Getting Through Long Car Rides Without Screens

by Elizabeth Lewis

We've all become accustomed to staring at screens all day, but it’s good for both adults and children to limit their screen time. Too much screen time can affect our eyes, and may have developmental affects on children who spend too much time engaging with digital realties. 

But then comes the challenge of keeping kids distracted during long car rides so you can focus on the road. It's so tempting to hand your kid a tablet and keep them quiet. No judgement here.

I was never a mom who loved "road trips." All three of my kids were born pretty much before tablets and smartphones. This topic is a little harder for me to give advice about, but here are tips I know to help get kids through long car or plane rides without relying on screens:


#1: Activity Mats

If your kids get bored easily like mine did, having things to do during the ride is always better. This can be tricky for airplanes because you have to fit your supplies in a carry-on, but it’s great for car rides. Coloring books, and activity matts and booklets are all great ideas. Need to find a good activity matt? We carry amazing ones from Melissa and Doug. See the selection at:



#2: Play with Stickers

Stickers are your friend, even if it doesn’t feel like they are. You’d be amazed how entertained kids can be when they’ve got stickers in front of them. Again, this is easier in the car (if you don’t mind stickers covering the inside) but if you can get a cheap notebook, it can work on an airplane too. 


#3: Plan Surprises 

Make your activities a surprise! I did this with my kids and it worked like a charm. They get excited no matter what you put in, because it’s like a present for them. You can carry some things in your bag too, just in case. I did this with activities and snacks, but one or the other works just fine if that’s what you prefer. 


#4: Try Reading

Reading is a great way to pass the time! In the car, you can ask kids to read out loud to you, which helps them practice and keeps them occupied without distracting you too much. The same method can work on airplanes, but make sure you aren’t disrupting the other passengers around you. Or, kids can just read silently to themselves.



#5: Or Audiobooks

Not every kid can stomach reading in the car. If your kid is prone to getting carsick (all but my youngest did) and can’t read in the car, then I’d try talking to your pediatrician. If you can’t (or just don’t want to)--no problem. Try audiobooks instead! 


If all else fails, the tablet is always a good backup. I know it might feel wrong, but every day is different. What works for others might not work for you, and that’s okay! We’re all learning together. Everyone is doing their best, and that’s all anyone can ask for.