“How much longer?” “I wanna get out of my car seat!” Traveling by car with children can be a challenge. They get bored and restless when confined to a small space for hours, and siblings forced to sit with each other often end up arguing and whining. It takes advance planning and patience for travel to go relatively smoothly.
Try to make the drive as physically comfortable as possible. Have your child bring a blanket, and be sure she’s wearing comfortable clothes. Have her wear shoes she can take off during the ride and quickly get into for short stops.
As much as possible, time your travels to coincide with your child’s schedule. Early morning and late evening are usually calm times for young children, and she may sleep if you drive those hours. Plan plenty of stops for snacks or exercise. If someone else is driving, sit it in the back with her when she needs your involvement.
Listen together to the radio or a CD, or let her watch a DVD. Sing together or play “I Spy.” If you’re able to read while riding, pick a story to read aloud to the family.
Pack several small, lunch-size bags for her to have in the car, some with food and some with things to do, and give her one when she seems bored, tired, or upset along the way. The food bags can contain drinks and a variety of snacks that can be easily handled. To avoid extra tension and conflicts, don’t demand neatness or get angry when she makes crumbs or spills juice. Carry a battery operated car vacuum or put small towels around her car seat and on the floor so the mess can be easily cleaned up.
The “fun” bags can include toys, stickers, small-sized books, a video game (and extra batteries), and a family photo book. Periodically during the trip you may want to give her small, wrapped, surprise gifts geared to her interests. She’ll enjoy opening them, and the novelty will keep her attention. Have her put some toys and activities in her own backpack.
Any new toy, game, or interesting object will hold your child’s attention for a while, but if the trip is long, you’ll eventually hear, “Are we there yet?” Children ask this question over and over again because they don’t have an adult understanding of time or distance. It’s best to be prepared to answer this question many times, in a calm way. And whether you say, “We’ll be there soon,” or “We’ll be there in one hour,” your answer should not be fueled with frustration or anger, “I already told you!” “Stop asking me that question!”
Sitting for long periods of time is difficult for young children and they’re excited to get to the destination. With patience and planning, you can avoid major conflicts and keep your child reasonably content for most of your drive.