In my younger years I traveled a lot and always remembered seeing mothers struggling with their children at airports, on airplanes and even during road trips. I always thought, “Oh my is this what I have to look forward too.” I also told myself I would never travel when I had children.
Fast-forward many years later, my husband tells me we were taking a road trip from Florida to Wisconsin with the kids, I thought he was crazy. Well there was no backing out of this one and I surely didn’t want to pass up a fun time. Yikes, now what.
At that time my boys were 9 month and 3 ½ and my three year old being a highly energetic child, I knew I had to find ways to entertain him and also burn some of that energy along the way.
Children tend to get antsy, irritable, and then soon the crying begins. Yes, sorry to say, my kids were not perfect.
Well with a 9 month old that part was easy as he was calm and liked to sleep a lot. The car ride was soothing to him, so it was a good thing I only had one to entertain for the most part. At 9 month old you can give them a ball or a toy and most are content for a while, at least mine was.
I packed many items to try out, but as you know, their attention span is so short at a young age and they get bored easily. The first two road trips were not a peachy as I thought it would be, so I really had to put thought into how I was going to entertain them for such a long period of time in the car.
After the third road trip things started to get better as I experimented with different car activities. However, once the boys got older, I then had two highly energetic children and that’s when things got a little testy so I had to change my strategy.
Here are a few ideas I used to keep them calm, happy and burn off energy.
First of all I have to start off by saying, don’t fight them, just work with them. Road trips are about family time, time to bond together and have fun. Make the best of your trip. If they see you frustrated and angry, they too will also get frustrated and angry.
Take plenty of coloring books and crayons with 2 sets of the same colors. I always carried two trays in my car that my children used for multiple purposes. They were used as eating trays, coloring, craft, anything you needed a tray for, it got used. This is very handy to have and keep at all times in your vehicle. To this day my boys still use them to eat on.
Read them their favorite stories and talk like funny characters would in the book. Or one of my favorite things to do was to make up a funny story and make sure the characters you use, resembles their personalities. They love it and laugh hard when you mention their character.
For example;one of my boys loved to hunt for rocks, so I made up a story about a little bear that loved to hunt for rocks, he soon came to a creek and knew he couldn’t go into the water because his mom told him he didn’t know how to swim. Yet he was determined to go in to get that special rock until his older brother caught him and told him he was going to tell mom. Get the picture.
They really love stories like these and trust me it can drag on as they are in suspense as to what will happen next. Your kids will really get a kick out of it. Always end it well with mommy loving them for being who they are.
This will also make great bedtime stories.
If you have a DVD player installed in your car or have a laptop, movies are great to play on a long road trip. Talk about downtime for mom, it is well worth the investment. Plus it eventually puts them to sleep allowing you to sleep too.
TAKE BINOCULARS SO THEY CAN SCOPE THINGS OUT
Depending at what age your child is at, make up a game according to what they can find. For instance if they know their ABC’s, make the game about finding things along the way that start or has the letter A. Give them points as you go along (2 points for the first to find it and 1 for the second). Go from A-Z.
You too can get involved and alternate between finding it first or not finding any. At the end calculate all the points and the one with the most points gets a reward.
I always gave a reward to both my boys and let them know they did an awesome job and the points were so close that they both deserve a prize. This eliminates a fight or pouting.
You can do this with colors or numbers and as they get older, graduate too much harder things like words, things or places.
Even License plate game is good too. Who ever can find a letter, number or combo of numbers on a license plate gets points.
Play I Spy:
You say “I spy with my little eye something ________” (Find something and Fill in the blank) Lets say “Blue”. They then search for something that is blue. Answer: The sky. Make it easy when they are little and slowly graduate to much harder things. If you are in a car – tell them it is something in the car. You can use a book, a box, luggage, or stick to color things. That way they are not looking all over and confusing them. You can also say “I spy with my little eye something that says moooo.” Make sure you are passing lots of cows so it gives them time to see it. If they can’t guess it, give them hints.
See who is the first to find a blue car, orange, yellow, white. Or how many white cars do they see in 5 minutes and time it. Get my point.
How many cows, pigs or horses can they find? This was always so much fun because they really got to enjoy the scenery and find interesting things along the way. Give them a pad of paper to make a line every time they counted an animal. This makes it easier for them to remember and count the lines at the end of the game.
