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[fun facts for kids]The best books, games, podcasts and activities to keep children entertained on long journeys

  By Lara Kilner

  Fun Kids Science Weekly

  What is snot for, what is sick made from, and why the blazes did people in olden times have quite so many bunions? Admit it, you’ve been wondering all these things. Covering everything from the Jurassic period to the future when we may just all have second homes on Mars, this is science – just as it says on the tin – at its most fabulous and funniest. funkidslive.com/podcast/the-fun-kids-science-weekly

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  Gripping children’s story-telling podcast based on traditional folk tales from around the world, with the current series focusing on animals. We’ve had an African tale of a baboon tricking a tortoise out of his fair share of figs, while an Aboriginal frog drank all the water in a billabong so that the other animals went thirsty, and the latest offering is all about how a fox fooled an angel when the world was new, with a scary sea monster thrown into the mix. wardourstudios.co.uk/supergreat-kids-stories/

  Aimed at 8- 14-years-olds, this is the podcast version of the junior version of the respected magazine about world issues. The weekly offering sparks up young imaginations and gets them involved in voicing their opinions during the Big Debate, whether that’s about the school day being longer or how we feel about the Queen. Recent episodes have covered topics as diverse as Windrush Day and faces on banknotes. funkidslive.com/podcast/the-week-junior-show/

  Wow In The World

  Here it is, that Holy Grail of entertainment, something that captivates younger kids, older kids and grown-ups in equal measures, Wow In The World is the ultimate learning fun. Presenters Guy Raz and Mindy Thomas talk about the kid-friendly news stories of the week (kind of like a goofball comedy version of Newsround) and answer serious scientific questions with the help of some daft characters like Reggie the carrier pigeon – what he doesn’t know about the outer reaches of the solar system isn’t worth knowing. tinkercast.com/shows/wow-in-the-world

  Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls

  Based on the inspiring books for girls, this podcast sees influential women wax lyrical about even more influential women. Each episode they tell the story of an amazing trailblazer, before being interviewed about themselves. So we have Broad City comedian and activist Ilana Glazer on Kamala Harris, professor and lawyer Anita Hill on Rosa Parks, and Jameela Jamil on Greta Thunberg. Beats all those lashings of ginger beer with the Famous Five when it comes to empowering young girls. rebelgirls.com/pages/podcast

  You’re Dead To Me

  Horrible Histories revolutionised boring learning about olden times and this podcast, with credentials from the Radio 4 fold, is continuing those sterling efforts. Greg Jenner covers everything from ancient loo roll to a Norse world run by squirrels, with the help of a historian and a comedian each week. The most recent episode is all about Ghengis Khan and how he used kittens as weapons. bbc.co.uk/sounds/brand/p07mdbhg

  Teen Girl Talk

  Siblings Franklin and Susie Cota share their musings over movies, books, TV and music for teens. And we’re not just talking current stuff – recent episodes have featured Normal People and Sabrina the Teenage Witch. A great way to get your monosyllabic daughter digesting things that aren’t Love Island in their down time. Mums who were Riot grrrrrls in the 90s will highly appreciate the theme tune coming courtesy of Bikini Kill. teengirltalk.podbean.com

  HarryPotter and the Sacred Text

  Going where no book group has gone before, this is more than a mere fan podcast, it explores the meaning of life via the medium of Harry Potter’s cast of characters. Each episode looks at a theme – whether that be fear or awe, hope or joy – and reads a chapter of one of the books through this lens. At the end of every episode a female character from the books receives a blessing. They’re going in deep. harrypottersacredtext.com

  What’s Good Games

  Three gaming geeks (all female, refreshingly) dish the week’s news, commentary and analysis for video game nerds everywhere – you name us an older child/teen who isn’t one and we’ll give you our PS4 for free (no please, just take it). whatsgoodgames.com/

  TED Talks Daily

  A good one to get your teens learning, talking and pondering (great for some in-car discussion when you’re grid-locked on the M4 this summer). Each day, TED Talks Daily presents the audio of a talk from a leading creative or highly impressive thinker. Subjects include climate change, racial bias and how Dolly Parton has all the answers you need in life. ted.com/podcasts

