Summer Road Trips: How to Survive With Small Children
It wasn’t so long ago that my husband and I would jampack our Jeep with luggage, essential items, and trivial things. We would carefully plan our timing and route to hit cities at non-rush hour times. Snacks, games, books, activities, and even the occasional movie can make or break an extended family trip. Here are some ideas to help pass the time and appease your young passengers.
Timing is Everything:
With infants, toddlers, and very young children, driving at night may prove ideal. Spend the day getting ready and packing. Give your children plenty of time to exercise, explore, and play during the day. Time will help to tucker your little tikes out. After dinner, baths and pajamas donned, you can secure your children in the car with pillows, stuffed animals, and perhaps a blanket to help them settle in. Though the beginning of the trip will have plenty of nervous excitement, you’ll eventually find your kiddos nodding off for the better part of the journey - I hope!
Ideally, traffic will hold you up from time to time, but timing when you drive through major highways and cities during low congestion times will help. Thankfully, our modern-day navigational devices can help you determine the best routes and when to reroute when traffic is high.
Pack Plenty of Healthy Snacks:
Crackers, fruit, cheese, juice or water, can all ease crankiness and hunger as you drive. Have a variety of snacks on hand to help with cravings when needed. When kids have a choice as to which snack they would like, it makes for fewer arguments. Crunching on a yummy snack can help satisfy bellies and morale.
Try Simple Family Games:
The ABC game is always a fun one. A friend once told us about this game, and it always helps to pass the time! Start with the letter “A.” Look for signs, license plates, businesses, and commercial vehicles with the letter “A” in them. The first person to spot it gets the point. Then go on to “B” and so on.
Playing “I Spy” is also fun. For example, “I spy a green car!” Your children will have to see what car you notice and shout if they see it, too! For older kids, you can look for specific state license plates as well. The BIGGEST challenge, depending on how far your journey takes you, is to find all 50 states!
Of course, songs are always fun as well. Here is a fun back seat song we used to sing with our little ones, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lCPJhybHBkA or you can try this one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_ShP3fiEhU for a couple of examples. It may take a few tries for everyone to get the words and motions right, but coming up with your own words is also fun.
The “Neverending Sentence” game is also fun! One person starts a sentence with just one word; the next person adds their word, and the next one. The goal is to see how long you can go without ending the sentence. Talk about some silly run-on sentences!
Books and Other Quiet Activities:
Sometimes, one child is sleeping, and the other is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed! Encourage your little one to look at books. Hopefully, he or she does not experience car sickness. There are some great drawing, crossword puzzles, connect the dots and mazes in kid-friendly booklets you can buy to help keep your child busy and quiet on the road.
When All Else Fails:
We’ve all been there. In desperation, thank goodness for Disney! Pop in a kid-friendly movie to help keep your charges entertained while you navigate the road. Notice I put this last. It is good to spend family time in the car together. Make a trip memorable with many family activities. Try to save screen time as a last resort. Try to be mindful of filling the time with other, more engaging, and interactive ideas first. Then, when you’ve had some tasty snacks, games, and laughs, kick back and let your little ones enjoy a show while the adults catch up. It’s a long trip, make it a good one!
~Amanda Allison, M.Ed.