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Parenting Advice

10+ Ways To Keep Kids Entertained On Long Drives & Flights

Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano

Photography by Photographed by Sabrina Bot

Over the river and through the woods… If you’ve got a long drive or flight with your little one lurking in the very near future, we’ve got you. Once your own story-telling, family conversation, and multiple rounds of “I Spy” starts to dwindle, here are 10+ mama-approved ideas to get you through your journey with as few headaches/meltdowns as possible.

1. Kid-friendly apps. We’ve declared our love for both Sago Mini and Toca Boca apps before, and we’ll do it again. What we like about the variety of games under both of the sister companies’ umbrellas is that they support the concept of open-ended play, with games that foster creativity and fun over rules and competition.

2. Magic Pen Books & Scratch-Off Pads. If you’re looking to limit your kid’s screen time, there are still tons of entertainment options. One of our favorites is cracking open a brand-new Magic Pen Book or Scratch-Off Pad and letting your little devour it from cover to cover. Melissa & Doug’s Water Wow! books are also a favorite and, once they dry, can be reused all over again! Bonus Points: All of the above require no (or very minimal) mess.

3. Magnetic Puzzles & Games. In the same mess-free vein, magnetic puzzles and games are a solid option for long hauls in which you’d rather not risk a meltdown over tiny pieces dropped between seats. There are also a wide range of magnetic dress-up kits (we love these by Petit Collage) which should keep your kid happily engaged for an hour.

4. Etch-a-Sketch or Magna Doodle. There’s a reason these two toys are classic. Especially for children learning how to write letters and those who love to draw, a Magna Doodle board or Etch-A-Sketch can provide plenty of entertainment within their quaint four corners.

5. Music. If you’ve got the car to yourselves (versus an airplane), crank up the kiddie tunes (hello, Disney soundtracks!) and sing along to all the hits while the hours go by.

6. Podcasts & Audiobooks. There are so many great podcasts for kids these days, which are the perfect compliment to a long car ride. Check out Common Sense Media’s list of favorite podcasts for all ages. If you’ve got a child with a large enough attention span, check out the organization’s list of great audiobooks for kids, too! And for beginners, subscribe to the free Stories Podcast and see how your child takes to it.

7. Flap Books & Search-and-Find Books. A new or beloved flap book allows your child to interact at his own pace, and with lots of fun surprises behind each tab. Pro tip: Look for one with as many flaps as possible! While there are plenty of toddler-themed flap books on the market, there are also versions for older kids, too—for example, this one allows them to explore the human body! Meanwhile, Where’s Waldo-style books are also great (and relatively time-consuming) for the 5-and-up set. Some of our current favorites: Where’s Warhol?, A Thousand Billion Things (And Some Sheep), and One Hundred Things To Spot.

8. Stickers and Window Decals. We’ve heard wonders about the mesmerizing effect of re-useable stickers (these specifically), and the same goes for removeable window decals for the plane or car window.

9. Simple Art Supplies. No need to invest in anything new if you don’t want to. Paper (with or without a clipboard), colored pencils (crayons can get sticky in a sunny car), coloring books, and washable markers all do the entertainment trick. Play-Doh, Silly Putty, and Bubber molding dough (with some sort of surface to play with them on) are all also great travel companions.

10. Naps, Snacks, & Surprises. It might go without saying, but timing your trip to just before nap time is a great way to have little passengers peacefully doze through half the trip. Also, pulling out snacks (the more interactive/time-consuming to eat, the better) at important intervals is also key. And lastly, any little surprise you can pull out for your kid (any of the ideas above, or something else on their wishlist) mid-trip is sure to get those hours moving along a little bit faster and joyfully.

Got your own tips and tricks to share? Add ’em to the comments below!

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