Entertaining Kids on the Road This Summer
–by Jon Saunders
Travel is one of the best educational tools for kids; exposing them to different cultures and firing their imaginations with images and climates that they may never have dreamt of. It gives them a sense of the wider world and their position in it which seems essential in a quickly globalising society.
This doesn’t mean that taking your kids on holiday is all plain-sailing. Children naturally don’t have the same faculties for exploration as we do so long journeys and dry cultural detours can be boring for them.
If you’re visiting museums and galleries you need to keep kids involved and try to give context to what they’re seeing and experiencing. Make it a shared adventure and they’ll feed off your enthusiasm for the subjects, but once again you will be faced with times when your enthusiasm and skills as a parent are tested.
For long journeys a smartphone or tablet can be one of the easiest ways to keep your kids entertained. Giving your kids a smartphone doesn’t just mean they can play the latest apps, they can also chronicle their journey and find facts about the places they’re visiting.
There are a number of fantastic apps available on Android, Windows and iOS, and most of the best ones are free or very cheap.
Google Earth can be an excellent way of registering where they are and where they’re going, and there are a million games you can make up yourself from this application.
‘Comics in the Classroom’ is an excellent app as a source of historical education. Kids fill in speech bubbles to demonstrate they’ve grasped the popular historical subjects. It’s free to download then you can purchase new comics for free.
‘Mystery Math Town’ is similarly involving, with kids exploring spooky dwellings, solving maths puzzles as they wander through the virtual properties. This app is available for a small fee.
Getting kids reading is always tricky but if the books are incorporated into their ever present tablets, they’re much more prone to explore classic children’s books. Try apps like ‘Me Books’, download stories onto e-readers and Kindles to see if your child takes an interest. There’s something much more compelling about an e-reader than a tangible book to a modern child which probably reflects the age we live in.
Another reflection of our times is the fact that older (and sometimes younger kids) will often want to play the apps that we play as adults. If you monitor how long they play, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with kids having a short stint on ‘LEGO Star Wars’ or the like.
Try to avoid those expensive apps riddled with in-play payments and also remember that kids do sometimes need to be bored. If you’re nearly at your destination you can simply discuss the nature of your trip or resort to an old favourite like ‘I Spy’.
For me this is one of the main sources of entertainment while on the road, especially when driving. Small, non-messy snacks that take a while to consume always work best.
For flights I always pack healthy snacks in my hand luggage, especially on the pan-European flights with economy airlines. Typically this includes granola bars, carrot sticks, apples, nuts and cereals.
Both audio and physical books offer a fantastic way to keep your kids entertained and engaged on the road. Packing their favourite books ensure that they are not plugged into electronics for the whole journey. Books about the destination you are travelling to can really help kids get excited about the trip.
From the parents’ perspective audio books provide a relatively passive way to keep kids entertained. Simply put on the audio and kids, if you choose the right title, can become instantly transfixed.
Travelsavvymom offers a list of the best audio books for kids by age group. Below I have included our favourite audio book for kids:
- Matilda by Roald Dahl
- The Gruffalo & Friends Boxed Set by Julia Donaldson
- The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L Frank Baum
- Stuck by Oliver Jeffers
- Horrid Henry’s Nightmare by Francesca Simon
Additionally you can use a free audio book site like Storynory. The site has hundreds of traditional and original stories, all beautifully read.
Do you have any tips I’ve missed?