  By Lara Kilner

  Wikki Stix 3+

  These kids’ craft sticks can be used on the move and fashioned into all sorts from flowers to butterflies to mini cars to, well, a blob of multicoloured wax, depending on your/your child’s levels of creativity. There are an array of different packs on offer and there’s no need for glue or any other such faffy stuff to stick it together. From £8.20, wikki-stix.co.uk

  Fidget toys 3+

  If your kid is of the vomitus variety when it comes to car journeys, it’s best not to have them look at things or do things as such, or you’ll be clambering for the sick bag in seconds. Fidget toys are just the ticket here to keep their hands busy while they look out of the (front) window (not the side, never the side). While fidget spinners were all the rage until recently, Poppits are now the sensory toy of the season. From £4.99, whsmith.co.uk

  Travel chess, draughts and backgammon set 6+

  What Jaques of London don’t know about chess boards isn’t worth knowing, and this quality piece of kit is just the ticket for a train or plane journey. You get a wooden box set that converts into a board for chess, draughts and backgammon, so your kids could well be a triple-threat by the time those long, tedious journeys are done with. £9.99, jaqueslondon.co.uk

  Three kids playing rock paper scissors in car on a road trip (Photo: Getty)Three kids playing rock paper scissors in car on a road trip (Photo: Getty)

  Are we there yet? travel card game 6+

  Every parent’s favourite question on a journey (usually uttered just after the first set of traffic lights you encounter) immortalised in a card game. Essentially a pimped-up I Spy with cards as props, keep those eyes peeled for what’s on your card and tot up your points (with, say, a combine harvester being worth more than a caravan). £3.99, amazon.co.uk

  Backpacker card game 12+

  You might only be on your way to Tenby this summer, but you can make-believe it’s Thailand with this backpacker game, great for older kids and teens (who can only dream of crowded trains, skanky youth hostels and buckets of SangSom right now). The challenge is to return home first, while battling obstacles of travel sickness, missed connections and bad advice. Let them not be an omen for your own holiday this summer. £9.99, backpackercardgame.com

  Traveller’s Playing Cards 5+

  This aesthetically-pleasing deck of playing cards has all the traditional uses, but you can also your language skills to boot (because who doesn’t love a spot of multitasking, even in leisure time?). The cards each contain a common phrase in French and Spanish so, even though you might only be in Blackpool this summer, your kids will know how to find the nearest ATM the next time they’re in Barcelona or Biarritz. £8, herblester.com

  Landmark Lotto Mini Game 4+

  The Holy Grail of learning and fun, this will help little ones to identify worldly treasures from the Great Wall of China to the pyramids and digest fun facts (everyone loves a fun fact) along the way. The object is to match your cards to the passport playing board. But no kids, we can’t go and climb Mount Everest now. Next year, maybe. £5.35, Orchard Toys

  IQ Stars 6+

  This is one for those in possession of a logical brain and good concentration (so not all kids then), with over 120 challenges involving the placing of puzzle pieces. Some of them easy, others less so, for those who get their kicks out of problem solving. £9.99, smarttoysandgames.co.uk

  Loopy Loopers 8+

  Another fidget toy, coming in all manner of snazzy styles and colours, there’s something incredibly satisfying about watching the marble doing its spinning thing. So you’d better buy one for the grown-ups too. A very helpful calming device for six-hour traffic jams on small Cornish roads in 30 degree heat. £6, theytoyshop.com

  Ridley’s Celebrity Trivia Game 15+

  One for teens to stop sulking for a minute or two. There are 140 questions cards with trivia from what The Weeknd’s actual name is (you mean that’s not on his birth certificate?) to which Spice Girl got married first (one for the mums there).

  £3, John Lewis

  Courtesy of the AA

  The Picnic Game

  A memory-based alphabet game that requires you to pay close attention. One player starts off with the line “I went to a picnic and brought…” followed by an object beginning with A. The next player has to repeat all that went before and end with an item beginning with B and so on through the letters of the alphabet.

  The Word Association Game

  One person starts by saying a word then each person has to come up with a word that has some connection to the previous one. Quick-thinking is key – the faster paced the more fun the game.

  Pub Cricket

  Better for A-roads and B-roads than motorways. The aim of this game is to spot pubs along your car trip and successfully count how many arms and legs are in each pub name, with a maximum score of six runs per sign. Any time you spot the words “arms” or “head” though, you’re out and the next batter is up. The Horse and Jockey, for example, would be six combined legs and two arms giving you a score of eight and out while The King George would score four (two arms and two legs). Spotting The Beehive is an automatic win.

