How to drive 4000 miles without screen time

We are not a screen-time free family. We do make conscious efforts to provide imaginative play, non visual entertainment, and time to interact with each other.  We usually tightly control how long we let our three children morph into zombies to the like of Backyardagans and little children Pirates.

How to Drive 4000 Miles Without Screen Time-06

Recently we took two family vacations with children ages 5, 4, and 2.  One trip included driving over 1200 miles to get to our destination and then back.  Somehow we made the drive with our sanity intact without turning on a single show or movie.  This was not the initial plan per se.  We had two iPads in the car if needed.  Mostly for the evening hours when everyone is tired of being in the car still and a single wrong look or questions could send a passenger or driver into own vehicle directed road rage.

By our second long trip the kids were completely used to riding happily and playing with each other.  Miraculously no one even asked to watch a show or movie on the nearly 1800 miles of driving.   By this time we just decided to keep going without any movies.

Here are some ways that my wife made this all possible.

  1. Intermittent surprises.  These timed little games or treats can be from the dollar store.  Just be prepared to tell them when it breaks that it was build to break within ten minutes of being played with on purpose.  Also-Glow sticks are awesome when driving in the dark for those that are not asleep yet.
  1. Stickers.  So much fun to peel and slap onto another page.  Some may be entertained for seconds others for hours.
  1. Books on tape-Harry Potter, Jungle Book, Peter Pan.  We listened to each of these.  The kids would still play occasionally, ask questions, comment on things out there window and then contently go back to listening.  Not recommended audio listening for children: War and Peace,  Fifty shades of anything, or the works of Plato.
  1. Where are we now timeline.  This did not completely eliminate dreaded “Are we there yet?” question from the vehicle.  It simply lowered the amount and we could say, “Well we just passed Memphis and the next town to look for is Bucksnort”
  1. Anthems.  You know what kids like almost as much as annoying kids music.  Fun adult music you can rock out to, sing at the top of your lungs and laugh at.  Much more likely if they see their parents doing the same.


  1. Francesca says

    Well some of us use screens a lot, like a lot a lot. I would glue them to my children’s eyeballs if it would help driving across the country. We used to have just one screen in the van. Now they each have their own individual screens. I am impatiently waiting for google glass to come out with child friendly versions so that they don’t even have to use their arms to hold up anything and can just lay like slugs while Scooby Doo sucks out their brain cells. Please don’t let your children come over here and infect mine with these pesky ideas of togetherness and playing outside.

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