This weekend my family is taking a road trip “over the border” from our central Indiana home to our friends’ home in Central Illinois. It is a mere two hour drive. But with a toddler, two hours can seem like 20…. Road trips have been a way of life for our family since the beginning. When our two oldest (now 13 and almost 12) were babies, we took many, many road trips, some as long as 12 hours one way. As they grew, and our number of children did likewise, we began to travel less frequently and fewer hours at a time. But we have always tried to maintain a habit of road trips, partially because we have dear friends who refuse to move closer (Cindy, I’m not naming names here, but you know who you are…). But also partially because we want the children to be in the habit of traveling cheerfully. Which brings me to today’s Fun Friday. How to make Road Trips with small children FUN! First I encourage the adults to remember a couple things:
- Children are small. They have tiny bladders. They also have little ability to predict when they will need to potty.
- If you feed your herd right before leaving, in hopes to avoid the “I’m hungry”s, you will need to expect a potty break about 20 minutes after you get on the road.
Keeping those things in mind will help the parent not get so frustrated. A parent’s attitude is more than half the battle in cheerful road trips. Over the years we have learned some valuable tricks. Below is a list of tips we’ve learned,
- Have them bring a small bag of entertainment items. However, and this is the real key, do NOT let them play with anything in the bag until they have been in the car for 15-20 minutes (or whatever they are used to when traveling to school/church etc.). I have found that they will play excitedly play with everything and be bored in 20 minutes.
- If you have children who are prone to car sickness, help them be wise in choosing things to entertain them. I cannot read in the car, though I can use a laptop while we are on the interstate. Help them learn what things make them feel yucky so that they are not miserable the whole drive.
- Snacks are helpful. But again, I don’t allow them to have them until we have traveled for a while. We make bags of trail mix and use plastic cups to pass it our to each child.
- We started teaching our children to watch the mile markers when on interstates. This helps them not ask “are we there yet” quite so frequently. If you are not traveling on the interstate, find landmarks for them to watch for. If you know that in 10 miles is a large wooden chair, have them start watching.
- Many people play the ABC Game. We have never had much success at that. Perhaps due to the vast span of ages (13-2). But sometimes just looking for blue dump trucks or bill boards with animals helps break the monotony.
- When you must stop at your first rest stop, allow them each to choose one brochure from the display board. Limiting them to one both reduces car clutter and helps them to actually look at the item they picked, rather than toss a whole pile in the car and disregard.
- A favorite for my family is listening to audio books/ radio dramas. We have done this since our oldest children were only around 5 and 6. They don’t have to be very old. Go to the library and check out a variety. We used to get short ones that had the picture books with them, and gradually grew to longer stories. Listening to ones they have heard is comforting to them and will not cause the children to be disinterested.
- Stay engaged with the children. Discuss things that they see, point out interesting sites that they may not see often. Teach them about things they have never experienced.
- Make up stories together. My children love to take turns giving me character, setting and plot ideas while I make up stories for them.
- Sing. Children love to learn camp songs. My husband has taught our children many, some to my chagrin, songs from camp days. They particularly enjoy repeat-after-me songs.
Remember, a parent’s attitude is crucial. Getting frustrated over child like behaviors and weariness will only make it worse on the whole family. What are some tricks you use to encourage keep the attitude of your family cheerful on road trips?