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How to stop the kids asking “Are we there yet?”

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Ah, car rides with young children. The stuff memories (and possibly nightmares) are made of. But it doesn’t have to be like that. In fact, some of the best fun you can have as a family is on the open road. Like so many things in parenting, it’s all about the prep work.

Here are five ways to keep the kids entertained in the car.

Car games.

Car rides with my parents consisted of them chatting away in the front seat, pausing every now and then to point out a tree, or some roadkill. Not exactly thrilling if you’re the child, trust me. But car games are actually a great way to keep everyone happy. Sure, you might not want to play ‘eye spy with my little eye’ for the entire duration of the trip, but I’ve found that more often than not, my kids will keep playing the game amongst themselves once we hit the eject button after a few rounds.

If your little ones are a bit young for the traditional version of the game, you can always choose objects related to colour rather than letter, and there are some fantastic variations on the theme available online.

Another great car game for parents is the ‘add a sentence’ game where you, wait for it, all add a sentence on to a story. It doesn’t need to make sense, the sillier the better, so it’s not essential that you remain engaged 100 per cent of the time (you know, because you’ll be focusing on the road!)

Use what you’ve got available.

What a great time it is to have kids, because for parents, technology is our friend. Having a stash of DVD’s and a player in the car is a great way to keep the kids occupied when they’ve hit the ‘over it’ limit of driving.

"Because for parents, technology is our friend." Image: iStock.

I try and reserve special ones for the car so they’re not bored watching the same shows they would normally watch at home. If you’re lucky enough to have a DVD player in the car, it’s a great way to have a break yourself and pull over to watch a movie, or have a little snooze while the kids do.

If you’ve got a tablet in the family, you can also pre load it with educational-based games and activities to keep them entertained. Search the app store for age appropriate ones and let them loose.

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Put together a car pack.

If you’ve got a long journey ahead of you, hit up you local Kmart or dollar store for some notepads, pencils and stickers. Put them all together in a hard cased clip board so the kids can lean on it while they’re creating some masterpieces.

You can turn this into a game if you like where you all go around and add a feature, say “hairy ears’” or “tiny nose” and all the kids draw add the feature on to their drawing. At the end you all reveal what you’ve come up with.

Freeze.

Just because you’re in the car doesn’t mean you can’t hold a good old fashioned dance party. If your car has steering wheel controls you’ll be able to play the role of master of music, but if you have a front seat passenger, it’s good to delegate the role to them.

"Just because you’re in the car doesn’t mean you can’t hold a good old fashioned dance party." Image: iStock.

Rules are pretty much the same as the normal version: dance like crazy until the music stops and then freeze. Turn it into a points system rather than someone being ‘out,’ because with a small amount of people in the car, the game is going to end pretty quickly.

The best bit about this is that if you’re on a long journey with the kids it can help release some of that pent up energy without having to leave the vehicle.

Bribery.

When all else fails you can always resort to cheap tactics and I for one am not above bribery. I once heard of the greatest parenting trick ever to get the kids to behave and stop asking ‘are we there yet?” endlessly during a car ride. When you leave your house, place a bag of lollies or chocolates on the dashboard. At any point when they children play up, you wind down the window and chuck a lolly out. The deal is that at the end of the car trip they get to eat whatever is left in the bag. Good behaviour equals full bag of lollies, bad behaviour equals none. There are some true parenting geniuses out there.

How do you survive long car rides with children?

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