Dealing with multiple children who range in ages on a road trip can be exhausting for even the most patient of parents. Here are some tips to keep the kids entertained while maintaining your sanity on a long trip.
Most children don’t agree completely with their parents’ music choices and vice versa. Make a mixed CD collection or a family folder on your MP3 player or iPod for family trips that have all types of music mixed together. Have the kids write down some of their favorite songs/artists and work these songs in with your favorite artists. This will keep the whining down and you only have to listen to what the kids want to hear every other song or so. Include songs that everyone enjoys and stop everything and make everyone sing along.
Keep them quiet
There will be times to make noise and play, and times when you need a break from the noise so that you can feel like an adult again. Pack separate entertainment bags. You can pack one bag for each kid, or pack one bag for each row of seats in your vehicle and seat the kids by age group. Portable DVD players, with a few movies and headphones are perfect for late night trips because it will calm the kids for quiet time and get them ready to fall asleep(you can purchase splitters so that more than one kid can plug in at a time). Other good things to pack include coloring books with crayons, activity books, reading books (if traveling at night pack reading lights) an MP3 player or iPod, notebooks with pens or pencils, and electronic handheld games. Don’t forget to bring pillows! Sleeping kids are the best kids!
If you travel often, have each kid keep a journal of the cool things they did or saw and take pictures at each stop and compile a travel photo album of their work with photos when you get home. This will keep their minds working, trigger creativity, and make them feel accomplished in contributing to the trip.
Manage the munchies
Pack each kid a snack bag. A gallon size resealable storage bag works great for long trips. Pack healthy finger foods that won’t upset their stomachs, pump them full of sugar or make messes in the car. Fruit like grapes, apples and raisins work well. Mixed nuts, granola bars, trail mixes, popcorn, carrots or celery sticks are also good choices. This will help satisfy their munchies between meals but won’t fill them up so they will still want to eat when you stop.
Drain their energy
Plan for stops, kids are full of energy and will get fidgety and sometimes grouchy if left sitting in a cramped car for too long. Check out your route and see what all the little towns you’re passing through have to offer. You can stop to stretch your legs at a park, river, lake, scenic overlook or playground. If you can’t find any cool places to stop, play freeze tag or have races at rest areas along the way. Plan to stop for meals in places where the kids can run around after eating.
Road games can bring a lot of fun to long boring road trips. They are also a great choice if you’re looking for quality time with your children. Even if they don’t show it, most kids love to play with their parents, even the older children. Some good road games are:
-Who/what am I? One player chooses a character or an item that everyone knows. Everyone else asks this player yes or no questions in attempt to find out who or what he/she chose.
-The alphabet game. One person picks a category and then names something from that category that begins with the letter A, the next person then has to pick from that category using a word that starts with the letter B. Easy categories are boys/girls names, restaurants, TV characters, singers/band names or food. If someone gets hung up on a letter, it becomes a free for all.
-The rhyming game, easy and fun. One person starts with a word and you go around the car trying to rhyme the word of the person before you, but you can’t use the same word twice. If you can’t think of a word that rhymes, you must quickly think of a word associated with the previous word, for instance if you can’t think of a word that rhymes with pen, you could say paper, ink, pencil, or blue, and then the next person has to rhyme with your new word. This game can be played for hours and is best when there is a time limit set for each turn.
-The story game. The first person says the first line of the story and each person thereafter adds an additional line. The game ends when the story ends. The stories you can come up with usually end up quite hilarious when you have a bunch of different minds adding to it!
-The “What’s their story?” game. Everyone takes turns making up stories for the other drivers on the road. You can do short stories, like where they are going to/coming from and why, or delve deep into the strangers childhood using nothing but your imagination!
-Board games without the board. If you have board games at home that have question cards, bring the cards with you! No need for the board, or to keep score!
Last but not least
If you are like us and happen to have that one child that insists on ruining the fun for everyone else, don’t let them! Ignore them or just let them do their own thing until they either come around or find something else to keep themselves occupied. One uncooperative kid is so much better than a car full of upset kids. And nine times out of ten, they will come around and join the fun. Enjoy your trip!