Road trip games can be so much fun at any age. Even as teenagers and adults my family still plays them to this day. The older they get the harder I make it and they even create their own games.
Off course when they are teenagers they do the VW punch game where, whoever sees a bug (Volkswagen car) first, punches the other. Boys will be boys.
Crafts can be fun if your children like it. Bring along pipe cleaners and let them make stuff out of it. Bring a mini chalkboard and have them draw what they see out the window, mountains, lakes, or trains. Anything they can find.
There are many inexpensive digital cameras out there, buy one for each child or let them share. You can even get them a disposable camera. Let them take pictures of what they see. It’s interesting to see later what they took pictures of while on their trip.
Paper and notebooks:
I had one child that loved to write so he wrote all about his trip. Things he saw during his ride in the car, where he stopped, things he got to experience. Yes, there was a lot of “mommy how do you spell this”, but that’s ok he’s learning, just be patient with them. The other child well he pretended and just scribbled on his note pad. I always encouraged them to take it into their teacher when school started. This made them so proud to have their teacher read it and give them a “GREAT JOB” pat on the back.
Never leave home without them. Make sure it is not a messy snack. As a mom you want them to eat healthy stuff like carrots and celery, but we know that might be tough so limit their dry snack intake. Don’t forget the drinks too. Keep them well fed and hydrated is key here. Also feed them healthy lunches too.
Always stop to burn energy. I know if you have a husband that likes to drive straight through this can be a problem, but honestly either you have a miserable trip or you stop to let them burn energy. Nice, clean and busy rest stops are the best of course. Some have play areas or find a corner with no traffic and let them run a little bit, Of course with supervision. Take chalk and draw hopscotch or draw a circle and have them stay within that circle with a ball. Take their scooter along if they’re old enough to ride one.
BE ACTIVE AND PLAY WITH THEM.
Kids love parent interaction; remember it is a family vacation.
Stopping for Gas can be fun:
Now listen up here, this is what I did with my boys and they looked forward to it each time we traveled.
When we would stop for gas, we always choose a fun place with a nice store. If you take plenty of road trips like we did, you kind of know which are decent to stop at. Get off on an exit that is busy and scope it out. You don’t need to spend hours doing this, just quickly scope it out and choose.
Always tell them prior to stopping that if they are great car travelers you will give them $2 or $3 so they can buy anything they wish that cost that amount or they could save their money for the next stop. I had a spender and a saver.
Let them shop on their own with close supervision. This teaches them to make choices and learn the value of money plus they get to buy something they want that will entertain them for a bit or simply just a snack of choice. Avoid sweets, you don’t want a hyper child.
You can also have them both choose a gift for grandma, grandpa, aunts, uncles or friend.
What child does not like to sing. Just sing away.
The wheels on the bus go round and round
Row, row, row your boat
I’d always make up songs as I went along and pointed out to different things along the way, like a chicken, a cow, a horse.
Be a fun mom or fun parents. So what if you look goofy doing so, your children don’t care. They just look at how fun mom and dad are. I have teenagers and still act goofy and have fun. Even though at this age they get annoyed, in reality they rather see their mom happy then not happy at all.
Make the best of what life has to offer. Your children are only little once.
Make your family trips fun and memorable for them, stop to do some sightseeing along the way. Children grow up too fast, soon leave the nest and you want them to remember the fun trips they had as a child. And when they become parents themselves, they will remember their fun times and do the same with their children.
If you’re traveling in an airplane, use some of the same ideas.
Let them burn energy before boarding so when they get on the plane, they are tired and want to sleep. Make sure they are well fed. A hungry child is a recipe for a cranky child.
Love your children and treasure every moment. Time does fly by.
As a mom I have raised my children having no regrets. We are a close family and to date, we have fun on every trip we take. I want my children to remember me as a fun mom, a mom that brought joy to her family regardless what we did.
Life is too short. Live it the way you want it and live it good. Your children will remember all the fun times and do the same for their own children one day. Be a good positive example to your children. Remember monkey see monkey do.
Kiki DAHKLE – XOXO
P.S. I hope you enjoyed this quick guide of ideas to use on family road trips.
Please come join us on Facebook and be so kind to leave me a comment and let me know how you did with these games. Thank you.