Everyone needs a little holiday now and again and while Alpha’s Preschool Academy loves every member of our toddler, preschool and daycare programs, we know it’s important for families to spend time together too.  Often, this means a summer road trip. (Insert groan here, LOL!) If it’s time for your family to take a little road trip adventure vacation, whether to Grandma’s house or Gander, Newfoundland, we’ve got you covered with some helpful travel tips tailor made for children of all ages!

It’s true for many parents that the thought of a road trip makes you groan inwardly. How are we going to keep the kids entertained? What about potty breaks along the way? How can we stay budget-conscious while our toddler screams to stop at every giant “M” sign seen along the way? Alpha’s has you covered, even when you are far away, with these handy hints:

Put away the screens for a rainy day.

Yes, that’s right – we actually said it in our out loud voices; put away the screens.  As you may have read, a new study came out recently talking about the amount of suitable screen time for children from birth through to the teen years and overall, the findings were that children need far less screen time than they are currently enjoying.  What better time to implement that policy than when you are in the car and there is so much to see and appreciate just by looking around you! Children can be kept entertained by playing games that involve interacting with the family and looking at the world around them. Save the screen time for particularly dreary or rainy days when it’s not only hard to look out the window but potentially downright depressing too.

Play Games. Sing Songs.

So, as we mentioned, put down the phones and ipads and play games instead. Like what you may ask? There are a variety of in car games you can play, with or without prompting from “ready-packaged” card games available online and in stores like Scholar’s Choice. These include: “20 Questions,” “I Spy,” “License Plate Bingo,” “Hangman” and more.  These games are both fun and educational and can be tailored to the age of the children you are travelling with.

For example, with the license plate game and little ones 18 months – 24 or 36 months you can simply ask them to find certain letters of the alphabet on the plates of cars that pass you. For older children, have them not only spot the letters but use those letters to make a word. For still older kids, have them focus on the numbers instead and do some simple arithmetic, adding or subtracting the sum of all the numbers.

Somehow, when in the car, this doesn’t seem like schoolwork and is more of a challenge, particularly if you offer a “reward” for every right answer! These can be little things like a skittle, jellybean or smartie for each correct answer.  Games like “Hangman” can be played with pen and paper or with magnetic tiles purchased at the store and word inspiration (and clues) can come from the things you pass along your route. As for singing – you know what your kids like best so take some time to download a few songs onto your phone and get everyone in on the action by singing along to the beat!

Plan stops along the way that will be of interest.

Let’s face it, even as adults, being in the car for long periods of time eventually gets kind of boring. If you have a long drive ahead of you, plan several stops at short intervals that give everyone a chance to stretch their legs along the way.  These don’t have to be expensive either. Passing a local fruit stand with fantastic fresh strawberries and meeting a real live Mennonite in farm country is something your kids may never have done before.  Remember to put yourself in a childlike frame of mind. What’s “old news” to us is often “first time big adventure” for your child. If you’re heading east toward our nation’s capital to celebrate Canada 150, just passing by “The Big Apple” on the side of the road is a good enough reason to stop and talk and stretch! As well, the beauty of rest stops on both sides of the border is that there are two kinds, commercialized and quiet picnic spots. Make sure you utilize both so that not every stop is a “money pit!”

Pack a picnic and pack plenty of snacks and drinks.

It’s a common enough refrain: “I’m hungry” or “I’m thirsty” or both! We would never get anywhere if we stopped as often as the kids wanted us to so make sure you have a cooler in the car.  Key word, “IN” the car! Make sure that the kinds of things that will keep little ones busy for awhile are readily accessible at your feet and can be passed around at a moment’s notice. Cheerios, Goldfish, granola bars, fruit (and a small knife for cutting and peeling) are all snacks that travel well. Water and juice over carbonated drinks are the best way to go. You avoid messy overspills from shaken cans and too much sugar is never a good thing while strapped into a car seat!

Pack a potty.

It’s not for everyone we know but when you are on the go and have to “go” you might want to consider having a portable potty ready to spring into action. This is particularly true if your little one is in the initial stages of potty training or only just finished and still needs to be reminded occasionally. It can help eliminate a mad scramble to find a gas station when you are in the middle of a long (and empty, oh so empty) stretch of highway!

Travel light but travel right.

One of the things that can really frustrate a child is being wedged in tight amongst all your travel gear.  They need room to move! (At least, as much as a properly restrained child can.) With this in mind, make sure you have the favourite blankie and snuggle toy, a few treasured books, a pacifier where appropriate (and a spare!) and one or two other small items that might have significance or value for your child. Clothes can be washed and diapers can be bought along the way so Alpha’s suggests instead you focus on bringing things that are of comfort for your kids. Even a small tray, crayons and a colouring book can provide a longer distraction since kids don’t usually expect to be able to colour in the car!

Finally, when all else fails – of course there is screen time….and yes, even if it is a sunny day. The reality is, despite any studies telling us otherwise, sometimes car rides are just plain long and there is no getting around it.  If you’ve played, read a book, sang a few too many verses of “The Wheels on the Bus,” had a snack and a pit stop and you’re only 20 minutes down the road (just kidding) but still have hours to go – then utilizing a device every once in awhile is perfectly fine and probably keeps everyone happy. Perhaps consider using it as a reward for good behaviour rather than a babysitter when things get bad.

As for us, Alpha’s team will be here waiting for you when you return and we want to hear all about your adventures with Grandma or in Gander or wherever you happen to go! Happy Trails.