Dear Barb: My husband and I are planning a family road trip next month. We have a seven-year-old daughter and a nine-year-old son. We have never taken our children on a road trip and we have heard horror stories from our friends who have taken road trips with their children. Do you have any tips we could use to make our trip memorable and enjoyable? Unfortunately, we do not have a DVD or VCR in our van, so watching movies is not an option.
Desperate in P.E.I.
Hi desperate, what a great question! You didn’t say where you are going, or how long you will be on the road, but I assume it is a long road trip that you have planned. Road trips can provide a great opportunity for families to spend quality time together. Although, as you say, it can easily turn out to be an unpleasant experience if it is not planned properly.
No matter how long your trip will be, plan to stop every three to four hours, just to go the bathroom or take a little walk and maybe have an ice cream or other snack. Children will do better if they are allowed to get out and stretch at regular intervals. As I’m sure you know, it is difficult for young children to sit in one position for long periods of time.
During the hours between these breaks you need to keep the children busy. Start planning activities before your trip that you can do with your children while on the trip. Sometimes simply having one parent sit in the back seat while the other parent drives is an enjoyable seating arrangement for the children. Perhaps you and your husband could occasionally change roles between driver and back-seat passenger. It’s a special treat for children to be able to have the undivided attention of either of their parents. While sitting with your children you can engage them in card games or other activities. If they don’t already know how to play cards, you can teach them Go Fish or War. These are easy games that can be a lot of fun for kids to play with mom, dad, or each other.
Another activity all children enjoy is telling jokes. Take turns making up jokes. The jokes don’t even have to make sense. Sometimes the less sense they make, the funnier they can be. You can also purchase joke books for kids at most bookstores and take turns reading the jokes. Your kids will sharpen their reading skills as well as sharing a good laugh.
An old standby is to purchase travel versions of games for kids. These are usually available at a discount store like the Dollar Store.
A fun activity that will get your kids interested in the scenery is to plan a scavenger hunt. You can do this by making up a list of items for each child to lookout for in the landscape as you are driving. The list is endless when you include such things as a red barn, a house with a green door, a black dog, a convertible car, etc.
Also, kids love counting games. For example, have the children count all of the pick-up trucks that pass you on the highway, or all the white cars, or even all of the cows in a pasture.
These are just a few of the activities that you can do while traveling with your children. So try not to be too desperate. It is possible to have a fun and memorable road trip with your children. Good luck. I hope I was able to help.
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