As we were preparing to spend 52 hours in the car last month I knew our biggest challenge would be keeping the kids happy while they were strapped down in their car seats that long. Turns out we have awesome kids and they mostly slept or just enjoyed the ride so we didn’t need to worry as much as we did. But we were prepared nonetheless.
For starters we arranged the car seats so Shimri and Shimei were rear-facing in the middle row and Iddo was sitting in the back row. I sat in the back with Iddo which meant I could see and reach everyone and had awesome leg room.
We left for the first, and longest leg of our trip, at bedtime. We got the kids ready for bed and then put them in the car instead of their beds. We stopped 4 hours later for gas. We stopped after another 4 hours for gas, breakfast, and to get the kids dressed. They went back to sleep and it wasn’t until we stopped for lunch 12 hours into our 13 hour drive that they all woke up. Brett listened to audio books to stay awake as he drove all night. We weren’t able to do the same trick for our next four legs (each about 6-7 hours long). But it worked great for the longest stretch and we’ll probably do it again.
For snacks and munchies we had vegetables, flat bread (because it’s less crumbs than rolls), homemade crackers (2 cups flour, 3 tbls olive oil, 3/4 cup water, bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes) and our minimal trail mix of Cheerios and craisins. We love Munchie Mugs for kids to snack from because they don’t spill even if you turn them upside down and shake them. And the company has excellent customer service.
For Shimri and Shimei I grabbed our tote of toys and kept it at my feet to toss one in their lap to play with when they got bored or dropped whatever they were playing with before out of their chair. Shimei had a lot of fun entertaining himself with his wash cloth. He’d put it on his head and play peek-a-boo or shake his head till it fell off.
And then I went to Pinterest and got some ideas for activities to keep Iddo entertained. Thus my bag of tricks.
We get the little plastic zipper bags from the dentist and they turned out to be the perfect size to keep supplies in. I made some quick cloth bags to keep thicker/bigger things in. And I had a binder with sheet protectors to keep bigger/thin things in. Then the whole set went into a free bag I got from my OB with Brett’s old Pac Man metal lap tray and it was my bag of tricks.
I pulled some Legos and had Iddo help me make stacks with them before we left and then colored the cards so she could make matching stacks while we were gone. She enjoyed making random stacks more than the matching. The page to make the cards can be downloaded here.
I found some super-sized beads and colorful beading strings at Jo-Anns. I grabbed some pipe cleaners and figured she could bend them or put beads on them or whatever she wanted to do.
Colored pencils (because they don’t melt or color on other things) and some half-sheet coloring pages were great. Since we were going to Yellowstone I printed coloring sheets that showed Old Faithful or animals we’d see on our trip. I also bought a pack of Crayola dry erase crayons and found a dry erase board at the dollar store. Coloring was a great activity.
We had Ikea finger puppets and a travel sized Magna Doodle. We had some animal Olliblocks to play with.
I bought some animal lacing cards at the dollar store but the cardboard didn’t hold up as well as the foam ones I made. I used our cookie cutters to put an impression on the foam and then cut it out and punched holes around them with a regular hole punch. She had a lot of fun with them.
Squigz are always a great toy. They stuck to the metal lap tray too.
We made a pair of binoculars with three toilet paper rolls and some duct tape and electrical tape so she could use them to look at things out the window. She has a small fleece marble maze. And I put together a scavenger hunt but we never pulled it out. She calls over-passes “unders” so that’s how I labeled them on the scavenger hunt. It’s better to be over-prepared than under.
We never once pulled out a screen of any kind for the kids. No movies. No shows. No digital games. Just the way we did it when we were kids. It helps that our kids slept so great in the car. But they’d miss too much if we were too quick to pull out screens for them. We’ll see how well our next trip goes.
We always had books and music. I know almost all the lyrics (and harmonies) to Crosby Stills & Nash’s first (self-titled) album because we played it on cassette on a long family trip when I was a teenager. One year, my parents bought us all large insulated mugs and mug holders that went on our doors. Every gas station we stopped at, we’d get refills of whatever we wanted. My dad was always really good at pointing out wildlife, too, and we’d play the alphabet game or try to spot license plates from every state, or play math games with license plate numbers. But always, always books and music. Even now. 🙂
I’m looking forward to playing the license plate and alphabet games when our kids get older.
I third you guys. Blake and I love podcasts on road trips, and we definitely survived many road trips as kids without technology more advanced than a Discman. One of my friends had a tv in their van, and it was amazing to me, but I still don’t think it’s necessary.
I’m ready to go to dinner now. In Albuquerque. :brett:
Since they were complaining on a 45 minute drive up to the temple site today, we probably should hold off a bit longer. No need to press our luck. :lisa: