“ARE WE THERE YET?”

This is a phrase all parents have heard. Sometimes even before you can get to the end of the driveway, and out of the mouths of toddlers to teens. Beyond the annoyance factor, though, listening to kids argue or fight due to boredom or exhaustion during a long road trip can be extremely distracting and ultimately dangerous for the driver.

But with a little pre-planning, kids of all ages can be entertained and distracted from giving that brother just one more little pinch — even on those long haul road trips. A note: While in-vehicle DVD’s and other electronic devices can keep things quiet for a while, some kids are prone to motion sickness from watching screens, so try not to make that your only entertainment plan. It’s also great to mix it up so the kids get some creative time as well as occasionally paying attention to the scenery going by.

Babies: Babies tend to have a schedule of their own, but trying to manage longer parts of the drive around their naptime is the best way to have some quiet in the car. Buy or borrow some toys that are new to them for the ride. Baby’s best entertainment is another face, so see if a sibling will entertain them in the back seat (for a later reward) or Mom and Dad can take turns in the back.

Toddlers: Snacking is a great distraction for this age group, but make sure you pack healthy alternatives (cereal, carrots, fruit) so they aren’t too full or feeling sick when you make a meal stop. Crayons, non-marking markers, paper, sticker books and some favourite stuffies make for an easier ride. Hit the dollar store and put together a quick craft kit.

Pre-School: A terrific age to introduce “Car Bingo”. You can put together your own card, knowing what you might pass along the way, or print off a pre-prepared list. Also a fun age for finding letters of the alphabet on signs, counting cows, I Spy, etc. A snack pack is also a big hit.

School Age: Prior to the trip, show the kids a map (paper or online) to show them the route you’re taking, and how long it will take, so they have an expectation of time spent in the car. Get them to follow along as you go, and make note of any landmarks they might want to search for. Great “IRL” geography lesson.

Tween/Teen: This age group will want to be connected at all times. Manage their screen and texting time, and make sure they’re not texting internationally if you cross a border. Insist on headphones to keep noise down, and set hours for use if you want them to play along with the other car games as you go.