Summer is finally here and with it comes trips to the beach, family excursions, visits to grandparents, and drives to vacation spots. We all love the silence that tables and headphone bless us with on drives. For a rare change we can have uninterrupted conversations with our spouse, catch up on podcasts, jam out to our favorite band from college days or (my personal favorite) nap while the husband drives!
But, in-car movies and apps don’t lead to quality family time. That is the purpose of family vacation. Time together to play and rest away from the tasks and commitments. I love having us all packed in a car with everyone’s favorite snacks and kids unable to go opposite directions. My kids are road-trip warriors but even they need a little more than good tunes after two hours on the road.
Here are some of my favorite things we have tried and are worth repeating:
Help kids practice colors and counting. This is so simple– we count all the Jeep Wranglers we see. Change the car if your child really likes red trucks or construction equipment.
This is a special treat in our family and not allowed in the house. It is exciting, inexpensive and keeps them busy for a bit. . . as long as I remind them to spit it out before snack time!
We did not jump on this band wagon until a road trip and it was such a simple addition to their backpacks. A quiet car toy that keeps them engaged and they can see who can keep it spinning the longest.
My 3 and 5-year-old will color for long periods of time. For car trips I get them each a small sized notebook (lines or blank pages) and a new small pack of crayons. My 5-year-old will even draw us things she has seen or food we have eaten!
Dance Party DJ
We all like to listen to different music and often this leads to arguing. On long drives with two adults we have dance parties and each kid takes turns picking a song. It passes the time quickly, keeps the driver awake and lets us all get a little energy out while still trucking down the road!
I loved listening to audio books on road trips as a child before Tablets ruled the world. If you have small children who can’t listen to chapter books yet there is a variety of children’s picture books with accompanying audio. They can flip the pages when the bell dings and hear the story and see the pictures. I found some inexpensive ones online but our library had lots to choose from also.
Remember magnet checkers as a child? There are so many magnet travel toys: robots, dolls with outfits so you can change their clothes, trucks to drive down roads. Many of them fold up flat in a folder so they are easily stowed in a diaper bag or back pack.
We have a few sets of these and enjoy making up stories to tell each other or collaborating on one together. They are stacks of picture cards. You choose 3-5 cards and tell the story that connect them together.
This is so simple for something they think is incredibly fun. Take a ribbon or string and wrap it around both headrest bars of the front seat so it makes reins. Your child who sits behind you can hold one end in each hand and pretend to drive the car. Don’t forget to say “whooaaa” when you need to slow down!
Choose an environment: rain forest, night desert, beach, city. Each person chooses their animal or element and creates a sound effect for it. All together you make your sounds, the passengers close their eyes and listen to hear if you can picture the place you are creating.