“Are we there yet?!?” – Keeping young children busy on long car rides

by Vicki Lehman, Professional Development Specialist

Vicki is our newest staff member and has experience as a preschool teacher. She has some great tips to share for keeping your young children busy on long car rides as the holiday season approaches.

Young children can be very impatient sometimes. Keeping them in a happy and content state on long car rides or trips can be tricky! Make sure you are as prepared as possible – the worst thing would be for you to get an hour into a three-hour car ride and realize you didn’t bring enough “stuff” with you to keep them busy. Hopefully you can use these ideas on those long journeys to visit family and friends.

My first suggestion is to create a “busy box”. You can put all types of things in the box (or bag, or container, or whatever works best for you and your children). Some ideas to get you started:

  • Books – Books they are interested in, books they have never looked at before, books specific to the season/time of year.
  • Paper and Crayons/Markers – You may want to include a clipboard as well. You can take this one step further and ask them to draw what they see outside. For easy clean-up, choose marker and paper sets that ONLY draw on the paper and not on anything else. That could save your car seat from being “decorated.”
  • Your Child’s Favorite Kind of Toy – This will vary on what interests your child – cars, dolls, action figures, Duplos.  Be intentional about what kind of toys you put in the box. Lots of little pieces will of course end up ALL over the car and you will be finding them for months!
  • Whatever else you think you need…then add one more  – Pack according to the amount of time you will be in the car…and then add some!  It never hurts to be over-prepared. Also, don’t forget about the return trip!

Of course you always want to make sure you have snacks! Snacks are a very important part of a young child’s day. I have a fun suggestion; buy a small plastic tackle box and fill it with different snacks.  Of course, make sure it is safe and you clean it before you use it. You can put things like fresh fruits and veggies in the larger sections and then put the more “yummy” treats (marshmallows, chocolate chips…) in the smaller sections. This gives them a lot of variety and kind of changes things up a bit.

Like I said, young preschoolers can be impatient and that can make long trips a bit stressful for all involved, BUT, if you prepare yourself, things can go very well. Spending long amounts of time in the car also leaves you with the opportunity to talk to one another. You can talk about where you are going, what you are going to do when you get there, or just about life in general. There is a lot of time when you are in the car to make some very strong connections and communicate with your child. So, take some time to prepare and enjoy that time you have with them. Young children often have some very funny and insightful things to say if you just listen to them. Their view on the world helps put things into perspective sometimes. So go and enjoy your time together –  they are only young once.

Cover image by Flickr user Larkin Family, Creative Commons license.

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