We've got tons of ways to make your family road trip safer, easier, and way more fun.
8 Super-Fun Car Games
I Spy: Start with: "I spy with my little eye and the color is...." Then others take turns trying to guess the object.
The Alphabet Game: Everyone takes turns looking for letters on road signs and billboards, starting with the letter A and making their way through the alphabet. You can do this as a competition or as a group activity.
The Picnic Game: The first person says, "I'm going on a picnic and bringing an apple" (or anything starting with A). The next person continues with B but must also remember what A was and so on until someone brings a zebra (or something starting with a Z). Note: You almost never get to Z!
The License-Plate Game: Players try to spot license plates from as many states as they can. Whoever spots the most states wins.
20 Questions: One person thinks of a person or a thing, and the others take turns asking questions to guess who or what it is. Questions must be answered only by "yes" or "no." For little kids, use family members and friends or familiar objects.
Name That Tune: Hum nursery rhymes for the smaller kids or pop songs for older ones. Or try turning the radio or CD player on for a few seconds and see who can guess the song the fastest.
The Question Game: Ask open-ended questions such as "If you won a million dollars, what would you do with it?" "If you could pick only one food to eat forever, what would it be?"
The Animal Game: One person thinks of an animal, and others take turns asking questions to guess what animal it could be.
5 Games for Rest Stops
Use rest stops to let kids get out of the car and run around. You need to have them burn off some energy before the next leg of your journey. Keep at least one of the following items in your glove compartment.
- Jump rope
- Inflatable beach ball (easy to smoosh and store when you're finished)
- Nerf ball
- In a pinch, crank up the radio, open the car doors and windows, and have a little outdoor dance-a-thon.
5 Unsafe Car Moves
1. Climbing into the backseat.
When the baby's crying or the kids are really bored, it's incredibly tempting to slide into the backseat while the car is moving instead of waiting until the next time your spouse stops the car. That's a really terrible idea, says Jamie Schaefer-Wilson, author of Consumer Reports Guide to Childproofing and Safety. "If someone brakes and you're not belted, you become a backseat bullet."
2. Picking up your baby, even for a second.
Your infant's crying, and it's so tempting to take her out of her car seat just for a minute to soothe her. "There's never a reason to take the baby out of the car seat," says Schaefer-Wilson. Your child should not be unrestrained at any time.
3. Traveling with pets loose in the car.
Sometimes pets are too big or too yappy to restrain in a carrier for the entire drive. Bad idea. If there's an accident, your 30-pound pet could hurtle across the car and harm your child or himself.
4. Packing the car to the gills.
You've seen cars packed so full that the driver couldn't see out the rear window. You don't want to surround your children with objects that could become projectiles when you brake.
5. Forgetting to double-check the car seat.
Kids get fidgety and play with their car-seat straps, especially on long trips. Each time you strap your child back into his seat, check to see whether the straps have loosened and that the harness buckle is still in the right place. "It's almost a sure bet your child is going to play with it or loosen it or try to get comfortable," says Schaefer-Wilson. Remember, the harness system should be tight enough around the child so you can't pinch a portion of the strap between your fingers or fit more than a finger between your child's body and the system.
3 Healthiest Fast-Food Choices
Wendy's: Jr. Hamburger
Saturated fat: 3 grams
KFC: Original-recipe breast (no skin or breading)
Saturated fat: 0
Domino's: Crunchy thin-crust pizza with two veggie toppings (two slices)
Saturated fat: 5 grams
10 Reader-Favorite Electronics
- DVD player
- The Rabbit Ears series or anything else narrated by storyteller Jim Weiss
- Free to Be...You and Me DVD or CD, featuring Marlo Thomas and friends
- Mother Goose Rocks! CD
- Green Eggs and Ham and Other Dr. Seuss Favorites, read by Jason Alexander and David Hyde Pierce (available on iTunes)
- Nintendo DS Lite
- How to Eat Fried Worms audio book
- iPod or another MP3 player
- The Fisher-Price Pixter
Originally published in the July 2008 issue of Parents magazine.