By Stacy Tillilie
Fun in-car activities can be the antidote to boredom. Consider portable games that are mess-free, contain few pieces (which can get easily swallowed up by seats) and can be enjoyed over and over again. Popular choices include magnetic bingo, checkers, tic-tac-toe, hangman, matching, and memory games (check out the product line from such toymakers as Melissa & Doug and Take ‘N’ Play Anywhere). If you’re feeling creative, you can also invent your own games using a baking sheet and traditional alphabet and number magnets.
Be sure to budget enough time to make frequent stops throughout your journey. Children need to move around—not to mention take bathroom breaks—but a rest stop is not the only option for active play. Seek out parks, walkable downtowns, or even small amusement parks that aren’t off the beaten path. When stopping overnight, look for a hotel with an indoor pool if your children like to swim. Yes, it’s going to take longer to get where you’re going, but the time along the way will pass more smoothly.
Pack plenty of healthy snacks in single-serving disposable baggies—many experts recommend granola bars, Cheerios, string cheese, and fresh fruits and vegetables (cut into small pieces)—and bring lots of water. Avoid sugary, spicy, and greasy foods as well as foods that are common choking hazards; for children younger than age four, that includes hot dogs, nuts and seeds, chunks of cheese and meat, whole grapes, hard or sticky candy, popcorn, chunks of peanut butter, chunks of raw vegetables, and chewing gum, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
When traveling with more than one child, consider your seating arrangement (fixed or rotating) so that parents in the front seat can easily reach smaller children who may need assistance in the back. Also factor in sibling dynamics when deciding who sits next to whom, and consider sitting in the back seat for real face time with your children. Comfort can also make or break a trip, so bring your children’s favorite pillows (or neck pillows), blankets and stuffed animals; sun shades for windows; battery-operated handheld fans; and a handy change of comfortable clothes for any snack spills or…well, other mishaps.
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