Travelling, exploring new places, meeting up with friends and family – can be so much fun, and since I’ve had my children I have found I just need to be that little bit more organized... My kids get bored quickly and then they end up disrupting and winding each other up, or being really noisy and excitable – and that’s hard when you are travelling.
So, today’s Blog is about entertaining kids while you are on the go. I know a few of you have already been away, but many still have their journey to come, so hopefully this will be helpful to you! Most families have their own ‘go to’ solutions for how to entertain the kids while they are travelling. And I have found there are different things that work for different scenarios.
I’ve listed the top 3 that we find we need quick entertainment for and some ideas for what to do in those instances:
1. Travelling by car
My children get travel sick, so watching a tablet or reading a book is out of the question… therefore, over the years we’ve had to come up with some different ideas for what to do instead. And the one thing that works wonders, is Audiobooks (just like it did when I was a child!!). Last year we all listened to the Audiobooks together over the car speakers, but this year the interests of our 9-year-old vs. our 3 and 4 year old are quite different, so I think what we’ll be doing is downloading a number of Audiobooks onto their tablets for them to listen to in their own time – and that way they’ll get to pick very different things.
I’ve had a look at what is out there at the moment and the following are my top 10 Audiobooks that I will be downloading for my children
1) Diary of a Wimpy Kid – Jeff Kinney
This is a series of books (and there is a movie now too) about Greg Heffley – a young boy who writes down his experiences of going through middle school in a diary. The accounts, particularly around what daily life is in a family are like, as well as the things he is dealing with in terms of friendships, holidays, and generally growing up, are surprisingly accurate, but written in a lighthearted, funny way with wonderful cartoon images. My son absolutely loves them. Another series he’s just gotten into is the Andy Griffiths 13 storey treehouse series.
2) David Walliams – The World’s worst pets/ Gangsta Granny
I know many children love the David Walliams books and we’ve read several of them. However, I find some of the books have quite a momentous (traumatic even) event that has made my children less keen. One example is ‘Code Name Bananas’. It was a great read, set in World War 2 London, and all about a young boy and a man and how they save the animals at London Zoo. But there are also quite dark sides to the story, for example the main character’s parents are killed and he is sent to live with his grumpy grandmother. But then London is bombed, and she is also killed – and he is lucky to have escaped only because he decided to sneak out to the Zoo in the middle of the night. This caused many discussions in our family around death and the children’s fear of losing parents and grandparents.
3) Roald Dahl – Matilda, Witches, George’s Marvellous Medicine
I absolutely love Roald Dahl and read all of his books growing up. Again, there are some stories that are pretty gruesome – and with those I have often toned down the story slightly when I’ve been reading them to the children (especially if the younger ones were listening). That isn’t possible during an Audiobook, so I am going to pick carefully. ;-)
4) J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter & The Ickabog
We started listening to Harry Potter last summer and it was great fun. So much so that my husband went on to listen to the entire series long after we got back. The kids found some parts harder to follow, as we’ve not read the books or watched the movies yet, so we’ll be giving this another try this year.
5) Cressida Cowell – How to train your dragon
Another one that many children love, including my own. If I am honest my children really started to get into the story once they’d watched the movie. Since then, we’ve enjoyed reading various books in the Train your Dragon series, as well as other books Cressida Cowell has written, including the Emily Brown Series (more of a picture book for younger children about a little girl and her toy bunny rabbit and the adventures they get up to – Isla loves these).
6) Majorie Blackman – Noughts & Crosses or Hacker
I have just started reading Noughts & Crosses with Josh and already we’ve had many fascinating conversations about diversity and equality and fairness and what should be right vs. what the reality looks like for different individuals. It is a novel series set in an alternative history where black ‘Cross’ people rule over white ‘Noughts’. The series is written by Majorie Blackman – and this is an author Josh’s school will be looking at in more detail in the next school year.
1) Enid Blyton – The Magic Faraway Tree, The Wishing Chair
Enid Blyton was a firm favourite of mine when growing up and I remember reading the books over and over again. I’ve done the same with my children, and particularly The Magic Faraway Tree is a huge success – with the adventures of Moonface and Silky who live in a magical tree that you can enter into different magical worlds from. Three children who have recently moved to the countryside (Frannie, Beth and Jo) find the tree in their local woods, make friends with the inhabitants and spend many hours of fun filled adventures together.
2) Beatrix Potter series (including Peter Rabbit)
This is another author that the children’s school is looking at in more detail after the summer. My husband and I have started reading the various books to Isla and Rupert and they’ve really enjoyed them. There are lots of questions around the older fashioned words and ways of doing things (‘What’s a ‘Pinny’, Mummy?’:-)) and it has been nice to be able to think about how things have changed over time. Some of the Peter Rabbit sections are scary for Rupert in particular (when Peter gets chased and nearly caught!) but again we’ve been able to talk about what’s happening and why.
