Entertaining Children During a Lengthy Road Trip
a little planning, imagination, and a parent's best friend -
patience - traveling with children can be a wonderful experience.
is Half the Fun.
Good planning can mean the difference between a fun, relaxing
vacation and a stressful ordeal. What does your family like
to do? Sit down together and talk about what you want to see
and where you want to go. Contact the local tourist bureaus
for brochures on local points of interest; check out a stack
of books about your destination, and sites on the route along
ages and temperaments of your children are the first things
to consider when planning a trip. Young children need more frequent
stops involving physical activity than older children and teenagers.
Tap into your children's passions and interests along the way — everybody
will learn a lot and have more fun in the process. An animal
lover will want to go to every zoo and llama ranch in your path;
rock collectors brake for gem shops. Build time into the
itinerary for that all-important stop at Max's Snake
trying to pack in too many activities: build flexibility into
your itinerary. When you approach your family trip with a relaxed
attitude and plan it well for your family's needs, you will
all have a more enjoyable vacation together. No matter how you
travel or where you stay, you will need to take along some games,
books, toys, and other possibilities for keeping children entertained.
and smaller children get bored and frustrated in very
short order when strapped into a car seat or belt.
the Kids Happy = Keeping Them Busy.
and smaller children get bored and frustrated in very short
order when strapped into a car seat or belt. They can't bend
over to retrieve dropped items, they can't twist and look around
as much as they'd like, and they're boiling over with childhood
energy. As a parent, you can help by bringing along a variety
of interesting objects and toys which can keep your infant or
toddler entertained for long stretches of time in the car, and
by initiating imaginative play when your child needs some inspiration.
Tracks Without Making a Mess.
To minimize chaos, consider tying small, soft toys onto your
child's car seat. (Make sure the string is shorter than six
inches so she can't wrap it around her neck.) Toys that don't
get lost or drop to the floor can avoid a small crying
bout and will save you from twisting your body into
impossible configurations to pick them up!
or make a pocketed slipcover to hang over the back of the front
seat. This will save space in the car and keep toys, games,
and books in one easily accessible place.
Your Worries at Home, But Don't Forget the Crayons:
Pack a few toys and books in a shoebox or an old lunch box for
the child to keep close at hand. An old briefcase makes a handy
container and writing surface — kids can store crayons and coloring
books and other mess-free art materials inside, and use the
case for a tabletop to write and draw on. Cookie sheets work
well for puzzles and other games requiring a flat, smooth surface.
Keep extra toys and activities in the trunk and trade them only
when the kids show waning interest in the toys they have.
be bored, play board games! Magnetic or peg board games can
be found in many varieties like chess, checkers, or Scrabble.
There are many other board games that are suitable for traveling.
Find what suits your family best. We love
dominoes, because they take up very little space and can be
played many different ways.
Maids, Go Fish.
Cards are compact, easy to carry in a pocket, handbag or backpack,
and are incredibly versatile. An only child can keep busy for
hours with variations on the game of solitaire, while siblings
are unlimited in the games at their disposal. Stash
a book or card games, pencil-and-paper games and word games
in your glove box.
Take an empty scrapbook and build a memory for the whole family!
Create a vacation scrapbook to keep the kids entertained, and
to serve as a keepsake. Compiling and organizing post cards,
brochures and news clippings in the scrapbook will keep kids
involved in the trip, while it teaches them about where they're
going and where they've been along the way. Encourage them to
be creative, and write stories and descriptions of their experiences
and of the things they see in the scrapbook.
about the time it takes to travel certain distances at
certain speeds, and let your navigator calculate the ETA
to your various destinations.
Designate a navigator each day. Another way to keep kids interested
and involved in the journey, and to teach them map-reading skills
at the same time, is to let them help to plan the route. Even
the youngest can follow a major highway route with a little
help. Older children can track distance driven and
gas mileage, and mark the family's route with a highlighter
on the map as you complete each segment of road. (This can go
into the scrapbook later!) Talk about the time it takes to travel
certain distances at certain speeds, and let your navigator
calculate the ETA to your various destinations.
Make a list of different states or countries seen on other motorists'
license plates. Make it a game with a prize or incentive for
who spotted the most states at the end of the day.
Toy telephones are great for the younger kids. If you have an
only child, bring along a toy telephone to use with the child.
Some toy phones contain tape recorders, which can be fun for
recording messages, which your child can play back and 'talk'
These are great take-along items that can be good for hours
of entertainment. They're also good tools for dealing with
a child who is having a difficult time. Using the puppet to
talk to the child can make it easier to calm them
down by talking to you via the puppet.
Family That Reads Together...
Audio books and stories are an excellent way to keep children
entertained. They can bring the family together, or, just as
importantly; give Mom and Dad a much-needed break. Reading aloud
to each other in the car is a great way for the family to connect
and share an experience, and it can facilitate some interesting
and educational discussions. Pick books related to your trip,
your destination or the history of areas you are traveling through
or visiting. Skip the dry history lessons: well-written biographies
and historical fiction are better bets. Pick out books that
tell stories and involve characters. Younger kids will be much
more interested if the protagonist is a child.
Kids love to sing, and face it, sometimes it's easier to join
them than listen to them. Children's songbooks often come with
accompanying audio, and tips for parents on playing finger and
movement games to accompany the songs. These activities can
help release some of that pent up energy in a positive way.
Join in with your children and have a great time!
CD player/radio with headphones is almost
a necessity for the older kids. They can listen to their favorite
music or tune into the local radio station,
while you get a little 'quiet' time.
Use Your Imagination.
A little imagination goes a long way with kids. En route or
after you have arrived at your destination, imagination games
are probably the best entertainment (and definitely the easiest
to pack). Children will utilize anything to become a part of
their game. An old soda cap can become a serving bowl, a stick
can become a playmate and a small stone or pebble is suddenly
a magic crystal. Let your child lead the way in imagination
games. If they have a little trouble getting started sometimes,
give them a subtle coax by planting an idea in their head and
let them make it grow. Children can learn a lot about life from
role-playing games where they interact with a partner. These
games can be played anywhere and they stimulate the intellect
and the ability to create. Props can be found anywhere for imagination
in mind that what you may view as trash to be disposed of could
be a precious plaything to your child. Your children may insist
on lugging around (or making you lug around) a bag of scraps
of paper, bottle caps, aluminum cans, etc., which they feel
are essential to their play or which they have become attached
to. Eventually, they will tire of these 'treasures' and discard
them (some may take longer than others to disappear). Treating
their desire to keep the items as valid will help foster self-esteem
and make the trip go easier as well. A small price to pay for
healthy child development and peace of mind.
a great journey!