Published: 1 April 2021. Written by: Simon Jackson.
As lockdown restrictions lift, longer car trips are allowed – and keeping the kids entertained on the journey is vital for both sanity and safety. Read our five essential tips…
It feels like the kids have only just gone back to school but believe it or not the holidays are upon us – and that means we need to find ways to keep the small people in our lives entertained again. Lockdown restrictions are gradually easing, and outdoor activities remain the best option for parents looking to answer that eternally frustrating question uttered up and down the country every school holiday: ‘What are we doing today?’
The answer often involves getting in the car and heading somewhere new (especially with many of us bored with our local areas). However, children can be exceptionally distracting for parents while driving so it benefits us and them if we can keep them quiet and occupied on the move.
Researchers from Monash University in Australia found children are 12 times more distracting to a driver than talking on a mobile phone. And, staggeringly, the average parent takes their eyes off the road for three minutes and 22 seconds during a 16-minute journey. According to research by transport policy and research organisation RAC Foundation, car accidents are the largest source of child casualties by road user type at 41 per cent, ahead of accidents while walking or cycling.
All of which means keeping the kids entertained is essential for everyone’s safety as well as their sanity. Here’s how to do it.
1. Play a game
Activity books can be a lifesaver when boredom strikes. A classic road-trip favourite are the Collins Michelin i-Spy Guides – these provide lists of roadside objects that kids can tick off as they spot them, from signposts to animals and other types of vehicles. Be warned though – siblings can get pretty competitive.
Of course, going back to complete basics is always an option. The good old-fashioned game of I Spy, upon which the above books are based, needs no introduction or explanation – it’s a tried-and-tested way to pass the time. Twenty Questions is another on-the-road classic. Simply pick a well-known person and let the kids uncover your identity by asking – you guessed it – up to 20 questions where you can only answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
You could also try the Number Plate Game, a car-journey favourite that tests both observation and imagination skills. Pick a passing car and think of a phrase that corresponds to the last three letters of its number plate, then invent a creative story around it. For example, ‘DBC’ could become a tale about a ‘dancing brown cow’.
2. Watch a movie
Tablets or mobile phones are a godsend when it comes to keeping kids entertained during long journeys, as long as they’re used in moderation. Download videos or feature films in advance – remember, Vitality members could get rewarded with Rakuten movies, with options suitable for all ages. Or plan a musical soundtrack in advance of your trip and pair with a set of noise-cancelling headphones for the best results. Silence is golden…
If you don’t like the idea of sticky fingers on your handheld devices, portable in-car entertainment systems that play music and videos are worth considering – starting at around £100, these are pretty affordable. Many have screens that mount easily on your car’s headrests, can play DVDs, accept files via USB and are simply powered by your car’s 12-volt cigarette lighter socket. Tip: if you’re already using the one in the front for a sat-nav, dash cam or to charge a mobile phone, check if there is another socket in the boot.
3. Find some mindfulness
It’s never too early to learn about mindfulness and meditation, so why not introduce your children to it? Lead by example and show them that mindfulness can be fun and is an activity that can be undertaken together (as well as on their own in the car). The app Headspace is about making meditation simple and accessible. Headspace for Kids is available to all subscribers and sets out to teach the basics of mindfulness via breathing exercises, focus-based meditations and visualisation training. Sessions are tailored for three different age groups – five and under, six-eight and nine-12 – with five themes to explore: calm, focus, kindness, sleep and wake up.
Headspace has also partnered with Barbie to raise awareness of emotional wellbeing through mindfulness exercises. In specially created videos and audio sessions, Barbie joins Eve, the female voice of Headspace, in undertaking unique meditation exercises.
4. Have a singalong
A car journey doesn’t need to be boring, and a singalong with the family can be one of the best ways to enjoy the ride and keep them entertained. James Corden made the car singalong famous the world over with his Carpool Karaoke videos, but you don’t need to be a celebrity to star in your own home-made version.
Spotify has a number of dedicated readymade singalong playlists or create your own using your favourite songs. Also look into Spotify Kids, which is exclusively available with a Spotify Premium Family subscription and offers handpicked child-friendly music and audiobooks. The Movie Hits playlist is a particularly hot tip, and will have you and your gang belting out the words to Frozen‘s ‘Let It Go’ in no time.
5. Eyes on the prize
‘Are we nearly there yet?’ – it’s the question every parent dreads. Prepare your children for the journey ahead by explaining roughly how long they will be in the car and establish some ground rules before you set off (such as no fighting!). Keep them focused on the destination ahead and what they plan to do on arrival. Break up any long journey with regular pitstops – a little fresh air and the ability to stretch their legs can work wonders for restlessness, and help to keep them entertained for an extra 10 minutes.
As part of the government’s roadmap to ease lockdown restrictions, most outdoor attractions such as zoos and theme parks are set to reopen from 12 April. Drive-in cinemas and performances will also be permitted, which can make for an ideal and unusual day out in the car.
Do you want to know more about staying safe on the roads and avoiding distractions? We have 5 ways you can become a safer driver.
Exclusive offer for existing Vitality members! To celebrate the launch of our car insurance this spring, we guarantee to beat your car renewal quote. We’ll also reward you with an Amazon gift card worth up to £50, depending on your Vitality status, when you buy a plan. You need to reserve this offer by 30 April 2021. T&Cs apply. Find out more.