Things You Can’t Afford to Leave Home Without (for Your Sanity!)
I have four kids and we drive. Last year, we moved to Florida, leaving our entire family behind in St. Louis, Missouri. The beach is great, but nothing beats mom, sisters and the cousins! We miss them all and make the trek. 13 charted hours with four kids turns into 16 hours without effort. So, what do we do…as united loving parents, to sustain the kids for hours on end? Here are a few great tips to keep the kids happy and keep you truckin’! (That is, moving on without a million stops, 40 melt-downs and avoiding the plea “Are we there yet?” 30 miles from home….940 miles to go!)
Dollar Store Delights
One of the best recommendations I have ever gotten was from a friend. I was telling her about my fears taking small children on a 2-day road trip. She suggested that I make small brown “grab” bags with items from the dollar store. Every hour, or every stop, she suggested letting the kids pick a bag. The trick is, children do not know what is inside but it really keeps them going, hour to hour. Kids look forward to those $1 treats and the fun lasts if you pick the items right.
The mystery, the joy of opening something unknown, the thrill of playing with something new and different is enough to sustain kids for hours. This doesn’t even include the big “trade” among siblings which furthers the enjoyment.
This can be a cost saver, too. Pass on the chips – needless calories – at the gas station. Pass on the sugar and spending. Pass on spending anything…getting to pick an unknown bag from the trunk is far more fun! (Be sure to includ a baggie of Cheeze Its or a mini candy bar with the dollar item!)
On Your Game: Churches and Graveyards
Car games that help pass the time are great to have in your arsenal of “must haves” for a road trip. Churches and Graveyards is a “must have” and something I never even heard of until I met my husband. But this game is great. It might as well be called “Counting Cows” because that is exactly what you are doing (with a twist.)
How to Play Churches and Graveyards: Say you have John and Jane in the backseat; John on the left, Jane on the right. John gets the right side window…and everything he sees, Jane gets the left. Both kids count cows (we added dogs and sheep for fun. Depending on your region, you may need to change the livestock type.)
Obviously, the kid with the highest count wins….UNLESS…they pass a church or a graveyard. Passing either a church or a graveyard brings their count to zero. Sad…but unpredictable.
It’s great when John is killing Jane on points. He has counted 1000 cows. Jane has 3. Then right before the game ends, John passes a graveyard and Jane wins with THREE!
An important note on this game is you must set an end time, or place. When you start the game, set a 15 mile mark (or a 20 minute mark) before the game ends. Say to the kids, “When we reach ____ city, whoever has the most, wins!” Or say, “We will play for 15 minutes. At 3:15…whoever is ahead…wins!”
It helps break the monotony of DVD’s and encourages the kids to take in the surroundings and actually see the glorious country that is passing them by!
On Your Game: Trigger Word
Another great game for the whole family in the car is a game we call “Trigger.”
How to Play Trigger : The rules are simple, take turns (clockwise around the car: person to person) saying the first thing that comes to your mind…based on what the other person just said. One word only, is really the only rule. It is a speed thing that draws on the first thing that a word triggers in your mind.
For example, one person starts and picks any word (no wrong answer) like “car.” The next person says, “Gas.” The next person says whatever comes to their mind when they hear the word “gas”. The goal is not to think too hard. It’s just kind of funny where this game leads and shocking when you get rolling what people think of!
This game just proves how our train of thoughts can be so different and it usually results in laughter for the whole family. (By the way, repeating a word used in the game results in loss – that is how it ends.)
Books on Tape
Books on Tape/CD
One of the best audio series for kids (and for adults) I can recommend is the Adventures in Odyssey audio series (by Focus on the Family.) The series is Christian based and always has a sound “moral to the story.” In addition, the CD’s are totally captivating for all audiences – including adults.
My mother actually bought us a series for Christmas and I used to pop them in on quick runs to here or there to keep my 4 year old twins captivated. Children have conversations on the CD, the fluid story and young voices really take a child’s mind off of…well…whining.
However, it wasn’t long before my 10 and 12 year old would ask, “Is that Adventures in Odyssey” CD in here? More surprising, was I found myself sitting in parking lots waiting to see how the story ended.
Patterned largely after “old school” radio broadcast stories, these stories are 100% current, filled with real examples of life that appeal to anyone in the car. So, for a long road trip, it is totally worth the $15 or so…for HOURS of entertainment and thoughtful conversation.
For more information visit http://www.amazon.com/Hot-Pursuit-Adventures-Odyssey/dp/1589972414
The long road trip can really put a mom, or couple under the gun…traveling at night while kids sleep…pressing on when they don’t feel like it because kids are asleep or enduring hours of crying. (Lord, I will never forget the 3 hour trip we took with my niece – who cried the ENTIRE 3 hours.)
Traveling doesn’t have to be gruel, with small kids. In fact, it can be the best part of the trip if parents are equipped with an arsenal of tricks – from games, to grab bags, DVDs and CDs.
So, take the edge off the trip, mom. Enjoy the ride!