Being on the road is not for the faint of heart or the short of temper. Kids need to stay occupied, especially on long car rides. To maintain your sense of direction and sanity, it’s best to keep kids comfortable and entertained. Here are a few road trip suggestions that help curb the occurrence of “Are we there yet?” questions.
Control the Temperature
Kids have no problem alerting others of their issues whether they’re hot, cold, hungry, or bored. Control the temperature of the vehicle by fixing a sun guard to the side windows, keeping extra blankets and clothes in the car, and equipping kids with handheld fans. The vents of the car help regulate the temperature, yet kids may have particular preferences. By ensuring they keep hot or cold, you’re covering all the bases and lessening the likelihood of their impatience.
Rotate the Seats
Some kids can’t sit still. Besides taking breaks, rotate the seats of passengers. This way, there are no arguments as to who gets to sit in the front, back, or middle. Moreover, consider how children react to one another in small spaces. For example, if two brothers are likely to argue, don’t seat them next to each other.
You may be headed to a formal occasion, but expecting the kids to maintain the lines of their pants or keep their dress clean is not practical. Allow kids to dress in pajamas and comfortable clothes for the duration of the ride. Worry about dressing them for a particular event once you arrive. It may warrant added steps but will save you anxiety and mental energy while riding in the car.
You don’t want the kids to get ‘hangry’ (anger caused by hunger) in the car. Packing plenty of snacks makes for a simple solution. Plus, it saves you time from having to stop in case they have a case of uncontrollable hunger. Of course, you’ll want to stay proactive as far as keeping messes to a minimum; bring hand wipes, paper towels, and a small trash bag.
Schedule stops and let kids know ahead of time. It will make the ride seem shorter. Allow kids to stretch, go to the bathroom, get snacks, and get out of the car for a short period before commencing. It’s difficult for kids to remain patient, so taking stops helps keep tempers and boredom under control. Give them a stopwatch and have them count down to the next stop.
Incentivize a Task
Have kids read a short story and tell them you will be quizzing them. If they get a good grade on the quiz, award them with a toy, some cash, etc. Provide them with an incentive to stay busy.
Pack a First Aid Kit
Kids find creative ways to accumulate cuts and scrapes. Pack a first aid kit so you can quickly stop bleeding and calm the anxieties of those injured.
Optimize for Comfort
Even adults get stiff necks and achy bodies on long rides. Optimize comfort levels with cushy seat covers and bringing along plush head cushions.
Play a number of games on long rides. For example, have kids find things that start with a particular letter or have them spot different license plates. Additionally, play board games or initiate a ‘best picture’ contest. The kind of game or activity is not as important as filling time that can otherwise be spent complaining or asking, “Are we there yet?”
Write a Plan
If you’re headed for a vacation, have the kids write the itinerary for the upcoming days. This will give them a sense of authority and keep their minds on the future rather than mind the boring car ride.
Kids like to feel important and part of events. You can’t let them drive but you can allow them to lend a hand with directions. For example, let them call out the next turn as indicated by the GPS or let them indicate the estimated time of arrival. Giving them an assignment will take their minds off of other things such as being bored in the car.
Suggest Arts and Crafts
Other than drawing a picture of coloring a page in a book, kids can engage in other forms of arts and crafts. For example, they can weave a bracelet or necklace out of gimp or sew a pair of mittens for the wintertime.
Preparation is your best defense against an unsettling car ride with the kids. Keep the kids comfortable and entertained so you’ll never hear, “Are we there yet?”
Amy Morrison is a nanny. She loves to write about her insights on childcare on the web. Look for her articles on many parenting sites.