How to Have Happy Kids When Traveling

Happy Kids When Traveling

(Editor’s Note: This is a re-post of one of my most viewed and popular posts that was first written back in 2010. 🙂 )

Warm weather usually means road-trip time! People often head out to visit family and/or vacation which can mean long periods in the car. When you have little ones, traveling in the car (or train or plane…) for long periods can be quite the challenge. Since I just came back from a long trip, here are five things we did with Andrew to keep the “are we there yet” cries at bay:

1. Make it educational. Before leaving for the trip, I did a little geography lesson with Andrew. He is fascinated with maps so I showed him the route we were going to take. We let him keep the map on his lap as we were driving and he had a blast “giving us directions!” We also talked about the differences between towns, cities, states and countries (a concept he is confused about).

Although we obviously didn’t do our regular homeschooling, I read him some books and we practiced numbers and various math concepts.

2. Make it fun. Whenever we go on a trip, I make up a child’s travel bag. We put in a few of Andrew’s favorite toys and a few special toys that are set aside just for trips. The bag is kept right next to his seat so he can have access to his things at all times.

We also played games like “I Spy” and finding certain colored cars, and other word games. We also let Andrew make up his own “games” that we played.

3. Make it quiet. It’s good to keep children occupied, but don’t feel like you have to keep them entertained the whole time, either. Designate a certain period of time for quiet time. Andrew is past the napping stage, but he almost always falls asleep when we are traveling.

If you have a regular nap or quiet time instituted at home, enforcing a quiet time shouldn’t be too difficult. If you don’t do regular quiet times (and I highly recommend that you do!), you can still encourage your children to read quietly or close their eyes for a spell.

4. Make it conversational. Don’t forget to take some time to just talk with your little ones. Andrew is only five, but we have such fun talking together! You’ll be  astonished at what you will discover about your children, even young ones!

What should you talk about? Talk about what you are going to do during your visit/vacation. Ask questions. Listen to your little ones. Get to know who they are and what they like. Talk about books you’ve read and movies you’ve watched together. Let your little one control the direction of the conversation!

5. Make regular stops. Sure we all want to get to our destination as quickly and safely as possible. However, if you integrate rest stops as part of your journey, it will give the kids time to expend some energy and stretch. And, it’s good for you, too!

Why not plan a picnic at a rest stop or at a park or at a tourist destination along the journey? If you bring your own meals   you save money by not paying ridiculously high prices at the rest stops (and it’s a lot healthier, too!). Of course, don’t forget to add a special treat or snack!

6. (Added!) Audio books. My son loves listens to audio books. It is his favorite activity during his daily quiet time and he loves listening to them after his bedtime routine before going to sleep. What we do is go to the library and check out enough books (“regular” and audio) to get us through our trip. If we are away longer than when the books are due I can easily renew them online. Then he either listens to them on his own or we listen to them together and talk about them.

Now it’s your turn! What tips work for you that keep the little ones happy and content during long trips? Share them in the comments so we can all benefit from your ideas!

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WFMW – Mom, I’m bored! Edition

works for me Wednesday

This week on Works For Me Wednesday, we are encouraged to offer tips and ideas for keeping our kids occupied and happy during the summer. I can’t wait to read what others have to say; but, in the meantime, here’s a few of the things I am going to do:

In my situation, I  home-school and also work from home; so, for me, except for the heat, there won’t be a huge difference in what I do – with some exceptions, of course! In my experience, a balance between structured time and free time works best; as does a lot of flexibility!

1. Modified Homeschooling. Andrew is learning to read and loves doing “math.” I don’t want to lose that momentum, so I plan to continue homeschooling at least three days a week. What I will probably do is alternate reading one day and math the next. I’ve also been tapping America: The Story of Us and a few shows on the Discovery Channel for him to watch once in a while.

If you don’t home-school, it might be a good idea to set apart some time each day for the children to read or practice their math skills. If I’m not mistaken, some schools now send kids home with work to do over the summer. If so, schedule time each day for them to work on it so they aren’t trying to do it all right before school starts.

2. Day trips. Obviously, the summer is the time to get outside! You can do something as simple as a day or afternoon at the park or something as extravagant as a trip to an amusement park or zoo. Day trips don’t have to be expensive either. You can often find coupons or deals online and even free ideas, like here.

3. Crafts: I plan to spend time several times a week on crafts/activities. You can find lots of craft ideas online, but I love the book “365 Ways to a Smarter Preschooler.” Andrew has a lot of fun doing the activities in this book and can stay engaged for a long while, once he’s set up. This is were I got the peanut butter play dough recipe from, that Andrew just loves!

4. Quiet Time. I am a big proponent of quiet time. Even if your child doesn’t nap, it’s a good idea to implement a rest period. Heat and humidity can wear on everyone’s nerves, and when the kids get cranky, it can wear down the best of moms!

The best time for naps would be in the early afternoon when the sun is at its most strong. It would be a good idea to do the outdoor activities earlier in the morning or later in the day. Of course, do what works best for you!

5. Don’t forget free time! Part of the fun of summer is the freedom to NOT be scheduled, so don’t forget to plan time just to “be”! Summer is the time to lay in the grass and watch the clouds go by, get an ice cream cone and catch some fireflies. In a word, take time to just enjoy your family, let kids be kids and HAVE FUN!