How We Survive Car Trips

My second child used to cry endlessly in the car...because it was too hot, too cold, too sunny, too whatever. It seemed like her list of problems would never end. Then one day, I noticed a trend. She didn't cry or complain about anything as long as she had something to keep her busy. Duh, right? I know.

So I hatched a plan. A plan for turning my car into the entertainment mobile.

I hopped on over to Michaels in search of a box just the right size to fit snuggly in between the two children's car seats in the back of my sedan. It won't fit if it's too big, but it'll always fall down at every sudden stop if it's too small. (If you only have one child seat in the back, or if you have a minivan, then I don't know how you'd keep it in your own inner MacGyver.)

So now you have a box. An entertainment box. Preferably with built-in compartments. But even then, it's only got like, what, two compartments, maybe three? You need more space. I mean, if you're just driving around town, the box is enough. But if you're doing longer day trips and you're going to be stuck in the car for multiple hours, then more is better.

For that purpose, I also bought each child a backseat organizer. There isn't much in their organizers most of the time, but if we are going on longer trips then I load them up with more activity options, snacks, drinks, iPads, stuffed animals, etc.

So what do I do with all that space? All those compartments? Fill them with different activities. It doesn't have to be all new stuff all the time, but keep rotating the activities so they don't get stale. So here are some ideas:

  • Books: I rotate the books so it's not always the same ones. Picture books work okay, but I find graphic novels are even better because there's more content to look at and more pages to turn. Wordless graphic novels are perfect for non-readers, but even graphic novels for older children are entertaining for can get a lot of the stories from just the pictures anyway. I'll include good car reads in the products section as the blog continues to grow.
  • Lego/Duplo: I use Lego bricks at home when I can supervise the kids, but Duplo in the car just because I don't really trust my 3-year-old with the small Legos unsupervised. Plus, Duplo bricks are big so there won't be that many that fit in the box. It's limiting in terms of building options, but on the other hand, it means they're quick to pick up even if they all end up on the ground.
  • Coloring: My kids don't like coloring books, but they love a blank sketchbook. Don't buy the kid-brand paper pads, though. Instead, get a nice mixed media sketchbook, like the Canson XL Mix Media Sketchbook. I find they hold up to markers better without the paper tearing up if it gets too wet. I usually save my Michaels coupons so that I can buy them at a decent discount, and it ends up being not much more expensive per page anyway. Do, however, buy kid-brand markers that are to wipe off easily if your kids get creative with the car interior!
  • Scratch art paper: There's a number of options from a number of brands, for example this Melissa & Doug Scratch Art Sketch Pad.
  • Activity books: My kids aren't big into activity books, like, at all. I have a select few they've actually enjoyed, and I'll share those in the product section as I find them.
  • Games: Few games are truly easy to play in the car, but I occasionally find some. Again, I'll share those in the product sections soon.

With my entertainment mobile, we were able to drive from Santa Barbara to San Diego (3.5 hours each way) without having to give the girls iPads at any point. We are definitively not an anti-screen family, but anytime they can entertain themselves without resolving to Frozen is a win in my book.