• Melanie Notaras

How to stop kids puking in your car (and actually turn car trips into fun).

Updated: Aug 13


It’s the easiest solution you can apply in just a few seconds! I have three kids with queasy stomachs so I know what I’m talking about.

Before I reveal my amazing secret, let me tell you that this has been the cure not only for the unrelenting release of stomach contents, but also for boredom and bickering for every single car trip in the last ten years … except for the tragic occasions when I’ve forgotten them, and for the nauseating 63kms of hairpin winding mountain road called The Barry Way at the back of Kosciuszko National Park, where nothing - and I mean nothing - will save you. They keep the driver (me) entertained at the wheel, and the whole family laughing, interested and sometimes even learning together. The secret is (drum roll please) …

Audiobooks! Stories read aloud. Switch them on at the start of your trip and it’s a literal lifesaver. Your trip will fly past at double the speed – with no messy clean ups of wobbly kids and stinky car seats from the side of the road in the middle of a torrential storm.

But that’s not all! With your children literally captive in the back seat of your car, it’s an amazing opportunity to introduce, enjoy and share literature with no effort. Audiobooks range from a simple one-person narration, to complete ‘radio theatre’ with multiple voice actors, music and special sound effects. They’re attention captivating and mesmerising – many times we’ve reached our destination and the kids have been so excited by the story they’ve insisted on staying in the car until the end of the chapter.

Hmm, but are audiobooks still reading, I hear you ask? If no one actually has eyes on the page?

Maybe strictly speaking no, but who wants to be strict when they’re so much fun? Our human tradition of storytelling has been by voice for many thousands of years, and there’s no dispute that it’s as rich an experience as the written word. In fact, it’s a great way to introduce kids to new words, story styles and situations – by listening to the sound and context of the narrator’s voice. It helps with printed reading too. Pre-experience of new words through hearing helps children decode the word faster on the written page and remember the correct pronunciation (and spelling) more quickly, because it already has meaning for them. In our car we frequently pause the track to explain words, ask questions, have a discussion and listen to the funny bits over and over!

If you’re lucky enough to find an author narrating the story, you can experience it as the author intended, and kids love their ‘proximity’ to the celebrity, helping them feel even closer to the book. If kids find reading difficult, it can be helpful to listen to the same story as an audiobook first. They not only familiarise themselves with the words and plot, but they also get excited by it and are keener to read the printed words and experience the story a second time round.

When books are read aloud by adults, children can usually enjoy stories a year or two above their reading level. Not only does this broaden their vocabulary and literary experience, it’s probably also less repetitive for you! Hey, and why shouldn't adults have fun being read to as well?


So which audiobooks should you get? Absolutely fiction! And if it’s your children’s first time, I’d pick a book/series they already know and enjoy well, so they feel a happy anticipation to try the audiobook concept out. All major books today are released in audio too, but don’t be afraid to also check out the classics. We’ve listened to Harry Potter, Zac Power, Peter Pan (original text), Mr Gum (funniest series ever, narrated by actor Kate Winslet - of Titanic fame), Emily Rodda books (the Rondo series, the Rowan of Rin series) … there are too many to list here after ten years, but if you’ve read it in a book, you’ll probably find it in audio.

Preschoolers love audiobooks too! The “Listen & Play” series by BBC Audiobooks (titles include The Animal Fair & Other Stories, On the Farm & Other Stories, and Shopping & Other Stories) is my number one recommendation! With sounds, songs, rhymes and short stories all woven around the same theme, it’s fast-paced to capture young attention yet cleverly repetitive so children learn through prediction. I’d also highly recommend listening to Thomas the Tank Engine (you can hear the trains chugging)!

So where do you find them? Unfortunately school libraries don’t seem to have a lot of audiobooks in stock (more’s the pity, it’s such an accessible form of books and I’d encourage school librarians to purchase them), but you can borrow them for free from your local library either as a standard CD, an MP3 CD or you can download them from your library’s website as an e-audiobook (after you download their app).

If you want to search for something outside their collection, you can get a monthly subscription or directly purchase from any of these major players: Audible (Amazon), Overdrive (enables you to borrow from your local library, from anywhere in the world), Downpour, Scribd, Librivox (free, public domain books), Bolinda Audiobooks (CDs), Google Play, any major bookstore website. Access to their services may vary by country.

So next time you’re heading out, grab a few CDs (or downloads on your phone) and have fun reading your car trip away!

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