The car is packed, the kids are buckled in, and ‘activities’ have been handed out: phones, tablets, Leap Pads, DVD players, or video games. You have a three-hour drive ahead of you. Time will fly by with the kids occupied in their own worlds. But, what if your family were offered a different ‘activity’ that didn’t involve electronics? Would you be up for trying something new? What if, on your next car trip, you had a family audiobook on hand, short entertaining stories which would end before you reached your destination?
Now, I know why you’ve handed out the devices. It’s a short trip and you don’t want the kids to be bored because all parents know bored kids don’t travel well. Boredom in the car leads to arguing and teasing and crying, right? And, if you’re like me, you hate arguing and crying kids, especially when you’re stuck in a confined space with them.
If it were a longer trip you would have actually made some of those ‘Pinterest perfect’ pre-packed individualized activity tubs labelled with colour co-ordinated names and contents. Or perhaps you would have put together some travel binders stocked with travel bingo games, laminated printing practice cards, and Mad Lib sheets. But honestly, you’re a busy mom and you just don’t have time to actually turn those well-meaning intentions into actions while packing everything else and the kids will be just as happy staring at their devices for three hours. Instead of handing out the electronics, sometimes it is nice to turn on an audiobook instead.
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Fun & short family audiobook suggestions:
(great for kids ages 4-10)
by Roald Dahl, running time 1 hour, 40 minutes
If your family has not met Roald Dahl, then driving in the car is the perfect spot for an introduction. This story, along with a few others like The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Witches are all delightful short audiobook options with running times around 4 hours.
In particular, we like George’s Marvelous Medicine because it is brief, cute, and amusing. George must mind his grumpy grandmother while his parents are out. However, he decides grandma could use some different medicine and goes about making her a magical concoction with very unexpected consequences. Roald Dahl is good at seeing the story from a kid’s perspective and using language kids aged 4-8 find very funny. I guarantee there will be laughter in the car while listening to this Roald Dahl story.
by Theodore Taylor, running time 3 hours
This is a children’s novel written in 1969. The main character is a privileged 11-year-old boy living in Curacao. In fleeing German war submarines, the boy, a cat, and a sailor are shipwrecked on a tropical island. The characters are quickly forced to confront prior beliefs about race and status while struggling to survive together on this uninhabited island. This story does explore mature subject matters: racial prejudices, war, survival, and death, but in a manor suitable for all ages.
Apparently this book is frequently read in American elementary schools, so it might be nice to introduce kids to it first as a family read. Adults will appreciate this book for the inner and interpersonal growth of the characters as well as the incredible struggles of survival on this island. Kids will enjoy listening to the details of island life, and relating to the young boy’s character. My 7-year-old listened to the story from beginning to end; however, my 5 year old did not follow the story to the end, although, she did sit quietly while it played in the car. As a family, this is a nice choice to spark conversation after the story is finished and there are still more miles to drive.
This one is so much fun. In fact, adults might even enjoy it more than the kids. The story is a very basic murder mystery. The composer is dead and a detective must question the various instruments of the orchestra. Just the story on its own is good. However, the audio version performed by Lemony Snicket with the San Francisco Symphony is fantastic. It is structured in a ‘meet the orchestra’ fashion punctuated with humorous dialogue and entertaining music.
Both our 5 and 7 year old enjoyed The Composer is Dead. If any members of your family are musically inclined or play instruments this selection will definitely be a hit. Do make sure you have gotten the edition with both narration and music as there is also a version of just the music.
by Neil Gaiman, running time 1 hour
Neil Gaiman is a favourite author of mine. He writes fantastic tales for both the young and old. This short story of his is fast paced, making the hour fly by. Fortunately, the Milk is an adventuresome tale told by a father to his two doubting children about why he was delayed in returning from the store. The father went to the store to buy milk and, as the title suggests, the milk plays a big part is saving him from numerous incredible, fantastic perils.
Adults will appreciate the fluid and quick writing style and kids and adults alike will take pleasure in the amusing weaving of events. This story was entertaining for our children between the ages of 4-8.
We have repeatedly enjoyed these suggested stories on more than one trip. Adults will love them because they are well written and entertaining. Kids will love these audiobooks because they’re funny, musical, and imaginative.
Now that you are armed with these ideas for your next car trip, where are you going to get these stories? You could try your local library and library digital lending services. You could also look on Amazon, Audible, and Itunes.
I do hope you and your family take up the challenge and give audiobooks (instead of electronics) a try for your next car trip. And, if you have any other great family audiobook suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Enjoy!
P.S. If you’re a family who enjoys family road trips, you might also be a family who enjoys family camping. Here’s a post all about making camping simple and easy by focusing only on the basics. I also have some super cute camping packing lists I’d love to share with you.