15 Tips for When You’re Stuck in Traffic With Kids

The trials and tribulations of traffic come in many forms: long road trips, everyday jams, weather-induced chaos. And the only thing worse than traffic is getting stuck in the car with antsy kids, especially if any of them decide it’s a good day to have a completely melodramatic and totally unnecessary meltdown.

If ice and snow are in the forecast, forget it. It seems like it takes double, sometimes triple, the time to drop the kids off at school or pick up groceries. And all those extra minutes in the car are more minutes for your kids to be bored or hungry or reallllly have to go to the bathroom.

I’ve been there! So, in the spirit of camaraderie, here are my 15 best tips, games and must-haves for when you’re stuck in traffic with kids.

5 Cool Ways to Use Time While Stuck in Traffic With Kids

  1. Podcasts: We love podcasts! Our favorite? The endearing voice and stories on Stories Podcast could keep my kids entertained for hours.
  2. Audible Books: Extended time in the car is the perfect opportunity to catch up on your reading. Listen to something the kids read in school or play some of your old favorites for them … you can’t go wrong with “A Wrinkle in Time” or “The Boxcar Children.”
  3. Maps: Learning to read and use a map doesn’t have to be a lost art. Use the time during traffic to talk about spatial awareness, read mile markers and signs on the road, or let them check out Google maps as you’re driving. If you have a real map on hand, even better! My family loves the Roadtrippers App to create a route and explore the area virtually.
  4. Learn a Language: Lots of families – including ours – embrace bilingualism and strive to teach their kids a second (or third!) language. With the use of audio programs, working on your family’s language skills while sitting in traffic can make that time super productive.
  5. Dream Big: Traffic is perhaps the least inspiring place to be, but with a few prompts from mom, a boring car ride can turn into a dreamland. Ask your kids what they want to be or do in one month, one year, 10 years or when they grow up. Push them to dream big and, somehow, the car ride doesn’t feel so confined.

5 Games to Play When You’re in Traffic With Kids

  1. I Spy With My Little Eye: A classic game! One player picks something they see while the others ask questions describing the object to figure it out.
  2. 20 Questions: One player picks a noun (a person, place or thing) while the other players ask yes/no questions to try to figure it out. Make sure you have a strategy for your questions, though. You only get 20 of them!
  3. Memory Game: This is a great way to flex your memory! Start the game with a broad category, such as countries of the world, cartoon characters or favorite movies, and then begin with the first letter of the alphabet. For example, A is for “Aladdin.” The next player continues with a pick that starts with the following letter AND has to repeat what came before, such as: “A is for Aladdin and B is for Batman.” This goes on until Z … or until you get home.
  4. ABC Game: Players search their surroundings for words that begin with each letter of the alphabet, in order. Once a word has been named, no other players can use the word. The first person to complete the entire alphabet wins the game.
  5. But/So: We love this game! It’s a storytelling game in which each line begins with either “but” or “so,” and it’s a great way to promote creativity. Someone starts with, for example, “The dog went for a walk … ” Another player makes up the next line of the story beginning with “but,” and the next player’s line must start with “so.” And on and on until you reach your destination.

5 Things to Keep in Your Traffic Stash

  1. Individual Activities: Sometimes kids want to disengage. Coloring books, stickers, crayons, journals and/or sticky notes are great to have stashed in the car when kids just want to check out.
  2. Music: A classic, favorite CD can bring back memories and lighten the mood. Holiday music or children’s tunes can also get the backseat choir inspired.
  3. Snacks: A quickly made ham and cheese sandwich or roll up, crackers and fresh fruit all make great snack options for hungry kids during a traffic jam. Also, don’t forget to keep water on hand for long driving sessions too!
  4. Tech Treats: As a family rule, we keep tech (tablets, e-readers, etc.) out of the car for short drives around town. But, if we know in advance that we’ll be driving for an extended period of time or that traffic delays are likely, we’ll bring along their tablets and other tech toys as treats.
  5. Portable Toys/Games: We love games and toys that are designed with portability in mind. Mini board games like Trouble, magnetic Hangman and card games like UNO are all things to keep in your traffic stash.

Sure, there are still going to be those days when the kids won’t stop saying (or yelling), “Are we there yet?” and “She’s looking at me funny!” But with these ideas, getting stuck in traffic can be a chance to bond with your kids, instead of a total nightmare for everyone.

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