  Name That Tune

  Humming is the name of the game. Everybody has a favourite song they just can’t get out of their heads. You could even add bonus points for naming the year the song was written.

  The Number Plate Game

  This is a great game for inspiring creativity rather than competitiveness. Everyone chooses a passing car and memorises the last three letters of the number plate. Now make up a story using the letters. Use the first letter to decide the name of the main character, the second could be an item or an animal in the story, and the third letter can provide inspiration for what the character’s doing.

  Car Bingo

  This one takes a little prep before you set off. Make a list (or a picture card for younger children) of things you might see on your journey. For example, sheep, a church, cows, an AA van, a horse, a car transporter, a tractor, a pink car, a Red Lion pub, a fire engine, a deer, a Robin Reliant, an Eddie Stobart lorry, a castle, motorway services etc. Children cross off their score cards as they spot each item.

  Never Miss A Beat

  All you need for this car game is a stereo. Stick on a song which everyone knows, start singing along – then turn the volume down for 10 seconds. Carry on singing without the tune to guide you. Turn the volume back up, and see how you’re all getting on. The winner is the person who is perfectly in time with the music.

  Rock Paper Scissors

  A classic game to play on the go. Each player simultaneously forms one of three shapes with an outstretched hand. These shapes are “rock”, “paper” and “scissors”. Scissors cut paper while paper wraps rock and rock blunts scissors. Who will win?

  For more driving games, visit theaa.com

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  Barbara Throws a Wobbler 2+

  Nadia Shireen (Jonathan Cape, £6.99)

  Barbara is a small cat with some very big emotions… and she’s about to throw a wobbler. Not only will this book get kids talking about their emotions and how to handle them, it’ll have everyone in hysterics, too. An instant classic, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.

  Look What I Found at the Seaside 3+

  Moira Butterfield, illustrated by Jesús Verona (Nosy Crow & The National Trust, £6.99)

  Poems and facts w eave together in this lovely book. Spot different types of mermaid’s purse, find out how crabs change their shells and be enchanted by happy illustrations. As essential as a bucket and spade.

  Duck, Duck, Dad? 3+

  Lorna Scobie (Scholastic, £6.99)Ralph the dog just wants a quiet life. But with a flock of newly hatched ducklings to care for, life is about to get very noisy indeed. The illustrations are by turn touching and hilarious – when bedtime calls, this is a book you’ll be happy to read again and again.

  The Pirate Mums 3+

  Jodie Lancet-Grant, illustrated by Lydia Corry (OUP, £6.99)

  Billy’s family isn’t like anyone else’s in his class: his mums sing sea shanties, have a pet parrot and a tendency to wear stripes. And when they accompany Billy and his class on a trip to the seaside, anything could happen… Swap ordinary for extraordinary with this

  jolly, briny tale.

  Genie and Teeny Make a Wish 5+

  Steve Lenton (HarperCollins Children’s, £6.99)

  All genies have a magic word. In the case of Grant, it’s “Alaka-blam-a-bumwhistle”. And using it got him thrown out of Genie World. Now he’s down on Earth and his troubles are only beginning. Extremely silly and completely adorable.

  Reading is a great way to pass the time on a train (Photo: Getty)Reading is a great way to pass the time on a train (Photo: Getty)

  On Your Marks, Get Set, Gold! +7

  Scott Lee, illustrated by Antoine Corbineau (Nosy Crow, £9.99)

  From boccia to volleyball, this book will guide young readers through the Paralympics and Olympics, with facts, rules and a bit of history, too. Each sport even comes with a chart showing your chances of becoming a future champion.

  The Great Food Bank Heist 7+

  Onjali Q. Raúf, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli (Barrington Stoke, £6.99)

  Voucher Thursday is the day that Nelson goes to the best bank in the world… the food bank. But food is going missing. Could there be a thief at work? A tender and funny look at a difficult subject. A percentage of the book’s royalties will go to Trussell Trust food banks.

