Whether you’re traveling for the holidays, an adventurous day trip, or a much-anticipated family vacation, careful planning for any road trip is essential for a smooth ride. There are a variety of learning games and activities families can play in the car, on the bus, or even the train to make the time pass more quickly. These activities are especially useful in a traffic jam; they make everyone feel less nervous in a tense situation, and they encourage language and thinking skills—so let there “never be a dull moment” on your trip and have much fun along the way!
Make the Trip Baby Friendly (Baby and Toddler)
Regardless of your mode of travel, you will be doing yourself an enormous favor if you can plan your trip completely around the baby. Here are a few tips:
Time it right: It’s a good idea to leave right before naptime. The movement of the vehicle or train should keep the baby asleep—and everyone knows a napping baby is a happy baby (which certainly makes all other passengers happy, too)!
Be ready for spur-of-the-moment excursions: Keep a bag packed with diapers, a change of clothes, juice, cereal, a fruit bar, a wet wipe, a few toys, and a plastic bag. Then you won’t need half an hour to get ready. Keep one bag handy in the house and one bag in the trunk of the car at all times so you can be spontaneous.
Make it fun: Bright pictures cut from magazines can intrigue a little one for a while. Tape these interesting pieces where your child can see them while sitting in her car seat. Bring a supply of pictures and change them frequently on long trips. Don’t forget a selection of small toys, the traditional peek-a-boo game, and fingerplays (if you’re not driving).
Singing to musical tapes can amuse baby and is entertaining for the entire family. Try this song for fun (to the tune of “A Hunting We Will Go”):
A driving we will go
A driving we will go
We'll look outside to see the sights
And then we'll drive back home
You can make this song open-ended by changing the word “sights” to a specific object, such as “We’ll look outside to see the trucks,” “to see the trees,” etc.
Pack a Sack of Fun (Preschool)
Pack a special travel backpack for your child that he can carry onto the train, bus, subway, or in the car. Each kid’s pack should have a variety of art supplies, toys, and books. Don’t pack anything too messy or objects with lots of pieces that could get lost. Here are some items that seem to work best:
- A pad of paper and a small bag of crayons. A few brown lunch bags packed along with the crayons can be turned into puppets.
- Colored pipe cleaners for bending into different creations.
- A few small action figures or dolls. Let your kids pick toys from their own stash.
- Fun stickers. Kids enjoy using them to create designs on paper.
- A small, gift-wrapped toy. Children love to open presents, and the activity is a pleasant way to pass the time.
Families love the classic travel game of “Alphabet Words.” Starting with A, find words on signs that begin with each letter. It can be a fun challenge: can you find words beginning with Q, X, and Z?
Another favorite game for young children is “I Spy.” Someone says, “I spy with my little eyes something green,” and everyone guesses what the green object is. Whoever guesses correctly goes next. You may want to limit the choices to what’s inside the vehicle since it gets tricky when selecting items that you may quickly pass. Use this special time to strengthen the bond between you and your children, and in turn you’re building their language development.