We’ve all been there at one time or another: traveling down that road with our little ones asking us, “…are we there yet?” or “…how much longer?” Well if it’s not our little ones now it may very well be our little one’s little ones (i.e., our grandkids).
I think it’s safe to say that we all plan for the fun aspects of traveling. It’s easy to picture the end result when you’re sitting at your destination(s) planning for all of the local festivities. It’s getting to that destination that can sometimes be the bigger challenge.
It’s noteworthy here to address that for my kids, when they were really little, it used to irritate me to hear other parents describe how impossible it was to keep their tots buckled up in there seats for very long. My kids adapted to the policy that with few exceptions, staying buckled up is non-negotiable. They had to ask if they could get up and then would announce when they were “buckled up!” That helped me keep track of their movements while driving. If I happened to be transiting a busy interchange with lots of traffic, I’d have them hold off a bit before popping out of there seat to get something. You get the idea.
My experience with children traveling is that it really helps to have several games and movies for entertainment during the actual rolling-on-the-road part. And having them help, with age-appropriate assistance, in the planning stages really seems to raise their spirits for a trip. You may consider a box for each child allowing them to pack (with your assistance?) any game items they wish. It may be wise to also discuss, where more than one child is involved, the benefits of sharing. This way each child learns they can double (where two kids are involved) or triple (three kids) the amount of toys to be played with. But a word of caution regarding games: don’t push any one game beyond their desire to play it for any length of time. Doing so could be the kiss-of-death for that single game that you may hope to have them play (to keep them busy) at a later time.
Another potential time-killer idea I’ve used before was with an old cell phone. I almost always had an old one sitting in a drawer, or even my current one. You can virtually turn the current phone off, by using the Airplane mode, without actually powering down the phone. It couldn’t accidentally call anyone but you also cannot receive any incoming calls either. But this way, the kids could play games that were loaded on the phone. Be wise though: ration the allotted time for phone usage.
Of course, along with the few games listed below, you should have an ample supply of crayons, coloring books, and a good supply of blank sheets of paper for creating their own items to color. There should also be a good supply of movies. Even at eating time, my little kids liked to play Restaurant where one would take the food-order and the other would
At any rate, here’s a few games to try out:
1 – an all time favorite. One I used to play with my three children on road. It’s the typical license-plate gig. See who gets the highest number of different states and/or how long it takes to get to a certain preset number. And when I wanted this game to be educational, I’d have them read the numbers of a plate in order. When they were younger, I had them add the series of numbers. As they got older, they graduated to multiplying the numbers. This was the “educational” part of the trip.
2 – another “educational” game that sort of tagged off the mathematical license plate game was the metric system. Most vehicles today, at the touch of a button, can convert temperature in Fahrenheit to Celsius and vice-a-versa. I started with teaching them the basics (to me): 16˚C is 60˚F, 23˚ is 73˚, and 35˚ is 95˚. This would give them something to begin with, and then came the art of interpolation.
3 – another game was Eye-Spy (a favorite of my three girls). We all took turns looking for anything outside (buildings, signs, cars, people, etc.), announcing “Eye-spy something that…” Then the rest of us would take turns asking questions about the item. Whoever correctly guessed scored a point. We alternated the game using everyone and the first to make it to a predetermined score won the game.
4 – I also engaged my kids into the art of map-reading. I’d have them verify a route or better yet, I’d give them the state we were in and have them locate exactly where we were based on the signs they could read. Obviously this game, as it were, was more fun as they got older but was a bit tough to have it last very long, but it did serve as a great intermission to a longer running game.
5 – Whenever we passed over a state line, we holler it up and make a big deal out of it. Often times it also became a grab-the-map-and-find-us time. If I didn’t say so before, I wanted my three girls to be able to read a map. It should be noted that it was my practice with my children, and will be with my grandchildren, that not all time was spent on games. Some time will be allotted for general family conversation and interaction that goes beyond games. This began at a very early age for them. I didn’t want to raise children that had to always be entertained. “I’m bored Daddy” was not a blasphemic phrase. On the contrary, boredom was okay.
Good luck and enjoy your family trip!