In the previous blog post, I started talking about ways that you can make your holiday commute a little more enjoyable for your kids and yourself with fewer driver distractions. Taking long car rides with children has always been a tricky ordeal. Fortunately, today, there are a lot of new devices that can occupy them for quite a while. Better yet, they are easily carted along. However, even the handheld video games, DVDs, MP3 players, tablets, and phones can lose their luster a few hours into a long trip. Young children will often require a little more creativity on the part of their parents if the ride is to be enjoyable.
There is a great deal of incentive to keep kids happy in the car. First of all, it reduces stress placed on the adults. Secondly, and most importantly, it reduces the driver distractions and that can save lives. As I mentioned in the last blog post, it is estimated that up to 25 percent of all crashes involve a parent being partially pre-occupied with backseat passengers.
Keep Them Busy and Creative. So, as you head out from Saint Petersburg, be sure that you are well prepared to have fun on the road. One of the very best ideas, which will keep everyone involved and is something to fall back on over and over again during the hours on the road, is a trip journal. Make this a family activity. Handout disposable cameras so kids can capture pictures along the way (you might want to have a few on hand because children are often “snap happy”). Pack the paper, markers, pencils, crayons, glue sticks, tape and other such materials needed to record thoughts and pictures as the journey progresses. When the trip is over, these mementos can be collected (and developed) to be combined for a truly wonderful account of the trip.
Don’t get caught up in technology. Just when you are prepared to allow them to play their favorite video games for hours on end, they will suddenly decide that they don’t want to. So, think back to the days before such things existed. Bring along scavenger hunt cards and see who can check off all the items first. Pack some story books, magazines, and even a small, soft ball. A ball never fails to entertain – even when it is in the car – but be sure to set serious guidelines, so that driver distractions are never experienced in any way by the game that takes place in the back.
Time consumption is always the goal on a road trip. When it comes time for a snack, it is okay to periodically forgo the healthy snack for something a little more fun (and time-consuming) – candy necklaces, for instance. There will undoubtedly be a mess at the end of any long car ride with kids, but keep this to a minimum by investing in lap trays, which will help catch the crumbs and debris. They also make wonderful play surfaces. Before you leave St. Petersburg, pick up the lap trays at a local craft supply store for less than $10 each and you won’t be disappointed. They are perfect for drawing, coloring, and even racing matchbox cars. Also think about adding less typical supplies to the coloring kits to be used in conjunction with these trays. Sticky notes, pipe cleaners, stickers, tape, and even string are wonderful in the mind of a child. It is amazing what kids can create (and how much time they can spend) when presented with new and unusual items.
If you can come up with enough forms of fun to keep them busy during the entire trip, you will have a lot more fun and will be much more likely to make it from point A to point B without driver distractions and the need for intervention by a police officer or personal injury attorney.