Keeping children happy on long journeys
Travel gadgets like tablets and MP3 players have the magical power to keep children happy on long journeys – especially stocked with the right apps for kids.
At a glance
- Tablets can be loaded up with movies, TV shows and games to keep kids entertained for hours
- Headphone slitters are great for allowing more than one child to listen to music from one device
- Educational games are a great distraction and they will be learning loads too
If you can bring yourself to hand it over to your little one, a tablet is one of the most versatile ways to keep them entertained. Load it up with movies, TV shows and eBooks, or download kid-friendly apps and games.
There are several tablet options out there. If kids are going to be the main users, you’ll want to take their needs into consideration when you choose. The iPad has more apps, but the cheaper Kindle Fire and Samsung Galaxy Tab also offer plenty of possibilities, and they’re just the right size for little hands.
When choosing apps, do your homework and get creative. How about Pitch Painter, an app that lets you draw and paint music? The best apps aren’t necessarily expensive – see our pick of the top learning apps for kids.
Podcasts, audiobooks and music may well be enough to keep your child happy – but if you need something with a little extra punch, many parents go with the iPod Touch. It’s as good as an iPhone for apps and games, but simpler and without such a hefty price tag.
If you’d like your journey distractions to involve a bit of learning, a handheld game can be ideal. You can get tablet-like gadgets in the £50-£70 range, with the touchscreen your child knows and loves, stocked with educational games only. LeapFrog and VTech both make models that are well worth a look. Check out our selection of free educational games to inspire and keep them entertained.
Portable game consoles
If you’ve ever seen a child on public transport absorbed in a handheld console, you’ll know just how well a good game can make a journey more interesting. The two big names are, of course, Nintendo and PlayStation.
Nintendo is the undisputed master of games for young kids, with even its flagship characters, Mario and Link (of the Zelda Games) cheerful and cartoony. The Nintendo DS Lite is the one to go for if you have little ones, since the other main option, the Nintendo 3DS, has a 3D effect that isn’t suitable younger children.
PlayStation offers serious gameplay, the kind of fast, frenetic action that will appeal to your teens. Their handheld model is the PlayStation Vita.
With both types, be very careful about the settings and ensure your kids can only access games that are age-appropriate. All games have a video game rating system for age-related content. For more information on how this works see www.pegi.info.
An essential addition to a gadget, supplying your kid with headphones will save you from constant beeping and computerised music. Forget to bring them and you might find it gets almost as irritating as ‘Are we there yet?’
More than one child?
For families with more than one child an essential bit of kit has to be the earphone 'splitter'. This brilliant gadget allows one or more children (or bored adults) to listen to the same music, or watch the same film on one device. You can buy two-way splitters, or there's even some with up to five headphone sets. The top tip here is to use the same type of headphones, so that the volume is distributed evenly.