  The Last Bear 7+

  Hannah Gold, illustrated by Levi Pinfold (HarperCollins Children’s, £12.99)

  What do you love most? For April, it is a bear – the last polar bear on Bear Island. But all the ice caps have melted, so how did he get there? And how will he ever get home? Deceptively simple words and some heart-rendingly beautiful illustrations will make young hearts roar.

  Listified! 8+

  Andrew Pettie, illustrated by Andrés Lozano (Britannica Books, £18.99)

  It’s easy to start reading this hefty book of fascinating lists, but very hard to stop. Photographs and fun illustrations make these bite-sized facts even more addictive. Pack it for long journeys, and if it rains, no problem – you’ve got a ready-made family quiz.

  Indiana Bones 8+

  Harry Heape, illustrated by Rebecca Bagley (Faber, £6.99)

  Indiana Bones is a talking dog, and his owner, the 12-year-old Aisha, is braver than four lions. Together they are on the trail of a fabulous treasure trove. But they are not the only ones looking… This is surely one of the shaggiest dog stories ever. And it’s a heck of a lot of fun.

  The Incredible Talking Machine 8+

  Jenni Spangler, illustrated by Chris Mould (Simon and Schuster, £7.99)

  Tig is used to gas lamps and even ghosts. But the Theatre Royale’s strange new act has her worried. Can a machine really talk? Packed full of Gothic detailing and glorious gadgets – children will shiver with delight at this Victorian adventure.

  Welcome to Trashland 8+

  Steve Cole (Barrington Stoke, £6.99)

  Where do broken electronics go? Theo knows. He lives in Trashland, a dumping ground in Ghana, searching for metal he can sell. He dreams of escape, and going to school. And when he meets Emmanuel, he may just have his chance.

  Children of the Quicksands 9+

  Efua Traoré (Chicken House, £7.99)

  City girl Simi is spending the next two months with her grandma in a Nigerian village without TV, phones, or her mum. Simi knows nothing of her family’s past, but now, the truth is about to be revealed, whether or not she is ready for it. This compelling debut won the Times/Chicken House Fiction Competition.

  The Secret Detectives 9+

  Ella Risbridger (Nosy Crow, £7.99)

  In the middle of the night, the newly orphaned Isobel Petty saw someone being thrown off a ship. But come the morning, no one on the SS Marianna seems to have noticed. This prequel to The Secret Garden has a wonderfully prickly heroine and writing that sings.

  Wave Riders 9+

  Lauren St John (Macmillan Children’s, £7.99)

  Orphan twins Jess and Jude live a life of adventure on the high seas, along with their guardian, Gabe. Then Gabe vanishes, and the twins must set sail alone. A pacy mystery criss-crossing land and water.

  SkyWake Invasion 10+

  Jamie Russell (Walker, £6.99)

  Casey Henderson loves gaming – specifically, a team shooter called SkyWake. When she is playing, anything seems possible… and when an alien spaceship appears in the sky and kids start going missing, she will need all her skills. If any book can get between kids

  and their screens, it’s this one.

  Silence is Not an Option 10+

  Stuart Lawrence (Scholastic, £14.99)

  Motivational speaker Stuart Lawrence’s book implores young readers to “stand up, speak out, be the difference”. Harnessing the good within isn’t easy, but Lawrence gives us a roadmap for a better future. Interspersed with reflections on the murder of his younger brother Stephen, this book will change lives.

  Show Us Who You Are 11+

  Elle McNicoll (Knights Of, £6.99)

  The dead can come back to life with the help of The Pomegranate Institute, and they want to speak to Cora. McNicoll won the Blue Peter Book Award and the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize for her debut A Kind of Spark, and now is back with a moving story of hologram technology, grief and friendship.

  The Yearbook 13+

  Holly Bourne (Usborne, £7.99)

  Paige is used to be being alone, and fading into the background. But now she’s finally ready to say, “I exist”. And those two words will change everything. Tackling tough subjects with a deceptively light touch, Holly Bourne gets into the heads of teenagers like no one else.

  Smashed 14+

  Andy Robb (UCLan, £7.99)

  His dad is leaving, and now he is turning 16, it is time for Jamie to step up and take his place. Caught between his parents, drinking makes Jamie’s unhappiness go away. Until it doesn’t. Toxic masculinity, fathers and their sons – there is a real immediacy to this powerful coming-of-age story.