How to entertain squabbling kids on a long car journey this Christmas!

Do you have children? Aren’t they great? Isn’t it brilliant taking long, tiring car journeys with them? If you (like millions of other people) have to make a cross-country trip this December to visit relatives with your delightful offspring, you’re probably really looking forward to six hours of screaming, crying, tantrums and half-hour toilet breaks. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Whether you’re traveling to holiday parks in Norfolk or caravans in Cornwall, there are some hints and tricks to keeping inquisitive minds and vocal little mouths quietened for the journey.

English: Kids at shore

English: Kids at shore (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you have children that tend to fight in the house, you can bet that they won’t get along in a cramped car. Think seating – and keep them as far away from each other as possible. Diagonal seating always works really well, so if one child is large enough to pop in the front seat, put them there and seat the other child behind the driver. That way, there’s a huge gap between them, and either you or your partner can mediate this space. Out of sight, out of mind.

Nothing is more irritating than a small voice wheedling, “I need the toilet,” over and over again, so to avoid stopping every 500 meters, limit fluids before the big drive. This sounds cruel, but it isn’t – just watch what your kids are drinking. A good rule to follow is ‘water only’ – no sugar filled drinks or juices. If they’re that thirsty, they can drink water. Always bring a few bottles with you for the car journey – if you get stuck in snow/traffic, you’ll need it.

Talking of food and drink, always prepare for the worst. Bring plenty of sandwiches, crisps, and fruit – nothing with too much sugar, or your children may develop hyperactive tendencies. A thirsty child can be a pain in the backside, but a hungry child can be another matter entirely – so make sure that you bring enough food to tide you through the journey (and any potential traffic). So what if you make too much food? You can always give it to your hosts when you arrive, or throw it away. Better that you never have to use it than be sat on the M6 thinking, “Surely, we shall all starve to death.”

Sleeping is the best way to pass the time when you’re on a journey, so make it easy for your kids. Bring plenty of duvets, pillows, earplugs and eye masks – and don’t forget that some kids might find sleeping in a little bit difficult in a car, so don’t forget personal stereos to block out the noise. If kids find sleeping in the car stressful, there are plenty of products to help calm them down. Rescue Remedy is always pretty good, and you can buy it in lozenge or spray form, so it’s easy to transport.

Take away all reading material. Yes, we know what you’re thinking – “My children are never travel-sick! They read War and Peace once on the way to Grandma’s!” etc – but just take precautions. Small people are notorious for thinking they can handle things that they can’t, and reading in the car is one of them. All we’ll say is this – at your own risk. It’s really hard to clean the smell of vomit from a car.

Give your kids plenty to do – let them make their own mix of music for part of the journey, put on an audiobook, play I-Spy, and tell them stories. Kids start to fret and fight when they’re bored, and unfortunately it’s down to you to provide this entertainment. Sorry.

Vicky Anscombe is writing for Richardson’s Holiday Parks, the best place in the UK for Great Yarmouth holidays. Well, she thinks so. And she’s very rarely wrong about such matters.


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