Friday, June 28, 2013

Traveling with Young Children

Life is good: I earned a new "mama badge of honor"!

A few days ago, I did something I have never done before...I drove 10 hours from Minneapolis to Kansas WITH both children and withOUT my husband, who needed to stay home and hold down the fort. This earned a new mama badge of honor for me, for sure!

The drive is pretty simple and my kids are pretty good. (Oh no. Did I just jinx myself?) I wasn't too trepidatious about the trip. But I knew I would be happy when it was done!

One of the treats of going to see my parents is that I also get to see some dear friends. I had lunch with one cherished friend and she asked, "What do you DO for 10 hours!?!" I laughed. It just doesn't seem that long. The time really flies.  There is a lot of talking. A. lot. of. talking. These kiddos inherited more than my blue eyes and upturned nose. They got my motormouth and gift for gab. Quiet moments are a rarity. On a car trip and in general. We talk about things we've done and things we'll do, what we see on the road and the side of the road. And keep in mind, I am spending ten hours with two of my favorite people in the entire world. Two, albeit small, people whose every thought and word I devour with joy and excitement. And we accomplish quite a bit. We answer life's great mysteries like what color you get when you mix a primary color with a secondary color like blue and purple or what Michael Jordan likes to eat for breakfast. On this particular drive, we talked a lot about assassinations of presidents. I'd like to publicly thank my husband for introducing that subject to our 5-year old during a nightly round of presidential trivia. That made for an interesting car ride. Can you read my sarcasm?

I also have some key items that I take on road trips (and a different list for airplane rides) that have proven to make our car rides easy. Every kid is different, but these things work for our family.

1. Music: This includes favorite CDs as well as new, downloaded music. Both of my kiddos love love love (did I say love?) music and so they will listen intently to new stuff to learn the words and music. I also bring along quieter music when I sense we need some "zen moments". I believe that atmosphere can affect moods (at home, too). If the natives start stirring, I pop in some Enya or Coldplay. I also bring along "kid music" for emergencies. ; ) My kid music is from our Music Together music class, so it really isn't that bad. (Love their music philosophy!)

2. Coloring books, coloring sheets, crayons, stickers, sticker books, plain paper, notebooks, dot to dots, etc. The stickers do a great job of occupying both kids. I encourage the big kid to create a backdrop for his stickers, so that takes more time and the little one takes a lot of time just working on the fine motor skills aspect. Please not that I DO NOT bring markers! Markers can write on leather seats and faces. Not that my sweet angels would ever get those ideas. NO MARKERS!

3. Books, books, and more books. Plus new books. I pack the books away a week or two before a trip and that way, they seem "new" again. I pick out a couple of new ones, too. I take books that have lots of illustrations or images to stare at and wonder about. Busytown and ISpy books are great for that.

4. Small, handheld puzzles and games. Recently for our plane trip to Florida, I bought a Rubic's Cube for the big kid (talk about keeping a kid busy!) and a Tangle Toy for the wee one. 

5. Snacks! And I don't mean everyday snacks. I mean stuff that I rarely let them have like Cheezits or fruit snacks. Plus, I bring along string cheese and yogurt tubes in a hot/cold bag.

6. Little toys. Eespecially favorite "guys". This might include Playmobil or Imaginext figures or Pez dispensers (they don't get the candy and they don't care) that have been "missing" (hidden away by me a few weeks prior). I also bring along Hot Wheels cars and Schleich animals. A lot of pretend play goes on in the backseat and I love to hear the stories or listen to the little one make animal sounds.

7. Recently, I made a "sewing kit" for the big kid to take on our road trip to Mt. Rushmore (more about that later). I bought a plastic hoop, some cotton fabric, embroidery thread, and plastic needle from Joann. Then I cut the fabric into hoop-sized squares and drew pictures on the fabric (dinosaurs, robots, a lion, etc.) with an ink pen.

After the fabric was in the hoop, I took the needle and poked holes every so often along the outline of the picture to make a sort of "dot to dot" with thread and fabric.

The big kid loved it! It was a great fine motor skills activity and he just plain had fun with it!

I think it is important to teach boys things like cooking and sewing (things often associated with females) and try to put gender stereotypes in the past where they belong!

8. I also bring the Ipad (with apps, not movies), though I always keep it hidden. My just-about-to-be-two-year-old (gasp! where has the time gone?) is not allowed to watch TV at all and my five-year old watches TV only sparingly (I know, gasp!), so I try very hard not to give the Ipad to the big kid. This doesn't mean that I won't need to on the way back to MN, but it will be my last resort. It's just something we have committed to. And I know that once we watch a movie or movies on car rides, I have set a precedent and can't turn back, so I remain resolved. For now.

I also discussed my expectations for our trip with my children once a day for a few days before our trip. I told them that I needed them to be my helpers. I explained that distracted driving is dangerous. I discussed the drive with our big kid and asked for him to be a good example for the littlest one. Growing up, my parents always talked to me like I was a person, not a kid and we have chosen to do the same with our children. So having a talk about the car trip and my expectations was very natural and helpful. (And in general, I think it creates an environment of respect and understanding of individual responsibility in a family.)

So I want to give a big shout out and three cheers to my dear children who made the 10-hour drive enjoyable, peaceful (except for rocking out to The Clash), and non-eventful (except for all of the memory-making). I share my new "mama milestone" trophy with you!


  1. Congratulations on your mama milestone Susie! Thank you for sharing this with me, G will love the sewing experiment! Now, I need to find a hoop in Ireland...I have never seen a craft shop here, but I know they must exist, so we'll have 2 adventures!
    We must meet for a play date + coffee when we are in Minny next.
    Take care,
    Imen xx

    1. Thanks, Imen! I had no idea craft shops were sparse in your neck of the woods!
      Let's definitely get together the next time you are in the States!

    2. A quick thought! Could you "channel MacGuyver" and make a hoop out of two canning jar lids, one a little larger than the other? Or something equally resourceful...? Let me know if you discover a "creative solution"!