Is long distance traveling with small children in the car fun? Or is it challenging and tiring? Sometimes it is both! But as parents we can be proactive and, by our own example and attitude, can encourage our children to enjoy car journeys.
1. Always make room for toys in the car, which as they grow older can become a space for books. Make sure the choice is their choice and not yours, although you might need to make some helpful suggestions. Having a library bag on a string that hangs over the headrest of the seat in front, is a great way to limit the amount of toys and books they can bring and also a great way to keep the car tidy.
2. Car sound systems have come a long way, and having the ability to play songs which you can all sing along to and stories that you can all listen to can make the time go a lot faster. The availability of portable DVD players also helps here, but good to have a balance with other things to do as well.
3. Have a supply of drinks and munchies. If you don’t then you will be at the mercy of whatever is available at the next service centre – which may not necessarily be good for them or the rest of the family. The key is to plan ahead of time, choose items that are good, nutritious and not just full of sugar and preservatives. Make sure that drinks are adequately spaced so that toilet breaks line up with availability of amenities and fuel!
4. Stop at anything that looks interesting! That includes funny looking sheep or cattle, lookouts and places with strange names – just to say that you have been there and taken a picture! Recently I reviewed one of a place called “Wombat”! Plan for an extended break every two hours, preferably with somewhere for the children to run around and have things to play on.
5. Spend time talking and looking at the map so that he children can see how far they have come (and maybe still have to go). Get some books so you can read about the history of the area and other points of interest.
6. Play games suitable for the car like I spy or Spotto. Make “Spotto” sheets up before you leave home, cover in plastic and you can wipe the marks off ready to use again. Ask “What’s happening?” “What is the name of the town we are in?” “What building can you see?” eg church, shops, police station. Encourage them to look out and notice things around them. Look at cars going past, can you make a word out of their number plate? For younger children, they may be looking for and counting “red” or “yellow” cars.
If you put these hints into practice and keep looking for new ways to be proactive, traveling will be more enjoyable for your children and the flow on is, you will too!