April 20, 2011 at 6:00 am
It’s kind of funny to be typing this post on the heels of yesterday’s media diet post.
But I was talking with some friends just the other night about electronics when traveling with kids.
For some of us, they give parents a chance to talk and connect while driving long distances. For others, they are sanity savers reserved only for when boredom hits. But then, there are the parents who choose to skip electronics all together.
Because it is screen-free week, and our little family is hitting the road soon to visit family, I thought it would be a good time to talk about keeping kids entertained during car travels.
This isn’t to say that you should never again pack the portable DVD player, but if you don’t own one, or even if you are just looking to balance out screen time with some other activities, these are some ideas that have worked well for us.
I hope you’ll add your own ideas in the comments!
- Audiobooks. I’ve written about our family’s love for audiobooks in the past. We usually have a few in our car, but for long trips, we pack some new library finds and a few family favorites. We can all listen to these together, or pass headphones if one child wants to listen while the other looks at books.
- Which leads me, of course, to regular books. I usually try to find a few new ones at used book sales and put them away for these kids of occasions. I really hit pay-dirt a few weeks ago and found a bird guide and an old Judy Blume for Owen and some beautiful picture books for Ellery. I used to like bringing library books on road trips, but I like this method better. They are still “new” and exciting, but because we only paid a dollar or two for each book, there’s less worry.
- Snacks. Snacks are not an activity, I know. But my kids like it when I pack them snacks in their own travel bags. We buy a few special treats too. Favorites are homemade cookies or muffins, granola bars, apple or orange slices, popcorn, crackers, trail mix, etc. The key is low-sugar and not too much liquid or we will never get where we are going!
- Art supplies. I like to pack paper, crayons, markers and stickers and bring supplies for them to make their own postcards to send or letters to mail. Adding a few stamped envelopes makes it really special and gives kids a fun “job” to do.
- I also like to throw in a few things to keep hands busy. But I also really dislike the kind really of inexpensive toys that break while still in transit. So instead, we do sewing cards, or give kids pasta to lace into necklaces. Stickers are really good for keeping kids busy. My friend swears by giving each kid a box of band-aids. I saw another mom once talk about giving each child a roll of tape.
- I do think puzzle pages and workbooks can be fun if your child enjoys them (mine do). I am excited about introducing Owen to Mad Libs on this trip.
After several long trips, including the one we took to South Dakota last year, I find one of the very best ideas is to give each child a bag, and let them pack a friend, a few things they like, plus a few surprises. The bags help keep the car organized, and help kids see all their options for the drive.
Are you taking a road trip this year? What do you pack to keep kids busy?