Happy Kids Happy Road Trip

Kids can be so fickle. They beg for screen time on a regular day at home or when you're driving to dance class, but when you need them to zone out, suddenly even the forbidden fruit doesn't always cut it. Beyond the DVDs and old standard license plate games, here are a few ways to keep the whining to a minimum.

1)      Schedule the time.

My kids love their timers. We divide up the road trip time into Kidz Bop time, movie time, game time, drawing time. I set the timer, and when it goes off, we switch activities. Sometimes I tell them what we're switching to, sometimes I let them choose, but they do a good job and it keeps them from getting bored. If you schedule snack time in there too, it may even curb those requests.

2)      Let them in on the plan.

One of the biggest pet peeves my kids have on road trips is not having a sense of time. We let them know our plan. We're going to drive to ____, which is about an hour and a half away and stop for snacks and the bathroom. Then, we'll drive to ______ before we stop again for dinner. We will get to the hotel around 8:00 tonight. Now that my kids can read well enough, I print this out for them and put it in the backseat. They know things might change, but they also don't have the sense of being stuck in the car "forever".

3)      Surprise them.

I always stock up on new activity books, games, trinkets, books, and snacks before we head off on a road trip, but if I hand them a stocked backpack, they'll tear through it all in the first half hour. It took me a little extra time, but last time we had a drive, I wrapped up each new surprise and told them they could open one every hour (you can adjust this to half hour, every stop, whatever suits your trip). I didn't care what they opened when, and the surprise was most of the fun.

4)      Make it easy to stay organized.

I've tried backpacks, string bags, zip up binders and clear pouches, with varying degrees of success, but the most important thing is that we've found what each kid needs to keep their stuff accessible and corralled. Because we're often meeting my husband somewhere, I'm the only adult in the car and can't help finding headphones or markers, so they need to stay together. We experiment with our driving around town in the days leading up, finding what works best for each kid.

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