Traveling with Younger Kids, Stress-free.
I used to love driving with my mom in the car. She had so many fun things for us to do! ...And since I got carsick at the drop of a hat, almost everything she did to keep me occupied and content had to keep my eyes focused out the windows.
The first thing to do is make sure your children have fresh diapers, or just went to the potty, before getting in the car. Also, make sure they are dressed appropriately for the temperature inside the vehicle. If you're going to crank up the heat, don't strap them in wearing winter coats-- or plan to stop in a parking lot and give them a minute to run around and remove coats once the car has warmed up.
Next, pack something to drink that doesn't contain sugar, and a small snack that is easy for your child to eat without help. Crackers, granola bars, carrot and celery sticks, and other dry foods are best for this.
Here's the fun part: Things to Do!
- Make a mixed CD of their favorite sing-along songs, and throw in a couple that you like to sing, too. Ask your child questions about what song comes next, or who sings one of their favorites, or what animal sounds they hear in the music. Continuing to interact with your child as you driveÂ is one of the best ways to make them happy, and reduce stress. Finding ways to do this that don't require your full attention is vital to being a safe driver.
- If your child isn't prone to carsickness, allow them to pick out a book and a toy-- one thing for each hand-- that they especially want to bring with them in the car. This will supplement the things you just KEEP in the car, and be easy for your child to carry back into the house when you get home.
- Small etche-sketches are worth their weight in gold. Find one that is about 8 inches across, so your child can hold it on his or her lap easily, and still have some space to draw. These should be special in-car-only toys so there is some attraction to being in the car in the first place.
- For children who are beginning to read, the Alphabet Game is a great one. You and your child will look for all the letters in the alphabet, on signs and buildings you pass while you drive. Look for an A. Great!! Now, let's find a B... The more children there are to play this game, the greater the excitement when someone finds the right letter. Younger children can help find cars that are red, or green, or blue, or...
- When I was a little older, and into playing "dress-up" and other imagination games, my best friend and I would pretend my mom was the chauffeur, and would locate the things in the car that were our "telephone" for important business calls, and the button to access the "special features" we invented for our limousine to have or to DO. We had a blast pretending to order our "driver" around.
- Sometimes, with children who are at the age of pulling their shoes and socks off in the car, it's fun to hum shark music, and go blindly fishing around in the back seat for toes to tickle. "Du-Dum... Du-DUM... da-da-da-da-da-da... Du-DUM!!!" Children squeal and have a blast keeping their toes out of your reach-- and then putting them back down for you to go after again. Just remember to keep most of your focus on the road!
Remember that your child's attention span, patience, ability to "hold it" until you reach a rest-stop, and ability to wait between meals is shorter than yours. Plan for breaks, snacks, and potty pit-stops accordingly. If you have a particularly long trip to make, consider taking it at night, or starting out just after nap-time should happen. Your child may be able to sleep through most of the trip this way, which reduces the energy you need to keep them content and entertained. Also, remember that if it is NOT nap-time, and your child falls asleep in the car, they may not be interested in that usual afternoon nap later on.