Might seem an impossible thing to do, but for the families road tripping this summer, attempt to limit screen time and make the best of time together.

Have a list of games that can be played together while looking out the windows. Some tried-and-true classics include the Alphabet Game, I Spy,  Animalia, License Plates, and Scramble. 

Making a small surprise bag for the trip gives everyone (even teens) a boost. Who doesn’t love a bag of surprises?  Just fill it with new crayons or pencils, a coloring book, journal, sketch pad, stickers, a small toy or trinket, and your child’s favorite snack.  Then wait for the right moment! 

Top Tips for Being Screen Smart on the Road:

For part of the trip, sit with your littlest ones while they’re watching and use the trip as a chance to do some shared viewing.

If you want to let them watch without you and then talk, that works, too.

• Before pressing play, “prime” children for a fun, new way of using screens. “Today we’re going to do something special and talk about what we’ve watched. I want you to look for what you like, what you don’t like, and why. Then we’ll talk about the details and you can tell me what you’ve noticed.”

• When watching together, interact and talk during screen time just the way you do when reading a book. Point out details and share ideas. During story time, children ask questions. They point out colors, shapes, and characters they enjoy.  That same kind of interaction can easily take place during shared viewing. Plus, you can relate what’s on the screen to what you see out the window.

• Ask questions. If you’re co-viewing, you can pause and ask questions or ask questions while the program or app is running. “What do you think happened there?” “What kind of animal was that?” “Why do you think she did that”? “What color is that?”  Just get your little ones used to listening to you and answering or asking questions while watching. If you’re talking with the child after they’ve seen they’re program, ask them about the characters, the setting, or what happened in the game/app or video. 

The child-centered exploration can make shared screen time magical instead of isolating everyone in the car. You just need to show interest and talk about the stories kids see on screens, whether they’re YouTube shows, apps, or video games. Just turn on the mind before the screen!


  • Nicole Dreiske

    Educational Innovator & Children's Media Expert

    International Children's Media Center

    Nicole Dreiske is an educational innovator and children’s media expert who has worked with more than 500,000 children. She is the Executive Director of the International Children’s Media Center and the author of THE UPSIDE OF DIGITAL DEVICES: How to Make Your Child More Screen Smart®, Literate and Emotionally Intelligent.