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Laurel Smith writes about traveling with kids on her website, MomsMinivan.com Read more »
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When I travel with my three children, I often get unsolicited observations from strangers such as "You must really have your hands full" or "You are so brave." They sometimes give me a look of pity as if I am embarking on some form of self-inflicted torture. Nothing could be further from the truth. My children are happy travelers -- mostly because of the many positive and fun experiences we have had together. Your children can also be great travelers. In fact, traveling with children can even be fun for you too!
Have several activities in mind that you can introduce as you need them. The good news is that traditional travel games are still as much fun now as they were when you played them as a child. Brush up the old favorites so you can teach them to your kids: Counting Cows, license plate games, Twenty Questions, I Spy, Rock Paper Scissors, Slug Bug, and any others you can remember.
Next, gather materials for additional activities that will engage your crew such as travel-sized board games, music, and books. Many items can also be printed from your computer such as scavenger-hunt lists, car bingo, tic tac toe, hangman, coloring pages, and battleship. Toddlers in particular tend to do better with actual materials they can manipulate. Try aluminum foil modeling, drawing boards, sewing cards, and magnetized activity sets or felt boards.
Consider going "unplugged" by not relying on electronics as the main source entertainment. Not only will you be missing opportunities to create some special memories, but these activities become old and tired just like anything else that is overdone. Do keep in mind, however, that these items do have their place especially when downtime is needed. Kids can't be expected to be fully engaged in playful or educational activities for 8 hours straight.
Keep in mind the old adage, "Getting there is half the fun." Cop a new attitude that the adventure starts in the driveway as you begin your trip -- not once you arrive at your destination. Traveling together provides you an opportunity for hours of uninterrupted time to spend with each other. How will you use it? Take advantage of this gift of precious time, and use it to really get to know each other.
A great way to start is by playing a simple game. My family particularly enjoys a game we call "Playing Favorites". Ask each person their favorite color. Then take turns and have everyone think of a different "favorite" question for the group -- What's your favorite... movie, flavor of ice cream, song, game, toy, place to visit, restaurant, book, animal, fish, website, or teacher...? Be creative with your questions. You are going to learn things about each other, surprising things, that you didn't know before.
Remember to give yourself a break. It's not all going to be sing-alongs, happiness and giggles. You are not a failure if the kids start whining, or your toddler has a screaming meltdown in his car seat. Give yourself permission to go "off road" and change your plans or to switch the activity if things aren't working out. Keep the bigger picture in mind: having fun and getting to your destination safely.
How about some tips for keeping kids happy on long trips?
As we enter the busy summer travel season, what are your plans for making it fun?
Laurel Smith is no longer taking questions. But please share your own experiences and ideas by leaving a comment.
Sorry, Laurel Smith is no longer taking questions. Feel free to comment on the article and let us know what you think about the topic.