Growing up as an Air Force brat, my family traveled a lot. In addition to the necessary military travel and relocations, my Dad and Stepmom loved to just go. My sister and I racked up thousands of hours in the car on road trips during our adolescent years. Since was before the age of technology, there were times that I was bored out of my mind! Fortunately for my daughter, I’ve turned my years of road trip boredom into making sure she NEVER has to be bored in the car. Here a few ways that you can make road trips extra fun for your little ones:
Start Entertaining BEFORE You Get On The Road
Last year, when Ayva and I traveled to DisneyWorld, a lot of seasoned parents encouraged me to keep the trip a surprise. They weren’t suggesting that because it was sweet and it would make our trip extra special. No, they were trying to look out for me. “If you tell her where you’re going,” they said, “she’ll ask you about it every single day until you get there.” Well, I didn’t listen. And they were right. The benefit of telling her early, though, was that I was able to prepare her for the trip ahead of time. We read books about Disney, I told her what kinds of things we would see on our travels, and it added more depth to her experience. As we traveled, she was on the lookout for the things we had discussed, and actually entertained herself by searching for things that were familiar to her.
Get Out of the Car
Before my daughter was born, I could make it from Philadelphia to Durham, North Carolina in 8 hours. I had my CDs, my soda, and if I didn’t have to refuel right around Virginia, I’m convinced I could have made that ride straight through without any stops. Once Ayva started riding with me, though, I quickly learned that my days of burning up the road were gone. Apparently, little kids do NOT like being restrained in carseats for hours at a time.
Schedule times to get out of the car to stretch your legs, and then take it up a notch! Pack a ball with you and let your little ones kick it around for a bit at a rest stop. Pull out the sidewalk chalk and let them draw in a parking lot (in a safe spot, of course!). When we make a stop on long car rides, my husband always races our daughter back from the bathroom, and chases her around the rest stop just to get her moving. It helps to release some of her energy, and the fun little stops are obviously memorable, as she always makes mention of them whenever she talks about her travels!
Ditch the Computer
Back when I was going on road trips with my parents, we didn’t have computers and tablets and cell phones. Nope, instead I’d devour entire books as we drove “down South”, or any of the other destinations my parents had in mind. Road trips are a great time for children to have fun while being unplugged. Take it back to the old school with classic games like “I Spy”, or identifying license plates from other states. Sing songs at the top of your lungs together, download an audio book that the entire family can enjoy and listen to it together, or pull out crayons and paper, and encourage your child to draw some of the things that they see when they look out of the window.
On Second Thought, Don’t Ditch the Computer
Alright, I’ll admit it. On our last 6 hour road trip, I pulled my iPad out for Ayva. She played puzzles and games, watched a movie, made pictures, and used it as a camera to take selfies (and lots and lots of photos of the seat in front of her). My husband drove, and I napped. What? I was tired! Look, as long as you’ve taken full advantage of the benefits of road tripping with your family, there’s nothing wrong with letting your children entertain themselves for a little bit while you take a break. Just make sure your tablet is fully charged, and loaded with age appropriate games and movies that don’t require the internet in order to be played.
Road trips are a great opportunity for families to bond together. You don’t have to wait until you get to your destination to start having fun! What are some ways that you’ve entertained your children while on road trips?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Brandi Jeter-Riley lives in Northern California with her daughter and husband (both of whom she shamelessly posts pictures all over the internet!). She is the co-founder of the Pushing Lovely writing group, and blogs at http://www.mamaknowsitall.com. Tweet her @BrandiJeter
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