Hassle-Free Road Trips with Kids

by Maxine Sprague

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Excerpted from Positive Parenting Strategies ( TLCPress )

The van is stuffed to the rooftop, the kids are happily strapped into their seats and you're off on the vacation of your dreams. As you roll along, contemplating lazy days on the beach with that new novel you've saved for vacation, you are interrupted by a civil uprising in the rear passenger compartment. "I'm hungry. I'm tired. How much farther! I have to go pee! Joey is looking at me."

If traveling with young children is not one of your favorite experiences, try some of the following suggestions for keeping young travelers occupied.

Activity Bag - Be prepared with an activity bag containing items that you have saved only for use in the vehicle. Depending on the age of your children, include some of the following:

Books, paper, envelopes, games, puzzles, a small flashlight, finger puppets, small toys, activity and coloring books, crayons (pencil crayons are the least messy), pre-taped stories (record your own from your child's favorite books), stickers, binoculars (great for reading hard to see road signs), wallet with credit cards cut from old Christmas cards and play money), stop watch (to record time spent traveling, see how many cars go past in 1 to 5 minutes, keep track of a 10 minute no talking time).

Play Binoculars - Tape two small paper cups together. Cut holes in the bottoms to look through. Put colored cellophane over the tops to make colored viewing. You can also use two toilet tissue rolls and have your child decorate them.

Travel Tray - A cookie sheet with a felt covered bottom makes a good playing surface. The edges keep things from falling off and the felt side can be used for making pictures from felt scraps. Magnetic letters, shapes and toys stick to the tray as well.

Travel Pillow - Make a personal travel pillow by using fabric markers, permanent markers or paint to decorate a T-Shirt or use a favorite one that they've outgrown. Sew the sleeve and waist openings shut. Stuff the shirt and sew the neck opening closed.

Pop Top - A plastic pop top bottle filled half way with water, frozen and then topped up with water for the trip makes a refreshing drink container that won't leave sticky spills on the upholstery.

Travel Log - Before you leave, involve your child in planning the trip and writing or emailing for information from areas you plan to visit. Collect a map, writing and drawing paper, plastic protector sheets and other supplies in a ring binder. Older children can help calculate distances, plan and record travel routes, keep track of brochures and receipts for expenses, and journal experiences and observations. You can also include paper games, puzzles and activity sheets in the binder.

See a Sign - Draw pictures of commonly used road signs and have the child watch for them and mark them off whenever he sees one you've drawn. Older children might enjoy starting a notebook of road signs and adding drawings of new signs as they see them.

Alphabet Signs - Make a list of all the letters of the alphabet. Look for signs beginning with each of the letters and write them down beside that letter.

Travel Zoo - Make a list of all the animals, birds and other wild life you see on the trip. You could make headings to classify them and have your child find something to fit into each. Find an animal that flies, a black and white animal, an animal with horns or antlers, an animal with 2 legs, or an animal with a long tail. Your child can even help make these up or find new ways to classify animals when they see one that doesn't fit into the list.

Buckle up, pass out the supplies and have a great summer trip!

Maxine Sprague is a parent, author and educator, living in Edmonton, Alberta. She has written three books including her latest, Super Easy Bag Lunches - Recipes and Hundreds of Other Happy Baggin' Ideas. Email: tlcpress@telusplanet.net

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