Summer's here and that means just one thing. No, not ice creams or sun. It means the kids are off school and we're all going to be spending a long time travelling. Whether it's a long car, plane or train journey, the problems are the same. The kids get restless, the adults get angry and it ends up with a big family argument. But it doesn't have to be that way.
Don't let them get bored!
This is the golden rule. When kids get bored, they try to find themselves something to do. For me, this used to mean annoying my sister or irritating my parents. There are so many things you can do to prevent them from getting to the point where they try to make their own entertainment:
- Buy some travel games. There are loads available, such as connect four and battleships. You can buy them quite cheaply in toy shops, or try secondhand auction sites. Just make sure you hide it until the journey! This is the sort of thing that will probably only keep them occupied for a certain time so you don't want them to be bored of the game before the trip's even started.
- Visit the library. Let them choose some books to take on the trip. Again, keep the books somewhere safe until the trip so they haven't read them all already!
- Surf the internet and print some crosswords, wordsearches and other puzzles. There are loads of free ones available. You could even make it into a competition to see who can complete the most by the end of the trip.
- Play a car game. A really simple one is to give each person a colour (red and silver are good) and the winner is the first person to count 30 cars of that colour passing by. You could also play "car bingo" where you make bingo cards using things you will see on your journey. This could include particular makes of car, unusually coloured cars or things in the landscape. When you see something on your bingo card, you cross it off. The winner is the person who crosses off all the items on their card.
- Buy them an mp3 player. A basic mp3 player can now be bought for a very reasonable price. Load it up with their favourite music or audiobooks. Podcasts can also be really good. There are lots of children's podcasts but there are also adult podcasts they might enjoy. The science podcasts by how stuff works are fantastic and have interesting subjects, recently including toilets! You never know, they might even learn something.
- Play "I went to the supermarket." The first person says, "I went to the supermarket and I bought " then picks an item starting with A. The next person must repeat the phrase and the first person's item then add their own item, starting with B. This continues, going down the alphabet, until someone cannot remember all the preceding items, meaning they are out.
Prevent travel nightmares
You must have had a nightmare journey. Here are some common nightmare scenarios and how to avoid them:
- "Mum, I feel a bit... ooh too late." If you child gets travel sickness, be prepared. Give them medication BEFORE you set off . Once they feel sick, it's too late. We always carry a mixing bowl in the car! It might not be pretty but it's much better to have the sick in a bowl which you can empty at the next stop than all down your child's clothes.
- "He keeps poking me." If your children argue on trips, put one in the front and one in the back. If they're stuck in a small space for a long time, arguments are inevitable so it's best just to separate them.
- "Are we there yet?" If your child asks every 10 minutes how long you have to go, why not make them your navigator! I don't mean they do the map reading - that might cause a lot more problems than it solves. Use an online route planner website to print off a map of your journey labelled with certain landmarks like major junctions and service stations and give this to your child, along with a watch. Let them give you an "update" on your progress when they see you're approaching one of the landmarks and tell you how far off your predicted arrival time you are. They'll feel very important and hopefully won't keep asking you how much longer there is to go.
- "I'm starving." Bring some snacks and drinks to prevent moaning, hungry children. We all know hungry usually means irritable, so avoid it! The ideal snacks aren't smelly or messy and won't melt. Good ones are apples, bananas, flapjacks, non-crumbly biscuits, granola bars or sandwiches. Have a small carrier bag on hand to keep any rubbish in!
- "I need a wee." Make sure your children have been to the bathroom before you leave and plan your route well, making sure you have a stop planned every half an hour or so. You don't have to stop at all these places, but it means you're prepared if you do need a toilet break.
Long trips don't have to feel everlasting! I hope this article helps you survive that summer holiday journey.