How to keep the kids happy (and yourself sane) on long journeys
Have you seen that meme doing the rounds that says "this year was so long, I forgot that polony tried to kill us"? Remember that? For me this year has felt interminable, and I am so looking forward to a break. I am sure many of you are in the same boat, however the prospect of heading out on the open road may be a daunting one if travelling with toddlers or young children. Bickering siblings, crying toddlers in car seats, the constant "are we there yet?" may make one second guess the desire to go anywhere for a holiday. We are off to Knysna, and at 27 weeks pregnant and with a toddler in tow, I want to make sure our holiday gets off to the best possible start. I have gathered a few tips and tricks here, that we will be implementing. Most of them we've put to the test before with great success, whilst others we neglected (see point 5) with disastrous consequences. Have a read, perhaps some will come in handy for you too.
1. Wrap up snacks.
Taking snacks and treats along for long car trips is a bit of a no-brainer, but taking the time to gift wrap small snack containers adds an extra level of excitement and distraction for young children (and is totally worth the extra few minutes of preparation). Everybody enjoys the anticipation of unwrapping a package, and the added fine-motor activity of peeling off the sticky-tape, or ripping the wrapping open, will keep little minds occupied just that little bit longer. I also found that including some unusual (those not often eaten at home) snacks adds to the entertainment of the whole activity
2. Have some sort of flat surface for kids to play on
Consider ordering a play tray (like this one from Takealot) or try jimmying one out of a cardboard beer crate thing (cut and fold one of the long sides down to give your child space to rest their arms when drawing and playing). But for sheer multi-purpose practicality, the Geoforme takes the cake. The wooden box itself can serve as a play tray, whilst the inner surface is both magnetic and a white board, so kids can draw with non-permanent kokis, use the included wooden shapes to make their own creations, or use the included card challenges and make up the picture arrangements. For an added educational boost (and great for playing hangman or other word games for kids who are already reading and writing) a magnetic letter set is a great addition and prolongs the entertainment.
**I am running a special promotion until this Friday 14 December, 2018. If you purchase a Geoforme set you, and get the magnetic letter set at 50% off. In order to claim the promotion, simply put both items in your shopping cart and the discount will be activated at checkout. Includes free shipping. While stocks last.**
3. Have an assortment of stickers, crayons, and koki pens to hand (and steer well clear of the glitter!!)
Try get your hands on triangle shaped crayons (we got ours at Pick 'n Pay) so that they have less chance of rolling all over the surface of the play tray (or onto the floor, if you're on a turbulent flight). Koki's (not permanent, obvs!) are great on some sort of dry-wipe/white board surface (like the Geoforme) or failing that use an unlined school book, so that you don't end up with sheets of loose leaf paper all over the show. Stickers are always a hit, and we discovered that the reusable, repositionable ones (the ones that need a bit of moisture applied to the back to stick) are great for creating little dioramas on car and plane windows, without leaving any residue (and they can be reused on bedroom windows when home). Ours are Melissa and Doug, given to us as a birthday gift (again, Takealot has them although I'm sure you could find them at your local toy store too). Use small stickers (like teachers stars) to make random dot-to-dot challenges for young children (of course, it doesn't actually matter if they manage to connect all the stickers, but the idea of doing so will keep them occupied for a bit).
3. Have a couple of other nifty activities up your sleeve
My clever friend Kim has come up with a genius, cost-effective and environmentally savvy activity that keeps her toddler occupied for ages. Old herb jars (like Robertstons) and dry pieces of spaghetti make a fun, fine-motor activity for toddlers as they try to post the stalks of spaghetti through the holes in the herb jar (it also doubles as a rattle when there are a few pieces in the jar). We used to use a wet wipe box with a variety of fabrics of different textures tied end-to-end and stuffed inside. Our son, had a great time pulling out the long strip, feeling the different textures, and trying to stuff it all back again. For somewhat older kids (and those not prone to motion sickness), origami activities can keep them going for quite some time as they work intently on getting their folds just right. Have a look online and print off a couple of instructions and use square scraps of waste paper, or get some ready-prepared sets. These little travel sets are super handy: they're slim enough to fit in any bag or cubby hole, and the games don't require reading so they're great for little ones (from about 4 years) to join in, and are also ideal for those prone to motion sickness.
4. Books and Audiobooks
We tend to steer clear of ipads, phones, and portable DVD players when it comes to entertainment for our toddler. However, the one tech exception we do make is to download audiobooks. A new favourite is Laurie Berkners Song and Story kitchen available on Audible. The songs are parent friendly, and the entire album plays for over 4 hours so there is less chance of having to listen to the same tracks over and over. We are also huge fans of Julia Donaldson and have a number of her books on disc. Because our 2 and a half year old is book mad, I usually get him one new book (for toddlers I recommend sturdy board books - again anything Julia Donaldson is always a winner) for long trips.
5. Don't forget the essentials
We once had to turn around half way into a 3 and half hour car trip because we had forgotten our son's lovey at home. Don't make that mistake.
If your little one's are just out of nappies, consider bringing along the potty or kiddies toilet seat (I LOVE this one for portability, comfort, and the fact that it doesn't have seams where gross germs can lurk) to make toilet breaks in public restrooms a little easier.
Keep any emergency medication in a wet bag, in an accessible spot, and don't forget to pack some tissues, biodegradable wet-wipes (or even better a damp cloth in a bag), sunscreen and lip balm. If you're heading to the beach, remember to pack some baby powder - it works a treat for quickly removing sand from skin.
Bring along plenty of water in spill-proof, leak-proof sippy cups.
To ward off motion sickness, consider motion sickness bands or ginger biscuits or sweets. My toddler loves little bits of candied ginger, although they do have a bit of kick so may not be to every young child's taste.
That's it for me, I'm off to pack now, but I'm eager to hear your essential travel tips. What works for your family? Please share in the comments.
Happy holidays and safe travels,