There is nothing better than spending some time with your grandchildren.
Unless that time is a few hours spent in the confines of a car, when everyone starts to get a little bit fractious and tempers are beginning to fray.
Even the most harmonious of family units can be tested when stuck in a car for any significant length of time, but there are a few things you can do to prevent the mood from turning sour. Before you head out on the road, take a moment or two to read our five essential tips for keeping your grandchildren occupied.
You’ll thank us when you reach your destination.
Make some memories as you go
A great way to keep the atmosphere positive and promote some quality family interaction is to encourage the kids to start a road trip or holiday scrapbook.
This activity consists of working together to create a book that records some memorable moments from your journey.
You can assign roles to each child — someone to write in the book, someone to take pictures, and someone to collect mementos from each place that you visit. Not only will you encourage teamwork, but at the end you will have a fantastic record of your trip together that you can all look back on.
Fujifilm Instax mini 8 cameras are great for this activity. They are easy to use – just be sure to bring enough film with you. Couple this with the novelty of instant photographs and you have a gizmo that can create hours of enjoyment. You never know, you might just kindle a future passion for one of your grandchildren too.
Of course, if any of your troupe suffer from car sickness, they might have to get a role that involves gazing out of the window and counting the cows in the passing fields, or trying to spot different kinds of tree on the horizon!
How to entertain your grandchildren on a budget
Don’t forget the old-fashioned car games
While you might struggle to convince a surly teenager to join in with the license plate game or I-spy, those games are great for keeping younger children occupied for a period of time.
You can tailor these games to be educational, too — particularly if you have a grandchild who is learning to read or count.
Games themed around the alphabet or numbers can help to reinforce the lessons that they have been working hard towards learning at school.
Just be sure to keep them light-hearted, as you don’t want them to feel like they are spending the day in the classroom.
Before you set off, have a sit down and think about what games would be enjoyable and which would be worth playing for educational purposes.
If you’re struggling, car retailer Lookers have a great list of suggested games in their advice section.
See the journey as an event in itself, rather than a means to an end
When you are a child, you’ve been alive for a much shorter time than an adult, so in comparison, a few hours in the back of a car can feel like days. It quickly becomes boring and temper tantrums may quickly follow.
Dilemma: My grandchildren don't do as they're told
To avoid the journey feeling like a chore, make regular stops to let the kids stretch their legs and blow off some steam.
Though you will need to make some purely functional stops for the toilet and lunch, there’s no reason why you can’t stop at one or two other places that your grandchildren will really enjoy.
You can work this out as you go, keeping an eye out for any nearby attractions on road signs, but it is often more productive if you plan your journey in advance.
TripAdvisor is a great resource for finding worthwhile activities, as it relies on user reviews for its ratings and contains listings for almost every venue in the country. Use this website to plan ahead, and you can rest easy knowing that you are heading to a really worthwhile attraction.
Best educational days out for children
Don’t deny them their mod-cons
It can be tempting to put your foot down and ban some of the gadgets that keep a child’s face glued to a screen, but doing so could result in a few complaints at best and a total meltdown at the very worst.
Instead, make the effort to chat with them before the trip and let them know that you are planning on spending some quality time together as a family and that you expect them to put the technology down every now and again.
You can even work together to come up with a reasonable timetable for them to be switched on, while designating time for them to switch off too.
Computer games to play with your grandchildren
Get them singing (or listening) along
Similar to playing car games, you will struggle to get older children to contribute to this activity.
However, if you have young grandchildren, there is a good chance that they might have a favourite film, television show, or game that has a few signature songs that they like to sing.
Good examples of this are the various Disney sing-along albums that you can purchase, many of which will go down very well. Simply pop in this Frozen Karaoke CD and listen in wonder as they let it go!
The audio activities don’t just have to be limited to singing, though. There are a wide range of audiobooks that will keep the kids on the edge of their seats for the entire journey.
This can be a good alternative for children who are slightly older and, if you bring something along that you know they really like, you can keep them occupied for hours at a time.
Just be ready to do some research on what they do and don’t like at the moment, as kids’ tastes can change quickly.
Take on board some of our top tips and you can look forward to a relaxed and enjoyable journey with your grandchildren. Have fun!