It's the time of year when many of us hop into cars or onto planes to be with those we love the most. Little ones looking forward to running around with cousins, baking cookies with grandparents and too-late nights giggling, snuggled into pallets on the floor. We adults finding warmth in the late night conversations with siblings, parents and the aunt we don't see enough, card games full of laughter and jovial competition. But, one thing I know many parents begin to dread as the Autumn leaves turn is the actual travel-time to get to the places that bring joy to our hearts. Would you believe that the last few times we have traveled as a family we did not give the kids iPads or phones to play games or watch movies and they didn't cry or whine? Would you believe we laughed and giggled and listened to stories and I remember it with fondness? We have laid out a few tips below we hope will ease travel and maybe, possibly, turn that dread into joy as you begin to see these long drives and flights as special connection points for your family.
Tip 1. Goodie Bags
When we take a long trip, I pack a bag for each child filled with activities I know will keep their interest for good chunks of time. My children enjoy sketchbooks, crayons and colored pencils, stickers and books without words. They are especially fond of seek and find books; we adore this book, In the Town, All Year 'Round. It follows townsfolk through each season and is just very fun. A new cuddly friend, or old much-loved one, has proven very helpful for travel as my children will often sit in their seats and chat with it. We have also found Doodle Pros, Wiki-stix and window cling stickers to be fun travel items that keep our children's interest for longer periods of time.
Tip 2. Family Games
When the inevitable grumps start to set in as your little ones tire of the confined hours, my husband and I love to break out car games. Travel Bingo is a fun way to keep everyone involved and eye's open searching for all the common travel sights. Another game we really enjoy playing with our preschooler is a game we call The Animal Game. The Animal Game is based on the 20 Questions game. In this game, each person takes a turn picking an animal and everyone else asks questions to try to guess which animal it is. Typically, we start out with questions like, "land, water or air?", "herbivore, omnivore, or carnivore?" and on from there. My 4 year old can't get enough of this game and we all end up in fits of giggles as it inevitably turns to some made up animal. Another game that helps to eat up time is The Alphabet Game, look for letters from A to Z in order on signs and licenses plates.
Tip 3. Audiobooks and Podcasts
We keep an old iphone or iPad stocked with downloaded books and children's podcasts. Blu-tooth headphones keep the little ones from pulling out the cord from the plug and have been endlessly helpful. Our most favorite children's podcast is Sparkle Stories. It's a $15 monthly subscription (but you can try it free for a week!) all neatly packaged in it's own app. The stories are written and read by David Sewell-McCann and my children have really built a special connection with them. The app has stories separated by type, age and season and there are so many that even after listening to them for over a year we have yet to even tap the surface. My children are especially connected to the Martin & Sylvia stories about a homeschooled sister and brother. Honestly, these stories are so sweet and gentle I never feel the need to pre-screen them, which has been a huge blessing to us.
A free podcast we really enjoy is Little Stories for Tiny People.; they are short stories written specifically for toddlers and preschoolers and I often hear my children laughing as they listen.
Our favorite wholesome books to listen to on a repeat basis are: Winnie-the-pooh, Peter Rabbit, and Little Bear.
We hope these tips will help you through this travel season to look forward to connecting with your little ones on the trip. Remember to stop as often as you can and neve underestimate the power of silly music everyone can sing to, LOUDLY!l