Summer is a popular time for family vacations. The kids are out of school, making it a great time to take a long road trip or plan a flight halfway across the world. One of the challenges of traveling with small children is that they want to be entertained. We’ve all been on that flight with the crying baby, or the toddler who had a 5 hour tantrum when all you wanted to do was try to get a little sleep. Now that you are getting ready for your first trip with your own kids (or your first peaceful trip with your own kids), you want to make sure you are prepared. Have you thought about interactive e-books for children or learning how to do origami together? Here are a few tips to help keep your kids occupied and help you keep your sanity during your next family vacation.
Visit your local dollar store
The local dollar store is a great place to pick up cheap games, cards, and knick-knacks that can keep kids occupied for several hours at a time. Rather than give your kids all the games all at once, try giving it to them one at a time. You can make it a surprise by placing each toy in an envelope to open once every two hours during the trip. For example, envelope one may have a search a word puzzle book. After two hours, give the child envelope two that may contain a travel deck of playing cards. Putting the toys in an envelope to be distributed every two hours will keep your child excited about what is to come next, rather than ask, “are we there yet?” every twenty minutes.
Technology: A parent’s secret weapon
When most parents think about technology for kids, they may think of violent computer games and mindless movies. Parents and teachers have come to demand more from their technology. Now the technology has evolved to where there are tools that teach children life lessons, improve their cognitive ability, and can improve a particular skill. Interactive e-books for children, online apps, even laptops designed for small children can keep your child busy for many hours at a time.
Find something the family can learn together
Finding activities that everyone will enjoy is ideal as the purpose of family trips is to spend more quality time together. Try getting a small book on beginning origami and pack lots of pieces of colorful paper. Or try learning something special about your destination. Is your child into wildlife? What types of birds or other animals are you likely to see at your destination? How about practicing a new language? You can always pop in a CD or bring along a children’s book in the new language. How about handcrafts like knitting or constructing insects out of construction paper?
The actual travel involved in getting from one destination to another is often seen as the most annoying part of the trip. The traffic on the road, the flight delays, the trips to the bathroom can all seem like a bother. However, as the children grow older, times such as these will become fewer and fewer. One day they will be too involved with their own friends to have time for you. So do your best to savor these summer moments while they last.
By Mary Caudron, a mother of three who likes to keep her kids thinking even while at play.