If you and the kiddos will be in the car for hours at a time this summer, it pays to plan ahead. Here are 10 tips to make the drive more pleasant for everybody.
- Seatbelts every moment. Of course you strap your children into the car… but sometimes, when the miles drag on, you might be tempted to bend the rules so a child can lie down or grab something from behind the seat. Don’t do it! The seatbelt rule not only keeps your children safe but it keeps them in their designated places. Bring pillows for sleeping sitting up and stop to retrieve things from the way-back.
- If you bring media players, bring headphones. Not everyone wants to hear every moment of a Wiggles DVD or every note of Taylor Swift’s newest album. In fact, bring headphones (or earplugs) even if you don’t bring media players… being able to shut out the world can make for a more peaceful trip.
- Keep snacks high protein. If you offer cheese sticks, nuts, or salami your children will be hungry less frequently, will be less thirsty, and will avoid the blood sugar peaks and valleys that have unpleasant effects. Avoid candy, cookies, and chips, if for no other reason than that these are messy and will make your car look like a disaster hit it.
- Make water the drink of choice. If it spills, no worries! Save the juice, milk and soda for restaurant meals.
- Plan to stop every 90 minutes. Get out your map and figure out the places to get everyone out for 10 minutes. Figure out where there will be toilets, where there will be some grass to run around or a town to walk through. Then do stop.
- Pack a ball, a Frisbee and some Band-Aids where they’re easy to get to. On those stops, having a few toys and immediate access to first aid can make all the difference.
- Give each child a map. The older the child, the more detailed the map – your preschooler may only have a piece of paper with Home, Beach and a few landmarks marked in between. But knowing that progress is being made – that we’re getting closer to getting where we’re going – is part of a happy journey. Bring crayons or pencils too, so that kids can mark the route.
- Bring audio books. Reading in the car can make kids car sick but listening to books can be more satisfying (and take longer) than just watching movies. If you don’t bring media players, bring a classic book on CD that everyone might enjoy (Charlotte’s Web? The Hobbit?) and play it on the car stereo.
- Avoid toys with built-in problems. You know the ones: toys that are too difficult make go, toys with small parts that might drop on the floor, toys that are worth snatching from your brother just to hear him yell, toys you’ll have to go back for when they get left in the restaurant, and toys that require throwing or hitting or that make annoying noises. Pack them if you must but don’t let kids play with them in the car.
- Lay out positive ground rules. Tell your children what you want to see and hear (don’t tell them what you don’t want). Make the expectations clear and short-term. So say “Let’s be nice to each other and talk in friendly voices from here to the first stop. The first stop is Springfield. Here’s where that is on your map.” Then praise when you see and hear what you want. When you get to Springfield, reset for the next leg of the trip.
Remember that you’re taking children on this trip, not just more baggage. Think about what has gone wrong on previous car rides and plan around those. Help the trip to be about the getting there as much as it is about the destination and you’ll all have a great time!
© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All right reserved.