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Driving in Cars with Boys – 12 things you can do with your kids without leaving the car!

Okay, I hope I’m not the only one here….but there are just some times when you really just need to be out of the house and you really need your kids to be contained. I think there’s a quote about how the only vacation a parent gets is after he buckles his kids into their car seats and shuts the door….ahhh…that silent walk around the car to the driver’s side. I think of that every day. I can’t find the quote on the internet, so it might not be real. 😉

Anyway, assuming your kids don’t scream in the car (and I had one that did that until he faced forward), there are lots of things you can do while you have them contained. They might even be entertained! If you’re here because you don’t know what to do but it’s too cold/rainy/snowy/windy for the park and you’ve been to every library in the city or because you just have an hour to kill and you’re going to lose your mind if you don’t leave the house, then I have a few ideas for you.

The first, and I hope, obvious, one is 1.  coffee. I never, and I mean NEVER, used the Starbucks drive through until I had kids. No, scratch that, until I had two kids. I loved going into Starbucks. Maybe you’ll say I was just taken in by their marketing ploys, but I fully bought into the experience. Jazz music, hipster looking people on laptops, baristas who acted like they wanted to be my best friend. Why would I not want to go inside? With just Jaden I could still take him in, breathe in the aroma of freshly ground espresso beans, hear music that made me feel more cultured, order my coffee and safely carry it out with one hand still free to hold his hand. Enter Mayson and I discovered why Starbucks had a drive thru. It must be for parents, right?

Now if you stop for coffee first, I must add one caveat. This puts a time frame on your bladder. You must estimate how much time you have left to remain in the car before you will be forced to leave your sanctuary to relieve yourself. And it is in your best interest to be home by that point in time or it will mean bringing your children with you to a location you may have little control over. I’m just sayin.

Before I had kids I took for granted how easy it was to get in and out of the car. After I had Mayson, I realized how easy it was to get one kid in and out of the car. If you have more kids than me, I stand amazed. When I (rarely) go somewhere by myself, I marvel at the simplicity of opening the door, getting out, closing it and then walking into my desired destination. And if there is more than one destination, it is no problem. I just go. do. be. With kids, I choose plazas where I can walk between my destinations because there are only so many times I am willing to get them in and out of the car. I really digress. If you’ve stuck with me this far, I give you my idea list of things to do in the car:

2.  Deposit money at the ATM. My bank has been trying to convince me to do this and I will give them this – after the private tutorial – they were right. It is easy. I know I am putting a teller out of a job, but drive-thrus were made for parents, right?

Depositing money is my first choice. Second would be 3.  withdrawing money. This is obviously preferable for reasons I don’t think I need to explain.

4.  Return library books to a drive thru drop off. This has the added benefit of decluttering your house without having to bring home new books to replace them.

5.  Mail something. If you want to make a fun trip out of it, take your kids to the main post office on Twin Rivers Drive. It’s big.

6.  Donuts. One morning we were skipping church because the kids had been sick, but we got in the car and drove through Tim Hortons to get a 10 pack of Tim Bits. Cabin fever does these things to me.

7.  Grocery pick up. I hear that you can do this at Giant Eagle Market Districts. I can’t speak to it myself, but it sounds amazing. But not quite as amazing as grocery shopping by yourself. That is the next level of heaven, is it not?

8.  Pick up dinner. Many restaurants have drive thrus – and not just fast food. Panera is one, House of Pho on Lane Ave, and probably a million other places I can’t think of or don’t know about. If you call House of Pho to place an order they tell you it will be ready in 5 minutes. I can’t even get there from my house in 5 minutes, so give them a call on the way! (You can thank me later for that tip.)

9.  Chic Fil A. Okay, Eric and I used this one SO many times when we had a napping baby. For some reason, if both of our kids fell asleep in the car we would instantly have to go to Chic Fil A for ice cream. Our kids don’t transition well from the car to bed for naps so once they’re asleep, you must carpe diem. For us, that means ice cream.

These options are pretty utilitarian. They serve a purpose. But I’ve thought of a few more in case you really need to entertain your kids but want them contained. (I mention that a lot, don’t I?)

10.  Christmas Lights.  Ok, clearly this is time sensitive, but very entertaining!

11.  The Landfill south of Columbus.  Jaden loves this one, I’m half embarrassed to admit. But once I explained that’s where all Mayson’s poopy diapers went, he was enthralled. There are usually garbage trucks driving up the big hill which is great for boys.

12.  Construction sites.  This is Ohio so this should not be difficult. Jaden has been entertained more than once by watching a building get torn down. Mayson was distracted from his 18 mo shots by the digger outside the doctor’s office window. Take advantage of these things when you can. Ohioans love to hate construction – especially the road variety – but pointing out construction vehicles on the road is a great tactic to redirect a whining child (which I have used many a time). You can also sit in parking lots and watch construction/demolition and the like. So I hear. Ahem.

What kind of car entertainment have you employed?


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Thursday 28th of April 2016

I have 3 boys ages 6-2. one of our favorites is to drive to the airport and watch airplanes. We find a parking lot or there's a place right behind the runway that's great to watch planes.

Julie Miller

Thursday 28th of April 2016

3 boys!! :) Watching planes take off is lots of fun! Have you gone to the OSU airport? You can watch from the terminal!

Coffee + Park: 3 Parks Within Walking Distance Of A Coffee Shop | What Should We Do Today?

Tuesday 5th of April 2016

[…] least amount of effort, pick up your coffee and head to the park.  Sure, you could go through the drive through . . . but I’m all about making this an “outing” that’s fun for the child […]

Jimmie Turne

Wednesday 23rd of March 2016

Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after going through many of the posts I realized it’s new to me. Anyways, I’m certainly delighted I discovered it and I’ll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!


Sunday 6th of March 2016

Probably only good for Jayden at this point but "Savenger Hunt"

Give him a few things to "find" on the way to your destination. (Especially awesome on road trips/longer car rides) but good for short rides (and attention spans!)

For example: Find a motorcycle, a dump truck, and a flag. Or, find a train, a red car, something with a siren. (you get the idea) :)

I can't tell you how many miles were passed by this game (much longer list and a little harder than my above example) for the teens as recently as within the last year LOL

Julie Miller

Sunday 13th of March 2016

Great idea! :) Thanks for the comment!

Watching Planes |

Monday 1st of February 2016

[…] This post prompted me to make a list of things you can do in the car with your kids. Check it out here. […]