Usually, when we are traveling, we take along a portable dvd player for the meltdown phase. But, on our most recent trip we really wanted the focus to be spending time together and strengthening relationships. Children learn how to entertain themselves and become creative after going through a stage...yes, it is just a stage...of boredom. So, we decided to leave the dvd player (and all electronic devises except our phones) behind. Scary, I know. But, personally, I enjoyed this trip so much more since I wasn't having to compete with electronic devices for the attention of my family members.
So, here is how we intentionally helped our kids work through the bored stages and learn to appropriately entertain themselves.
*Map the Route. We took a few minutes before starting out to show the kids a map and the route that we would take to drive from Phoenix to Anaheim. We pointed out key cities along the way and then talked about them as we were passing through. We brought the kids attention to the mile markers and the border crossing from Arizona to California. This is the best kind of geography lesson!
* Memory Book or Journal - I created a spiral notebook for the four older kids with a picture of a car the the words "road trip" on the front. This functioned as a memory book/journal. As we drove, they could draw pictures of what they saw and then write summaries of the days to remember later. They could tape receipts, tickets, maps, etc into the book as well.
* Travel Games - Because we are studying US geography this year, I decided to get a US map window cling for the kids' viewing pleasure...haha. And, gave each of the older four kids a state license plate game. This was basically a page printed from the internet with all 50 states' license plates. They would watch plates of vehicles around us and X out the ones that they found. They they could find that state on the window cling and see how far that vehicle had traveled to be in Arizona or California. It was fun to see how many they could find.
* Art - Art in the car? That really sounds like a disaster. Yeah. It was. But it was super entertaining and we knew that our van was going to need a good deep cleaning after the trip anyway:) Our kids love to draw. So, we picked up some sketch books, pencils, pens, markers, crayons, etc. at the Dollar Store for each kid. We also found a few 3D dot-to-dot books with cool glasses and spiral art projects that could easily be done in the car.
*Audio Books - We used our phones to stream a free version of Peter Pan during parts of the drive. I have to admit that I had never read this book before and Peter and I both found it to be a delightful tale. And, it kept the kids anticipation high for the ultimate Anaheim destination:)
* We would usually have snacks available for the kids but didn't find the need for that until the trip home when everyone was tired and the littles were just a bit more squirmy. I did have some tootsie pops available for the meltdown and they came in handy for the two year old.
Here is a list of unplugged ways to entertain kids on the road that I put together when planning this trip. I'll probably refer to this list on our next trip:)
audio books, books, view masters, crochet, knit, magnadoodle, etch-a-sketch, needlework, drawing, story telling (place your kids' names into familiar fairy tales), singing, word searches, bring hats and put on a seat play, naps (my personal favorite!), puppets, snacks, review math facts, read aloud, post it notes for sticking all over the car, make cheerio necklaces (messy but entertaining), play different license plate games (ABC, finding 50 states, etc), play slug bug, wiki stix, quiet books, paperclip creations, marshmallow and toothpick creations (definitely not for the preschool travelers), have the older kids calculate gas mileage, felt books, origami, magnetic games, journals, bring a few favorite toys from home, stickers, rubber band fights, lacing cards, picture taking, kaleidoscope, review memory work, and just talk about whatever the kids want to talk about:)
Here is a great website for making travel fun that could be easily adjusted to fit a family trip. I used the license plate game from this blog.
Click here to see my other posts on travel ideas.
How do you entertain your kids on the road?