What can I do?
12m+ Change places.
Pack enough drink bottles, food and snacks.
It can get really expensive if you have to stop and buy stuff to stop the constant ‘we’re hungry, we’re thirsty’ complaints. So make up your own travel basket including drink bottles for each child and lots of snacks you know the kids enjoy. Pack finger food that kids can eat in the car so you don’t need to always stop and eat. Keep the baby wipes handy – they’re great for cleaning up messy fingers and faces. Sipper bottles work best for travelling with less chance of spillage
Schedule exercise breaks.
You can’t expect a young child to happily sit in their car seat during a long drive. Even though it might take longer to get to your destination, plan for regular breaks where the kids can run around and use up some energy. It might take longer to get there but it will probably make it more enjoyable for everyone
Plan for plenty of toilet stops.
Remind everyone to go to the toilet every time you stop. Regular toilet breaks are important if you don’t want any accidents in the car. For kids still learning to use the toilet, if you don’t want to go back to nappies, chuck a potty in the boot in case there is no toilet handy. They may prefer this to the side of the road!
Let them choose some of the music.
Think about what sounds are playing in the car- do the kids get a turn to choose? Sometimes it’s only big people who choose - try to have some kids’ CDs too, Have a sing-a-long - kids love it if you are singing songs they are familiar with and can join in. Singing not only helps entertain little ones it can also be energising for tired drivers.
If your kids are likely to squabble and if there’s more than one adult, you could take turns driving and sitting in the back with them for some part of the trip. If adults only ever sit in the front and kids in the back it can be a novelty for them to have a big person sitting alongside them for a change. A pillow in between each child can also provide a useful barrier and provide a bit of comfort for a nap.
Get the timing right.
Plan long drives for times the kids might be sleeping – it’ll make the trip more comfortable for everyone. Have special things the kids would normally take to bed with them handy – it might help them feel comfortable and settle more easily.
Pack an activity bag.
Let each child take a bag with some books and toys. Limit small items that can get lost too easily – otherwise you run the risk of tantrums or having to waste time stopping and searching under seats!
Think ahead about other games for when distractions are needed.
There are lots of simple games that can keep kids busy and make the journey go more quickly.
- Eye spy – variations might include a list of things to find – younger ones could have pictures on their list.
- Spot the red car.
- Car cricket - everyone take a type or colour of vehicle and a ‘run’ is scored for each of that group that goes past.
- Rotating memory games involving turn taking, listening and remembering – have categories e.g. fruit, colours, super heroes. I went to the shop and bought a?... followed by next person who repeats and adds an item. Younger ones may not be able to remember the list of items but could suggest some.
And what about you?
Over it? Use your phone timer to set a time limit for a play activity – your full attention for five minutes is better than half pai for longer.
Had enough? You may feel like you need alcohol or drugs to relax – but they often make the situation worse, especially when you have to deal with kids. Who could help you cut down or cut it out?