If you have a road trip or two planned this summer, you might be tempted to use hand-held video games and DVD movies to entertain kids on your getaway. However, there are many fantastic ways to engage, entertain and interact with your children on a road trip that don't require electronics. These eco-friendly ideas are great for bonding as a family and creating long lasting memories of your time together on the road. Even better, they don't require a ton of planning, they're budget-friendly and easy on the environment. Read on to learn how to entertain your kiddos the next time you hit open road.
1. Play I Spy – The Nature Version
Most kids love a good game of I Spy – what’s not to love, its like a scavenger hunt without leaving your seat. Put a fun spin on the game by adding a nature twist. Tell your children the rules – the I Spy “item” has to be something in nature (a big fluffy cloud, a herd of cows, a mountain etc). This will make the game more challenging and get your child to observe nature, rather than just speeding past it.
2. Map It Out
Kids are often drawn to maps – the colors, shapes, lines and the idea of finding where you will be going next. Your crew will likely get a kick out of helping you navigate using the family atlas or maps you create online before you go. Children can learn a lot from a map and learning to read a map as a child is fun and a helpful skill for later in life.
3. Have a Family Read Along
A road trip is the perfect time to start a family book club. Before your trip, pick a book that the entire family will enjoy, then take turns reading the book aloud. This is a great activity to make long stretches in the car breeze by, while strengthening your children’s reading skills and your family bond. Make sure to choose a book that will engage your children – something that they will find very interesting featuring favorite characters, activities, the place you’re traveling to, etc. If you have very small children, you can read the book aloud to them instead.
4. Take a Nature Break
Traveling with children can be difficult if they have a hard time sitting still for long periods of time. To ensure your kids don’t go stir-crazy, plan a few nature breaks into your road trip. These “breaks” don’t have to last very long periods of time, just enough for your children to stretch their legs and imaginations. Even if you only have 15 minutes to spare, take the time to collect leaves or rocks with your children or let them do a quick nature scavenger hunt or look for bugs in the grass.
5. Incorporate Environmentalism into your Trip
Regardless of where your road trip will lead, there is always time to incorporate environmentalism into your trip. When your family stops for lunch or a bathroom or nature break, take the time to remind your children that they are the stewards of the world. Encourage them to pick up any trash or recyclables that come across their paths and to place them into the correct receptacles. Advise children of the importance of leaving nature the way that you found it (don’t pick the flowers or break branches from the trees) and to report injured wildlife or acts of vandalism to the proper authorities.
6. Pack an Organic Picnic
One of the hardest ways to be eco-friendly while traveling comes to the food that you eat. It sometimes just feels easier to pick up fast-food. However, fast food is not good for your family or the environment, so planning ahead is essential. Our family plans our meals ahead of time and packs them in a cooler in the back of our car. When we stop for a nature break, we also unwrap a sandwich or salad for lunch. If we are strapped for time or don’t have space for a cooler, then we plan to stop at a grocery store along the way and pick up the fresh supplies that we will need to make our lunches. We also like to look for farmer’s markets as we road trip, stopping whenever we see fresh fruit, vegetables or bread for sale – perfect fast food!
7. BYOB (Bring Your Own Beverage Container)
One thing that your family will go through plenty of while on your road trip is drinks. That can easily add up to a lot of garbage when you figure that several members of your family will be drinking several beverages throughout the day. Instead, make sure that each member of your family has their reusable beverage container with them. We like to pack large containers of our favorite organic beverages in the cooler and then fill the mugs up on our nature breaks. It always feels good to stay hydrated (hydrated kids are happy kids) without the waste of beverage packaging littering the car floors and the environment.
How does your family stay eco-friendly while road tripping? Are there ways that your entertain your children that have little impact on the environment?