Traveling With Kids:
Make the Trip as Fun as the Destination!
As most parents are painfully aware, traveling with young children is often a challenge. Whether traveling by airplane or car, children may become easily bored, cranky and whiny. With summer approaching, you may be traveling more with your children. Here are some ideas that might help make the journey as pleasurable as the final destination.
Parents are aware of the value of tablets, phones and other electronic devices when it comes to entertaining children. We are also aware that these devices present problems of their own. As a fellow parent, I’m not going to suggest that you avoid electronic items completely. They can provide parents some time to recharge, or even take a nap, on these excursions. When I was young, several new coloring books and a brand-new box of crayons would keep me occupied for hours. However, travel time can also provide a wonderful opportunity for bonding and great family fun. Take advantage of the opportunity!
As a third-grade teacher, I feel I would be remiss not to mention that travel time is an ideal time to share books together. Parents may read to children, and children may read to parents. Depending on your child’s reading level and interests, it might be a terrific time to begin the Harry Potter or Wimpy Kid series of books. If you’re traveling with more than one child, you can have them take turns reading to each other too. Audiobooks may be an option if a desired book is above the child’s reading level.
Twenty Questions is a game easily integrated into a trip. One person thinks of something and says whether it’s a plant, animal, or mineral. The other passengers take turns asking questions that can only be answered with a yes or no. When a person guesses correctly, he or she begins the next round. If no one answers correctly after 20 questions, the original person wins and begins a new round.
The Alphabet Game can be fun for both children and adults. A category is chosen and each passenger adds to the category in alphabetical order. For example, we might choose food as a category. Answers might include apple, broccoli, chocolate, drumstick, and so on. When my sons were young, we would choose to leave out a few of the most difficult letters. We would often finally end up stumped in the second or third round of the alphabet. Reusing words in the same game is not allowed.
Another Alphabet Game is used with road signs, billboards and business signs. Passengers are racing to find words in alphabetical order. Each person is working on their own list. Words can’t be repeated on the other lists. The first player to get through the alphabet wins. On some car trips, this game could be long and tedious. I’d suggest using it strategically, for example, only while traveling through towns. You may want to save your lists and pass them back out before entering each new town.
Many popular board games are now available in smaller magnetic versions, making them ideal for travel. I have seen a wide variety of offerings, including checkers, chess, Chinese checkers, backgammon, and more. Let me offer one word of caution: These pieces can be very small and easy to lose. Some games, such as dominos and mahjong, are available in a travel case used to keep the pieces in place while traveling.
Card games can also be perfect for travel. They help teach social skills, can be educational, and are just plain fun! There are many games which can be played with a standard deck of cards. Enjoy playing some Go Fish, rummy, Old Maid, and Crazy Eights. Special card decks are available for some games including Uno and Sequence. Auto Bingo is a great choice. Bingo cards are small and easy to manage in a car. Players slide shutters over when items are spotted. This will keep children engaged with the scenery as they search for items on their cards, such as a stop sign, barn or cow.
Hangman can be played with just pencil and paper or bought as a magnetic game. While I am not fond of the thought of hanging a man, I can tell you that children don’t usually have that in mind when playing. My third graders love to discover their new spelling words while playing a game of Hangman.
Road Trip Tunes
I think it is safe to assume that, if traveling by car, there will be some electronic devices available. Prior to your trip, download a variety of songs. Choose songs that will be familiar to children and adults. You might consider songs from popular Disney movies or children’s television shows. Take turns playing several seconds of a song and play Name that Tune. As a variation, you can try to finish the lyric.
For years, many parents and children have dreaded travel time. This doesn’t need to be the case. Think about this as time to interact together and enjoy each other as a family. It’s like family game night, but it takes place in a car or plane. Imagine how many of these games and activities you could fit into one small tote bag! Think about how many hours of family fun they might provide during your travel time. You just may find that the journey itself is as entertaining as the destination!