Here’s a few things we’ve learned about surviving car trips with young children;
Each child has a small back pack that is only for holiday car trips, the contents of which are a mystery until the time of departure! One of the over the back of the seat organizers would work the same way, providing each child has his own. In the back pack are food and drink, toys, and a few other essentials.
FOOD AND DRINKS
Take a water bottle for each child. If water is spilled in the car, well, you’re just a little wet – and then you dry. But if it’s milk, juice, or soft drink the rest of the trip will be most uncomfortable.
Keep sugary snacks to a minimum. A bunch of children in a confined space for a long period do not need to be bouncing off the walls from the sugar hit.
Dried fruit and nuts (snack size, zip lock bags for each child works well)
Rice crackers, or other savoury biscuits (again, individual bags – there will be enough cause for trauma without you handing back a box of barbeque shapes and announcing they’re to share.)
Popcorn, commercial or homemade
Carrot sticks and cheese cubes can be kept cool with a small lunch bag and a matching mini freezer block which you can make use of again for day trips.
Australian Geographic is a great place to find small, interesting things to include in the car bag.
Books, appropriate for age. If you have a very young child try and find a cloth book. Not only are they hardy, easy to manipulate, and take up very little room, they are also comfy if your little someone falls asleep on one.
Where’s Wally and I Spy books are good for those not yet into novels.
Book of logic puzzles or Joke book
Magnetic construction toys
French knitting kits
Small dolls such as Kelly dolls, Polly Pocket, etc that tend to come with little pieces to match – bring a toiletries bag or other small container to keeps the little bits together if you are presenting the item previously unopened.
The “party favours” section of the grocery store will sometimes have small toys such as the sort where you have to move the tiles around in a square to make a picture, or you have to get a small ball bearing into a hole, party blowers (they will drive you crazy, but it’s better than a screaming toddler), miniature slinkies, whistles, etc.
There are many online (free) colouring pages to print before you go. Google a subject your child likes (horses, flowers, cars, etc) then add + free colouring pages, and print away! Staple one corner of your bundle, add to a clipboard, include a new set of pencils, an eraser, sharpener with catchment, and some plain drawing paper underneath.
Add in some maths grid paper if your children are old enough to learn dots and dashes!
There are also many car games that can be played;
Spot a list of landmarks, road signs, a certain number of red cars, etc.
Make up a silly saying from the letters of the car license plate in front.
I spy with my goggly, worn out eye (if you’re the mummy and the trip is drawing to a close..)
One of our favourites is to think of a letter, and each person in turn must say a unique word starting with that letter, players drop out as they run out of words.
Reading aloud is good while your voice lasts.
Your local library will have story CD’s to loan.
Librivox has a selection of free audio books to download.
A FEW PRACTICAL ITEMS
A baby blanket for each child. This helps with complaints about too cold aircon, you can hang it in the window of the child who’s been in the sun for the last hour, it can double as a cubby, you can spread it on your lap so you don’t loose your play things or your popcorn, it’s handy if someone is unexpectedly and violently sick, or has a nosebleed..
Wet wipes. Here in Australia, the “sticky fingers” in the green packet from the baby aisle (sorry, can’t remember who makes them) have a mild solution, don’t dry out if you leave them in the car for ages, and they smell pretty 🙂
A bag for rubbish. Whether it’s one communal bag, or each person has a small plastic bag in their backpack, a rubbish bag is good.
Tissues. Great for runny noses, making blankets and clothes for the dolls house dollies, AND for those public amenities along the way that have no paper available!
If you are allergy prone, or germ phobic, and take your pillows with you on holidays, children can lean against them when they inevitably fall asleep.
My children all like to take their sleep toys in the car with them. We have “Nuggle Doggy, Bear Bear, Dogger and Lovey Bunny.
Finally, if your driving time will be long, remember to plan stops at parks where little ones can have a run around. If your child is still in a child harness, it is more restrictive of movement than an adult seatbelt and a good run around, or even a chance to stretch out on the grass may be enough to sweeten the mood for the final leg of the journey.
And speaking of sweetening…
As much as I don’t advocate sugar treats for kids on car trips, a little extra sweet something, a something that takes a long time to consume such as tiny lollies (bo-peeps from Darrell Lea) or a lolly pop stashed in the glove box for desperate emergencies, just may keep everyone sane for the last bit of the trip.