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Screen-Free Boredom Busters for the Car and Beyond


Whether it’s summer where you are or if you are just starting the school year, you very well might find yourselves spending a lot of time in the car-driving to school, waiting in car lines, going to activities, or to and from daycare.

You might rely on a screen to calm your kids during those long boring car rides.

Usually it works pretty well.  

But I’m offering up some other solutions that might just be even more fun!!  These ideas foster connection and will get your  kids talking to each other and you. 

One thing before you read further: You may not need anything to fill the time in the car. It can be a nice quiet time to decompress and chat a bit or just be quiet.  Look out the window and just be together.

 I am not one for filling up every moment with an activity.

However, if the kids just automatically turn on a device or it they are full of moans and groans, or the crazies(see above pic) then these ideas just might do the trick.

Listen to Audio Stories

One of out favorite things to do in the car is listen to audio books/stories.

Connecting over a story has become one of our families most favorite past times. 

We started when my kids were little – like 2 and 4 – and though the kinds of books we like have changed over the years, my teens still love to listen to audiobooks on long car rides.

Sparkle Stories is our all time favorite source for great stories.  They have both a free podcast and a subscription series and offer a wide variety of stories for kids of all ages.  I have even gotten some great parenting advice from listening to the Martin and Sylvia Series.

We also get audio books from the library and listen to them over the course of a few weeks. Sharing a story with the family can be such a enriching experience for everyone.

The best books for reading in the car

If your kids can read in the car, (it makes some people, including myself, motion sick) keep a few books in their at all times.  Making space for reading is important and the car usually provides some quiet time without the distractions of home.  

The best books for the car are those that offer short bits to read – like poetry or non-fiction books.  Kids can open these types of books and start reading at any point in the book.

Puzzle books or a sketch book are also good things to keep in the car.  

Stash a joke book to lighten the mood after a crummy day. (Great for struggling readers because the jokes are short)

Mental Math Time

Got a number junky? Or a struggling mathematician? All you need is a few minutes to do a little mental math–Try having your kids count by 2’s or 3’s or 4’s-great for multiplication practice.  Try it in a round robin style where you say a number and they say a number and so on.  Once they get good try counting by a number backwards! (10, 8, 6,…)

You can also give  your kids a problem with multiple addends or factors. “1 plus 3 plus 2 equals??” Say it slowly so they have time to think.  Mental math is such a great skill builder because your child has to hold the numbers in their head while they are working with them. Switch up the problems according to your child’s skill level.  Try a doozy for older kids and don’t forget to figure the answer as you go!

Play Rose, Bud, Thorn

Getting kids to talk about their day can be tricky and some kids need time to process before they can talk about it.  I often use the Rose, Bud, Thorn method to get at least a glimpse into my kids days.  Family members share a great thing about their day(Rose), one not so great thing (Thorn) and something they are looking forward to(Bud).  I save the Bud for last to end on a positive note! This can be great for right before bedtime, too.

Kids vary in their tolerance for being in the car and it is not always easy for parents, either.
If you are lucky and do not have to drive a lot, these are still great ideas to use in the pockets of time you find during the course of your day–waiting at sports practice, in the car line while you are getting dinner ready, or right before bed.  You may find these  screen free boredom busters so good that you may even want to make time for them!

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