Monday, December 19, 2011

Are we there yet?

Road trips with children don’t have to be a painful experience
So Christmas is just around the corner and many families will be packing the car full of presents to travel to family in other far flung places (that is, if you haven’t made plans to fly there instead).
Road trips when you’re 22 and carefree are fantastic because you can stop where and when you want and there’s no stress about where you eat and sleep each night.
But add a child (or children) to this scenario and you’ve got a full-scale operation complete with contingency plans, accommodation bookings and a boot load of “equipment”.
For those of you taking long road trips with children this year, I’ve compiled a list of ideas they may prevent you tearing your hair out at the end!
* Get the car serviced before your go to make sure it’s roadworthy and so you don’t have any unexpected breakdowns. Do the same for your tyres.
* Take rubbish bags for rubbish or car sickness, and some zip-lock bags for keeping souvenirs, toys or for snack packs.
* Take spare batteries for iPods, handheld games, etc.
* Take a small first aid kit, tissues, wet wipes, spare toilet paper and anti-bacterial gel.
* Rolls of masking tape can keep kids amused for ages as they mark out their territory in the back seat.
* If travelling at night, take a book light or small torch so children can read or play after dark.
* Make an enlarged copy of the route map and cover with clear contact paper. Let the kids mark the route and discover on their own “Are we there yet?” Get them to identify landmarks on the way.
* Try story CDs or podcasts of classic children’s literature read by actors. Local libraries have them to hire and it will entertain everyone including the driver.
* Take favourite music to listen to including children’s choices and a lyric sheet so they can sing along. You can also get your kids to create their own “mix tape” of favourite songs.
* Hands-on toys and art projects with washable crayons, stickers and felt kits will keep young children amused, and to limit the mess give them large placemats to put on their laps.
* There are plenty of mini board games in toy shops and department stores from checkers to snakes and ladders, and most have magnetic pieces so they don’t fall off the board.
* Card games are good for older children.
* Show a movie on a portable DVD player.
* Keep babies amused with cloth books, dangly toys, soft cuddly toys and plastic mirrors.
* Start your journey after a good night’s sleep and breakfast. Some parents swear by the early morning start but from my experience, this only works if you can get your child to the car without waking them. Otherwise, you end up throwing their sleep routine out the window.
* Stick to the same routines as home and take lunch at the usual time as well as regular stops for breastfeeding, nappy changes or toilet breaks, as well as a driver reviver.
* Take lunch breaks near parks or playgrounds so the children can let our their pent-up energy.
* Take plenty of snacks and finger foods such as fruit, sandwiches and muesli bars, as well as water but not orange juice as this is notorious for making young kids carsick.
* During night drives, simulate bedtime by putting children into their pajamas and share a story or book.
* Long periods of confinement and constant car motion will make most children under three very sleepy, so expect restless babies at night.
* Reward patience and good behaviour. Some parents hand out extra pocket money or some start with a set amount and then deduct money for each squabble they have. You could also stash a bag of sugar-free sweets in the glovebox and hand them out for good behaviour.
* With a carload of kids, try changing seats at regular intervals for a change of scenery.


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