kids in car

"Are we there yet?" Chances are you'll hear that more times than you can count if you're headed on a road trip this holiday weekend or later in the summer. Sitting in the car for hours is super annoying, even for grown-ups, so it's no surprise kids get antsy and whiny and just generally annoying. Honestly, asking "Are we there yet?" is probably the least annoying thing they'll do in the back seat.

When my husband and I buckle in our eight-year-old daughter for a long drive, we make sure she's got lots of movies loaded up on the iPhone or iPad, a nice set of headphones, books, stuffed animals, a pillow and blanket, a notebook and colored pencils, and some snacks and water. Basically, she moves into the back seat. You would think this could keep her totally occupied, and with no siblings to bicker with, it would be smooth sailing. Mostly it is ... but we know there is the inevitable "I'm boooooooooooooooored" coming eventually, followed soon by "Are we there yet?" So, as we are making an especially long drive all the way from New York to Florida this summer, I've been checking out new ideas to add to the backseat bonanza.

I'm pretty sure one easy activity to add to the roster will be playing the new app Toca Life: City. My daughter has been obsessed with it since we downloaded it last week. Created by using suggestions from kids around the world, players have 3 millions ways to personalize 29 characters and direct them in a digital doll house, or really doll town, navigating through rooms, customizing hairstyles, selecting their wardrobe, going grocery shopping and visiting the pet store. You can view the trailer here to get an idea of what the game is about.

There's a new book I'm checking out called On-the-Go Fun for Kids! by Amanda Morin that has a lot of non-digital ideas for keeping kids entertained on road trips—or even waiting at the dentist's office. From scavenger hunts and word puzzles to educational apps and imaginative play, the book offers 100 engaging and simple playtime ideas for any situation, including the car.

As I've become obsessed with podcasts since Serial took the world by storm, I'll be downloading a bunch that we can listen to as a family in the car—and that might spur conversations. Obviously, not ones like Serial, because inappropriate, but there are tons of great podcasts specifically for kids and also that parents and kids will both enjoy. For kids, there's the Brains On! Science Podcast for Kids, StoryNory—Stories for Kids, and Radio WillowWeb, which is made by elementary school kids about literature, geography, math and more. For the whole family, Stuff You Should Know and TED Talks have kid-appropriate options that also will inspire adult minds, and I'm intrigued to check out Mystery Show, where host Starlee Kine solves mysteries that can't be figure out by just asking Siri.

If all that isn't enough to last for an 18 hour car ride, then I give up. Of course, being bored in the backseat during a long car ride is also a rite of passage for kids, right? So maybe I'll just strap in my daughter and turn up my favorite tunes loud enough that I can't hear her whining.

How do you keep your kids entertained on long car rides? I'd love to hear your ideas!

Ellen Sturm Niz is a New York City-based editor and writer who really hates road trips. Check out Ellen's new Etsy shop and follow her on Twitter and Pinterest.

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