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On the road again: Keeping kids entertained while traveling this summer

On the road again
Keeping kids entertained while traveling this summer
by Jennifer LB Leese

The roof of the SUV is loaded. The kids are happily strapped into their seats. It's time to start the vacation of your dreams. As you roll along, contemplating lazy days on the beach, family dinners on the balcony overlooking the ocean, everyone smiling and getting tan, you're interrupted by an uprising in the rear passenger area. "I'm hungry. I'm tired. When will we get there? I have to go pee! Cameron is looking at me. Jordan is touching me. Nicholas is hogging all the leg room!"
Sound familiar? Breathe! You still have time to prepare for this year's vacation.
Long--or short--family car trips don't have to be aggravating for the parents or boring for the kids. Plan ahead and have a few car activities or games prepared. You can have fun with the kids along the way--making the journey as much fun as the destination.
Here are a few ideas to get you started for a stress-free fun road trip:
(BOLD)Primarily, pack many snacks, such as fruits, crackers, juice packs, treats, etc. You may also want to consider a Frisbee and ball for rest stops and baby-wipes no matter how old your kids are.
(BOLD)Travel Journal
Keep the kids busy with creating a travel journal. It'll be something they can keep for a lifetime.
When we took our three children to Disney two years ago, I bought them each a spiral bound sketchpad and a box full of crayons, markers, pencils, and pens. Whether it was during the car ride back from a noteworthy excursion or in the evening, they wrote a little about what they did that day and drew a colorful picture to accompany it.
If your child isn't old enough to write but can draw the pictures--Mom or Dad can help by writing a caption beneath their drawing.
If your child feels he or she is "too old" to keep a journal such as the one described above, buy them a disposable camera and let them click away!
When keeping a travel journal, don't forget to add the date! You can also paste in a few souvenirs.
(BOLD)Tech at it's Best
Nowadays just about every car or household has a CD player or cassette player. Keep the kids entertained electronically! Visit your local library and borrow a few children's books on tape or make your own by reading your child's favorite stories aloud in front of a tape recorder.
It is surprising at the number of songs that get stuck in our heads. It is just as surprising at how many of us don't really know all the words!
Gather all your favorite CDs, place them in a case on your sun visor--to take up less space--and start learning those words! Have singing marathons or play "Name that Tune."
Another great way to pass the time and keep the kids entertained is using a portable DVD player or laptop to turn your vehicle into the Cinema on the Highway.
(BOLD)Map It
Even though navigation systems for vehicles have been around a while, not everyone has (or wants) one. Learning how to read a map is an important task that is sure to benefit your children. Give your kids their own copy of a map of where you are going. Make it fun. Give them crayons to mark the spots off as they travel past. Give them a compass and show them how it works along the map. A magnifying glass is sure to add to the fun. Show them how far they have gone and how much further there is to go. And best yet, the notorious" Are we there yet?" and "How much longer?" inquiries won't need to be heard every ten minutes!
(BOLD)Car Games
My brothers and I played several car games while traveling back and forth to my grandmother's. Our favorites were the License Plate game and the Car Color game.
(ITALICS)The License Plate game(END ITALICS) is where each child chooses a state (the closer the better); then as each car passes they tally the license plates chosen. You can play the entire trip or for a recorded amount of time.
(ITALICS)The Car Color game(END ITALICS) is where each child picks a color. When a car goes by that is the color they chose they mark it down. The one with the most car colors wins. You can also use trucks and motorcycles.
(ITALICS)The A to Z game(END ITALICS) is where players find words beginning with "A", on signs around them. Have the players take turns, after "A", go to "B", and so on. Can you get to "Z" and finish the alphabet? Alternate the starting person at the start of a new game, so that everyone gets a chance with the challenging letters. (For younger players you m ay want to skip the difficult letters.) Make it harder by limiting to only license plates or billboard signs.
(ITALICS)The Guess What I Am game(END ITALICS) is where one person states they are either a person, place or thing and the others then ask questions (are you blue, can you speak, do you bark, can you be eaten, etc.) until they guess what the person is, then it is their turn next.
My children and I often play a memory game where at the start of this game you say, (ITALICS)"I put in Grandma's trunk..." (END ITALICS) and you choose something as quickly as you can. The next person repeats what you said and adds something as quickly as they can. Here's an example: The first person says, "I put in Grandma's trunk...a bird." The next person says, "I put in Grandma's trunk...a bird and a shovel." The third person says, "I put in Grandma's trunk...a bird, a shovel, and a rake." The game continues. Whenever someone "forgets" an object, they are out. The winner is the last person who "remembers" everything put in Grandma's trunk.
Since you're on a road trip, you can always substitute "Grandma's trunk" with "I put in my suitcase..."
(BOLD)Lap Games
There are several types of games children can play while staying stationary in a vehicle. Magnetic board games, such as checkers, backgammon, and chess, are most popular. There are also drawing tablets with "special" markers and washable crayons designed to make less mess.
(BOLD)Stop Offs
Everyone needs to stretch his or her legs. I hope that before you left you compiled a few "kid-friendly" places to stop along the way. If you didn't prepare snacks, be sure the stops-offs you choose have a place to get snacks and drinks. Take about fifteen minutes to play Frisbee or ball with your kids. Popular food chains are everywhere--let the kids burn off some energy before piling back into the car.
(BOLD)Activity Bag
When packing up the car, don't forget to leave an activity bag in the car where someone can fetch it easily without having to stop the car. Inside place: books, paper, envelopes, small games, puzzles, a small flashlight, finger puppets, small toys, coloring books, crayons, stickers, binoculars, and small toy figures.
(BOLD)List of Things to Do For Every Age
No matter what the age, don't forget to purchase, or make, a few travel-sized pillows for each of your heads! It may not seem like it in the beginning of your trip, but eventually your little darlings will need to rest.
(ITALICS)For Babies:
* any object that's bright and new!
* rattles of all sorts
* toys of interesting shapes
* pop-up toys
* safe plastic mirror
(ITALICS)Kids Fun Stuff--Pre-Schoolers
* picture books
* stickers and activity books,
* lap-sized wipe-off easels
* finger puppets
* magnetic letters & metal tin
(ITALICS)Ages 5 to 9
* activity books
* stick-on play sets
* threading sets (pictures with yarn)
* felt boards
* Travel Desk sets
(ITALICS)Ages 10 and Up
* books and comics
* hand-held toys
* deck of cards
* drawing paper and pencil sets
* iPod
Remember, wherever your family is headed...take a few minutes and play some of these fun games with your kids along the way. You might be surprised at how much fun you will have.
So buckle up, pass out the supplies and have a great summer trip!

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