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10 ways to … keep the kids entertained on long car journeys

PUBLISHED: 08:27 11 August 2017

I spy with my little eye & something that is unlikely to last more than a few miles before everyone gets fed up.  Picture: Thinkstock

I spy with my little eye & something that is unlikely to last more than a few miles before everyone gets fed up. Picture: Thinkstock

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Reporting from the front line (and seat) of holiday parenting

1 Obviously the ideal solution is to plug them, separately, in to films or games or music. But, annoyingly, there is an age group that this does not really work for. And even children who cannot be prised from phone, tablet or television at home, are liable to look up every few hours (or minutes, or seconds) and ask the worst question in the world (of holiday journeys): “Are we nearly there yet?” This is when families keeping it local and holidaying in East Anglia can be particularly smug, because even if you are stuck in a jam on the A140, or driving right across the region from Haverhill to Hunstanton, or Fakenham to Felixstowe, you actually are nearly there.

2 The second best solution is sleep. Drive at night for quiet roads and quiet in the back seats.

3 If the journey needs to be during the day, or the driver needs to sleep at night too, then music might work for your family. From sing-along stuff like nursery rhymes and musicals, to the chance for everyone to introduce their own favourites (and have them rudely ridiculed by their nearest and not necessarily right now, dearest.)

4 Food. Fruit, sandwiches, snack bars, chocolate, sweets – begin with the healthy stuff and quickly head into food hyper-inflation, and hyper kids, as a piece of fruit every hour or 50 miles becomes a constant stream of sweets until the tide of stickiness and wrappings glues everyone’s mouth closed and blessed peace, or raging tooth decay and a diabetic coma, descends.

5 Drinks. This works in almost the same way as food, except there is the obvious extra down-side for everyone downing them as if it was the best fun in the world to be forced to magic a toilet stop out of thin air using just a frantic detour off the main road and a farm gateway.

6 Stops. Even service stations become thrilling when the last few hours have been spent with your beloved family. There are high-tech soap dispensers and hand-dryers to investigate, driving-themed video games in case the actual roads outside are not enough, shops to stock up with yet more food and drink - and actually useful stuff like toilets and play areas. Or, and even better than service stations, hard as it is to believe, there are the kind of stops which become part of the holiday. Is there a historic castle or battlefield (also historic, not caused by your children fighting) en-route, or an unusual museum specialising in say, horseracing (Newmarket,) drainage pumps (Prickwillow, near Ely) or the Cold War (Woodbridge). There will be no better time to visit than when the alternative is the smelly bin-on-wheels that was once your car.

7 Olden days games like I spy and pub cricket. If you are driving older routes through actual places, rather than bypassing everywhere, then try scoring a point per leg in each pub name, with players/teams taking opposite sides of the road or alternate hostelries. Tip: route your journey past the Twenty Churchwardens pub in Cockley Cley, near Swaffham, or the Fox and Hounds in Thurston, near Bury St Edmunds.

I spy with my little eye … something that is unlikely to last more than a few miles before everyone has got totes fed up with “r is for road,” and “i is for idiot because (insert name of sibling) is an idiot,” and “y is for why are doing this,” and “r is also for r we nearly there yet?”

8 The alphabet. Pick a subject, any subject, say places in Norfolk or Suffolk, sports, the names of people you know, and simply go through the alphabet. Take turns or work together, allow yourself passes or cheats (could Exning near Newmarket be allowed for x? How about Banham Zoo for z?)

9 Gifts - colouring books, audio books, travel versions of card or board games, actual books if travel sickness is not an issue.

10 Destination. You are travelling for a reason. Get the kids to find out/remember/think up/make up fascinating facts about wherever it is you are going, and the journey too. Give them maps from old road atlases to follow the route. And don’t forget to keep checking with them whether you are nearly there yet…

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