Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Traveling with Children

Does the thought of an impending car ride with your kids make you cower in fear?  You are not alone.  Traveling with children can be extremely difficult, especially if you don't do it very often and they are  not used to spending long hours in one position.  Due to the 9 hours between us and my husband's family and our desire to have a close relationship with them, we spend a lot of time shuttling back and forth.  When I was a kid, the longest car trip we made on a regular basis was 5 hours...which felt like eternity.  While my kids are used to the trip and do pretty well, it helps to have a few tricks up your sleeve.  Here is what helps us stay sane:

~ Sticker books.  Better than coloring books for car rides (no "GAH!  All my crayons fell on the floor!  MOO-OOM can you pick them up?!?!" every 5 minutes), we have a sticker book for each child.  These can be pricy, so we keep them in the car.  They are not for regular life consumption.

~Lap games.  The best game we have found that keeps our kids endlessly entertained is this great matching game from Melissa and Doug.  My mother in law bought it for us a few years back and it has traveled with us ever since.  For younger kids, a cookie sheet and A-B-C magnets can be fun.  A friend recently showed me a lapbook she made out of printed out coloring/activity pages from various websites, put in plastic sleeves in a folder.  She then gives her kids dry erase markers so that the pages can be used again and again.  I would say this is only for older kids that you trust - dry erase markers don't come out of upholstery without a lot of effort/chemicals/etc.  If you want to be trip-specific with this, print out pages with the state flower, state bird, and a map of the state(s) you are traveling through.

~Books on tape.  These are so great!  I remember listening to "Treasure Island" and other books when I was little in the car.  Even if the books may seem over the age range of your littles, rest assured they WILL listen - and often be excited to get back into the story after any stops you make along the way.  You can purchase books on tape but I suggest going to your local Library and checking them out for free!  My kids also LOVE listening to "Adventures in Odyssey."

~Music CDs -  Can't stand the Wiggles or Veggie Tales music?  You aren't alone.  Try a Musical Soundtrack.  I also have a few bible memory and math facts cds.  Might as well teach them something as they go along!

~Laptop/DVD player.  This is our "last resort" tool, usually during the last hour or so of our journey when the kids are just plain DONE.  Checking out a movie they haven't seen before from the library is helpful as well in keeping them riveted.

On top of this, we also require quite time - mama and daddy talking in the front seat or listening to talk radio and the children are expected to sit quietly and entertain themselves.  Looking out the window and flexing their imagination muscles is good for them!

If you have any additional tips, jump in!


  1. When we made car trips when I was younger we would play lots of games. We would find A-Z on signs and whoever got to Z first won (you couldn't use the same sign as someone else). We also played "The Minister's Cat" which took us from A-Z too (great for littler kids). We played GHOST, but that's definitely for older kids/adults. Car bingo was a big hit of course. The license plate game where you try to find all the state license plates before you get to your destination. We never did see all 50 of course, but it was still a lot of fun. We also played the initial game (a variation of 20 questions, but no cap on the amount of questions asked). Someone would pick a celebrity, writer, or something like that and say their initials and everyone would try to guess who it was. Of course you have to pick the initials of someone that people know. And last but not least we would count American Flags. This was a great game if you want it to be quiet in the car. Everyone is concentrating so hard on finding all the flags possible and not letting anyone else see them find them. Whoever got to 20 first was the winner. When you got to 10 you'd say "I have 10!" and you'd announce when you got to 15 too.

  2. Paul KnickelbeinMay 12, 2010 at 2:39 PM

    Here are a couple of other ideas that Suzy has done (wonderfully - I must say!

    1) For the sticker books - to make it a bit more affordable - just get a notebook and tape and envelope inside of it... Then she will take from her "sticker drawer" you know the one most of you moms (esp home school moms...) have and then pick a bunch of stickers into the envelope taped into the front cover of the notebook... If you want - add a crayon or two and a pencil and hours of entertainment!!!

    2) Car BINGO! This is awesome for a bit of the older kids - but even the little ones get into it... Suzy created BINGO cards by getting pictures off of the internet of say police cars, McDonald's signs, tractors, bridges, cows, dog, flagpole, stop light, stop sign etc etc... (anything you might see on the road) she then laminated them and the kids use dry erase pens to cross off the pictures... Each card (she made 10 of them - then backed them with construction paper) has a different set or order of pictures on them...

    3) Audio CD's Check out Jonathan Park or Adventures in Odyssey.. The Focus on the Family radio theatre is awesome too!

  3. These are great ideas! I just hope I can remember to come back to this posting next time I'm packing for a road trip and steal these ideas. Here's another one I just thought of. My sister gave Jaron a pack of Window Markers (that are also washable if they happen to go where they shouldn't). They can color on the car windows and easily wipe of the picture with a paper towel when they're done. It may be a little difficult for the little ones still in carseats though or it might make the kids who don't have one window seats a little jealous. So maybe not. Just a quick thought.


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