my suitcase and I am taking: a hand towel and a ball.’ And so on …

Game #8: Puzzles, jokes and tongue twisters

Preschoolers love solving simple puzzles, such as ‘What can run but does not have any legs?’ (solution: your nose) – or maybe try some tongue twisters such as, ‘Fuzzy wuzzy was a bear. Fuzzy wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy wuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy, was he?’, ‘Eleven elves licked eleven little liquorice lollipops.’ or ‘Red lorry, yellow lorry.’ Children’s jokes can lighten the mood on the backseat. Spoonerisms can also be amusing for older children.

Game #9: Yes! No! game

You can say anything in this game except for the words ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Examples of great winter sports activities include The quizmaster – Mum or Dad – asks a question such as,
‘Do you like pizza?’ – ‘Of course!’
’Do you like going swimming?’ – ‘That goes without saying!’
’Shall I buy you an ice cream at the service station?’ – ‘That would be great!’
The game ends if the words ‘yes’ or ‘no’ are spoken. A point is awarded for each answer. The player with the most points wins.

Game #10: My world and your world

Each player focuses on his or her view out of the car i.e. what can be seen on either the left or right-hand side. Player 1 describes his world to player 2: ‘I have 20 cows which I milk every day. I supply the people with my delicious and healthy milk.’ Player 2 then tries to outdo player 1 and describes: ‘I can see the town where I am king. I am a great king who looks after all his loyal subjects.’ The game can continue to develop as the players begin to describe their fantasy worlds.

Another great activity is singing together

Singing lifts the spirits and helps the time to pass more quickly. It has been scientifically proven that singing improves mood and stimulates the circulatory and immune systems. You can play lots of great singing games:

  • Dream concert: Where does the car come from (country or area code)?
  • Guess the song: Sing or whistle a well-known song to your children who then have to guess the title.
  • Themes: Work together to come up with the names of songs that fit a certain theme (e.g. songs about animals, the summer …) and then sing them together.
  • Car karaoke: Sing along to your favourite songs that are being played on a CD.

Last but not least:
take plenty of breaks!

Many of the more modern service stations also have excellent children’s play areas.

Well then: Have a good trip! Hope you have a safe and entertaining journey!

Birgit schreibt unter anderem für Happy Kompass - den JUFA-Blog. JUFA Hotels bieten erholsamen Familienurlaub und einen unvergesslichen Winter- und Wanderurlaub.
Über die Autorin: Birgit von Muttis Nähkästchen

Birgit plaudert auf ihrem Familienblog seit 2009 aus dem Nähkästchen. Am Blog „Muttis Nähkästchen“ geht es um den ganz normalen Familienwahnsinn, die Herausforderungen im Familienalltag genauso wie Reisen mit Kind oder auch Auszeiten ohne Kind. Denn Reisen erweitert den Horizont!

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