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Car Games for Kids

Whether it’s to hit the beach or to visit Grandma, there are probably lots of road trips in your future. Keep the whining at bay with these road tips.

Have goodies to go. It’s the easiest thing of all: Keep a bag in the car filled with age-appropriate stickers, crayons, and little toys. You could even tell your toddler that, say, he’ll get a new object every time you pass a yellow truck (or hear a certain song on the CD player or whatever else might grab his interest).

Show your metal. "We give our son a small metal cookie sheet and a bunch of magnets that he can put on, take off, and rearrange," says Beth Lightman, a mom of one in Colorado Springs, Colorado. "It’s big enough that it stays on his lap and doesn’t fall on the floor, which he finds terribly frustrating with other toys."

Bring a find-it jar. Fill an empty plastic bottle a little more than half full with dry rice and tiny treasures: sequins, small plastic animals, dice, dried noodles. Toddlers have a blast turning the bottle up and down and around to see the cool surprises beneath the rice. (Just be sure to close the cap tightly so your child can’t open the bottle.)

Build up suspense. "We buy inexpensive gifts at the dollar store and wrap them up like presents," says Angel Ishmael, a mom of two in Chicago, Illinois. "Then we let the kids unwrap them at rest stops. The anticipation and surprise makes things way more fun."

Moo like a cow. Baa like a sheep. Ribbet like a frog. Ask your toddler to name each animal and make the sound back. When he gets tired of the farm, switch over to colors: have him look out the window for things that are green, yellow, purple. Then let him name colors for you to find. Enthusiasm is the name of the game: If you’re excited to play, he will be, too.

Stop. A lot. Everyone wants to get there already, but taking breaks keeps everyone from going stir crazy. "We’ve discovered great things: roadside restaurants, travel stops with interesting local information and knickknacks," says Kari Erickson-Valenzuela, a mom of two in Seattle, Washington. "It’s a fun mini-education!"

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