3) Julia Donaldson – Zog, The Snail and the Whale etc.
Classics in so many ways – and with such wonderful ‘lessons’ and morals and food for thought. Whether it is about exploring the world, looking out for your friend and being brave, or whether it is about having the courage and conviction to follow your dreams. I love these books and they are also great Audiobooks with very little scariness for little listeners.
4) Black Beauty or C.S. Lewis
We started listening to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe last summer and especially Josh enjoyed them. I think the other two were too young, so we will be giving these another go this year. And maybe add in some Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Isla loves animals, so maybe it is something that I will read or listen to with her, as there are the sections where Black Beauty is owned by cruel owners and the series is aimed at 9–12-year-olds…
I think in general I will need to keep an eye on what the children are listening to on their own. If they have their headphones on, I will be less able to realise when they are getting worried about some scary bits, so I will be keeping an eye on that!
Another way we keep the children entertained in the car is to play games with them. We tend to do this when we set back off after a break at the service station or stop over.
Our favourite games to play are:
Name capital cities (using all the letters in the alphabet – there are some wonderful variations that the kids come up with – particularly the younger ones that have heard a city name but might not be able to quite remember it )
Rhyming game – one person selects a letter and you have to find rhyming words until you can’t find any more – the last person to rhyme gets to pick the next letter to start with
What will you pack in your suitcase (and you have to remember everybody’s things and add one more)
I am sure other families have lots of similar fun games. I’d love to hear them – do comment or send me an email!
On a more general note, we also tend to set off really early in the morning and transfer the children asleep into the car so that when they wake up a couple of hours later, we can stop off for some breakfast and then only have another hour or 2 in the car left. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s a wonderful way to start the holiday!
2. Travelling by plane
When I travel alone with my 3 on a flight, I make sure they each have a hand luggage bag packed with their favourite toys, some colouring in sheets, books and (especially if it’s a late night or overnight flight) a change of clothes (at least for the little ones). I will pack things like travel sickness tablets and boiled sweets or gummy bears in my bag so that they can suck on the sweets when we land.
In terms of activities Movies are obviously a good one here, as are computer games (for some reason, my children seen to be much less motion sick on a flight, so can watch screens for a little bit). I tend to ‘save’ the screens until after we’ve exhausted some of the other activities, so that it feels like a bit of ‘relaxation’ time for them all (and me!)
I also bring along their favourite books (very much as above – Julia Donaldson or Enid Blyton for the younger ones and Diary of a Wimpy Kid or the Andy Griffiths 13 storey treehouse series for my older one) to read by themselves (or I will read to the younger ones), or we have the Audio books versions too for them to listen to them (as above).
Magazines – we’ll often treat each child to a snack/ sandwich and a magazine to read or complete on the flight. The kids love this ritual and they will happily sit, snacking and exploring their magazine for quite a while.
I might bring Dobble or Uno or Mastermind or Guess Who to play together in my bag. Or, if I am being very organized I may even buy a small Lego set to build and wrap this for them to have as a surprise ‘gift’ to unpack and make during the flight. This needs adult supervision for the little ones, as otherwise you (or they) will spend a lot of the flight on the floor looking for little bits of Lego that have dropped off the table…
I will also have some colouring in sheets or books and pens – Ikea did some amazing little ‘suitcase’ things that I got for each child and they brought these in their hand luggage rucksacks and in car journeys too. It was a great way to have everything in one place and each child was able to pack their own favourite pens and colouring in sheets too.
3. Entertainment in a restaurant/ pub or service station
When we stop over in motorway service stations or when we are out and about – like most parents, my bag will be full of a range of things to entertain the kids – from snacks, to the odd mini doll or car to card games and colouring in activities. There are also some wonderful travel activity books/ magazines that WHSmith and the like sell – that are tailored for different ages and interests. A friend of mine would always buy a new activity book for each holiday and bring this along for her twins, together with a large pencil case full of pens. As the twins got older the activity books went from being colouring in sheets, to quizzes and fun fact books about their various interests.
I’ve recently started bringing the DoodleCloth with me (I had to add that one in there ;-)) – and it’s been a great way to keep everyone entertained while we wait for our food.
Other resources that I’ve found really useful are the following. Either for inspiration, or in terms of the actual activity books and games for the kids to play:
this Book packed with activities by Five minute mum called ‘On the go’
100 Things for Little Children to do on a Journey (Usborne Activity Cards or book)
That’s all from me this week. Next week we’ll talk a bit more about 3 really simple ideas to keep your children entertained over the summer holidays – activities that particularly older children might find fun to do!
I hope you have a great rest of your week.
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