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 Keeping Kids Happy on Long Car Trips - Plan For Fun! 
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Post Keeping Kids Happy on Long Car Trips - Plan For Fun!
by: Sharlene Rollins

I was first confronted with this daunting dilemma while managing my neighborhood toy store. A frazzled mother came in hoping to find some ideas for keeping her busy kids happy on a car trip to her parents home. After working there for six years before becoming a mother myself it has become clear that parents quite capable of tackling everyday parenting issues often freeze up when it comes time to bringing their little ones on long trips in the car. They have no idea how they are going to avoid chaotic meltdowns, hours of screaming or "are we there yet" style whining. There is hope and with a little planning most if not all of these situations can be avoided.

Let's get the obvious distractionary tactics out of the way so we can get into the really good stuff. A portable DVD player, along with some classic favorites or some new never before seen stuff, while this can depend upon the age groups and personalities of your kids, you know what will work better - I always try for both. You can download children's books on "tape" via pod-casts and bringing along favorite upbeat tunes for you and the kids is always a good idea. Allowing ipods and mp3 players is also an option but you may want to set limits on them as I often do so be sure to discuss these limits with the kids beforehand. I think the same applies to hand held games like Nintendo DS - set up any limitations or turn taking guidelines you'd like to have beforehand in order to avoid disagreements later.

About a month before your trip grab a laundry basket and go through the house with two thoughts in mind a) what toys/activities are their favorites and b)can that be done in the car. For the younger kids, you may not want to let them know you're doing this and for the older ones they might be able to do this themselves. Great, now that you have your pile of stuff pick out the best and keep it hidden until the trip so that you will be armed with toys that have a new appeal but are also bankable favorites for your trip! Some ideas, card games, favorite stuffies, action figures, polly pockets and transformers, any travel games etc. Many times I'll pack each kid a little bag of their own but as our family has grown I have found it easier to keep one fun bag at the ready rather than deal with too much stuff underfoot in the van.

Next make a trip to the nearest dollar store and choose squishy, touchable stuff, like slinkies, sticky stretchy toys, activity and coloring books, blank and lined notebooks, noisemakers (it's better to hear a harmonica than a screaming toddler) small puzzles than can be done on a book on a lap, magnetic play boards, sticker activities, chewing gum in case you need to drive through any mountains it will help ears to "pop" and my personal favorite, glo-in-the-dark necklaces, bracelets, etc for when it's too dark to do anything else - be sure to buy the non-toxic ones as my second child tends to bite them after an hour or so! We even placed them around the hotel room as night lights for the kids to navigate their way around a strange room at night!

Consider making your own games - older kids can help with this! Car Bingo is a classic in my family, simply take squares of paper then with a thick black marker and a ruler draw four or five lines down, and the same across, then after a trip to the dollar store put stickers of farm animals, cars, trucks, road signs, wildlife, dogs, birds, cats etc. in each square, make one card for each traveler, but not the driver, and simply have the kids mark them as they spot the things on their cards - a line is a bingo! Then the cards get passed along and a new game begins. The best way to mark them is to get them laminated and then use a crayon to mark and a facial tissue to rub off.

Other games include looking for neat license plates, red barns, counting horses or the classic punch buggy game - minus the hitting, we slap the seat in our car. Another classic with my family involves a deck of cue cards with a thing to find on each one. Road signs, railroad crossings, emergency vehicles, churches, speed limits, pylons, animal crossings, gas stations, favorite restaurants etc. We make up the cards beforehand and to play we deal out 3 at a time, when you spot one of your items you put the card in your lap, score a point and draw another card, first to five wins! Variations can involve each item having different points values, or event cards like steal a point card from another player, choose one card and place it in your points pile, lose or gain one point, trade hands with another player, etc. Be creative and inventive, maybe you can add in landmarks or rules specific to your route of travel!

A final thought, consider stopping along the way at fun, free, or cheap places, it adds time but makes for a memorable journey. When our family was faced with a 21 hour drive we opted to spread it out over 3 days and stopped in at little museums, aquariums, a cave tour, a mall with a huge old merry-go-round inside, Hershey, Pennsylvania, a state park and other neat stops along the way. Before your trip make a list of the cities you will be driving through and then Google the area to see if there are any neat places to stop that might be a perfect side trip for your kids. Taking these moments where and if possible can relieve a lot of the stress and tedium of a long drive with the kids.

By planning ahead for fun you are sure to arrive a much happier family and will have made positive car trip memories that will last a lifetime. Happy Trails!

About The Author
Sharlene Rollins is a mother of three. She has a ton of experience as a mother and a considers herself a Walt Disney World fanatic.

Her website is

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Sat Aug 01, 2009 10:20 am
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