Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Car Rides

How many of you have endured a long car trip with a child? I know when I was I child I was guilty of the, "are we there yet?" tantrums that are oh so popular with children.  Today I took my 4th car trip with my 9 month old and although she can't talk yet and ask when we are going to get there, her crying and fighting a nap is right up there with it.  As parents we are constantly asking how we can entertain our children in the car.

The poor little angels just have the hardest time riding for long periods in the car. But before we even get the kids in the car, so much goes into preparing for the long trip. It was hard enough before we had kids to get all of our stuff together for a vacation, now it's an event.

I wish we could just throw a bunch of clothes in a bag and be done with it, but now we have an extra bag for our child including diapers, wipes, clothing, toys, monitors.  Then there is the pack in play, and her special bag of baby food!

And once she is all packed up, we have to get our things in the car and our 2 dogs (and their food, bowls and pet beds). This is why SUV's and station wagons were invented!

So, how do you make the trip easier for you and your children?

For babies and toddlers, there's really no easy answer so the best thing to do is plan a car trip around their nap times so they will sleep for most of the trip in the car. Try to leave right about the same time they usually go down, if at all possible.  Sounds easy enough but it can get tricky, especially when your baby is fighting it.

My other trick that usually works is keeping my baby's lullaby CD in our car and usually, 9 out of 10 it will help her fall asleep.  Or if all else fails, you can always have another adult sit in the backseat with her to help entertain her.  While they're awake, the best thing that works for me is to put on some children's music.  With all of the car rides and errands we run, I've become an expert in children's songs and know all of the words by now including the sound effects. Our favorites are the Raffi CD's!

**WARNING: One word of advice to calm a toddler on a car trip is NOT to feed them while driving. I knew a 3 year old little girl who was eating in her car seat and started choking. Unfortunately her mother was driving and by the time she was able to stop the car, get her daughter out of the car seat and help her, she had stopped breathing. Very sad story, so I have learned that as much as I may want to feed my child while she's crying inconsolably, I will come up with other ways to help calm her down.****

Older kids and preschoolers?

Well, besides a DVD player to pass the time, here are a few suggestions that don't involve the TV:

-Bring along a set of Mad Libs for kids to play with and you can definitely pass an hour or so with them, as well as some pretty good laughs

-You can't go wrong with crayons and coloring books

-Bring books to read, and those fun Big Puzzle books with mazes, word finds and find the hidden picture

-Another good toy to bring along are those Magna Doodles that are mess-free

Games are also classic great ways to help pass the time. Here are a few of my favorites:

-I Spy. The original car game where you say, "I spy something...." and the child has to find something in the car or outside the car that  you are describing such as "I spy something blue" or "I spy something prickly".  It's always cute when it's their turn to see what they spy!

-Card games are great to pass the time. Kids can play classic games in the backseat like Go Fish or Old Maid.

-Spelling Bees are fun for kids too believe it or not. As long as you pick words in the car or outside so they feel involved and not doing homework.

-Counting Cows (or houses or phone booths, etc.) is a game where you ask the child to count as many cows as they can find in a certain amount of time and see who finds the most, but they have to find them on their side of the road.  You can also vary it to house colors, phone booths or bridges.

-Find the Vehicle. This is good for older kids where you have a pre-made list of cars and trucks, make and models and have your child try to find them on the road. Whoever finds them the fastest wins.

-Slug Bug- Need I say more? You don't have to make it physical anymore.  You can just have them keep a tally on a piece of paper.

-The Alphabet game. You start with the letter 'A' and try to find an object that begins with that letter until you make it to 'Z'. You can also vary it by doing the Grocery Store game and only do objects from A to Z found in a grocery store.

-License plate game. There are many variations to this one, but I always had the most fun when trying to find a license plate from each state.  You can even bring a few copies of the map of the US and have your kids color them in as they find them.

-"Find A...."  This game is great for younger children! Somewhat of a variation of I Spy but is easier for younger kids.  You ask them to find you something outside (a cow, tractor, police car, etc.). You can even go down the alphabet so they can learn their letters

-Another good preschool game is "I'm Thinking of an Animal" where you describe an animal and they have to ask you questions that you can only answer 'yes' or 'no'. You can make it more challenging for older kids by adding more unusual animals such as Emu's, Llamas, etc.

-Name that Tune! I used to love playing this one.  You start by humming a song instead of singing it, and see if they can guess what song it is. For little children, you can start with basics such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and for older kids you can try Top 40 songs.

I hope that gives you a good start on some ways to entertain your kids and make the trip go faster!

Awh, the joys of car trips. I know most of you are thinking after reading my suggestions, "this is what DVD players and iPhones are for now", but I prefer the old fashioned games!  I'd love to hear what your favorite games are present day or when you were a kid :)


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  1. Great ideas for a road trip, even for adults. I agree with eating in the car, unless you have a parent in the back seat. Its not a good habit anyway, as it promotes continual eating in the car, (each time a child rides in the car they will want a snack) - so unnecessary.

  2. You want them to sleep while they are in the car, so I do recommend to plan around naps.