It’s summer, and time for the family vacation. Whether you are driving over the mountains and through the woods to grandma’s, or leaving on a jet plane to relax in a tropical paradise, when you have young ones tagging along, your “vacation” may not seem like a vacation at all. Whether it’s a crowded airport, a noisy car, Friday night traffic, or inclement weather, there are many creative ways you can interact with your kids to keep them occupied, and to help your vacation actually feel like one.
Road Trips. While spending hours in a car with your kids may sound tedious, here are some ways you can make it fun for yourself and enjoyable for your kids:
- Sing-a-longs. Nothing passes the time like music and song. Bring some familiar tapes or CDs that you and your kids can sing along together to. Teach your kids some hand motions and clapping to make it more fun. If your kids are bored with the same old tapes you always listen to, buy some news ones especially for the trip.
- Musical toys. These will help keep your young ones content during the drive. One parent can even sit in back with baby and interact with the musical toy together.
- Put your kids in the driver’s seat. Well, not literally. Set up a creative driving toy on your child’s lap. Show her how it’s just like the real car’s controls. Tell your child to turn when you turn and push buttons when you do. This is also a great way to teach about left and right.
- Search the scenery. Play “find-it” games with your kids, such as the letters of the alphabet in order on road signs, or “I spy” color games. Use this opportunity to teach your young ones about things they’ve never seen, such as mountains, forests, snow, and desert.
- Rest stops. Plan extra time so you can make rest stops. Your kids will need the potty break, and this breaks up the monotony of a long car ride.
- Map reading. Draw a kid-friendly map of your trip before you go, with major landmarks along the way. Have your kids draw their own maps too. Point out the interesting parts of your trip and have the kids circle them on their map so they can get a sense of how far you’ve traveled, and how much farther you have to go.
- Drawing pads. Buy paper pads, or use a lap desk, so your kids can pass the time with art. This will give you some nice quiet time too.
- Never take your infant out of the car seat. It is just not worth the risk. If your baby is a car seat fusser, allow extra time for your trip so you can periodically pull over and attend to baby. Mom can sit in the back seat with baby and even lean over to feed baby during the drive.
- If your kids really don’t do well on long car trips, time your trip for the late evening. Allow your kids to sleep through most of the trip. Do this only if you feel awake and alert for a long nighttime drive.
- Water bottles. Keep your kids well watered during car trips through hot summer places. Thirsty kids are cranky kids.
Airplane rides. Nothing is more exciting for a child than a trip on a plane. But it seems younger infants don’t share this joy. When flying with a family, here are some ways you can make it more fun for kids, and more comfortable for babies:
- Feed babies during the plane’s ascent and descent. Save the feeding for when the plane lifts off the ground. This way your baby will be sucking and swallowing during the entire ascent of the airplane, and baby’s ears will stay more comfortable. The descent typically causes more ear discomfort, so be sure to start feeding baby when you feel the descent begin. A pacifier isn’t enough; baby needs to be sucking and swallowing.
- Need to pass some time while waiting to board the plane? Bring your child’s favorite balls or other rolling toys, sit on the floor and roll them back and forth.
- Bring along some toy airplanes or other vehicles. Create your own “airport” together on the floor while you wait.
- Bring a few of baby’s interactive books to pass the time while you wait and while you fly. An airplane book is sure to be a big hit.
- Let your kids bring their own “luggage”. A backpack filled with toys, water bottles and snacks will help your child feel more grownup and better behaved in the hectic airport.
- Cards. Nothing passes the time like a fun family game of cards. Be sure to bring an extra pack for your youngest to play with. Flash cards are also a great way to combine fun with a bit of learning, no matter what age your kids are.
- Be sure your kids don’t miss the view out the window. Point out the clouds, ocean, mountains, and other scenery they don’t typically get to see.
- Bring along a few snuggly toys, such as baby’s favorite talking plush toy. A bit of familiarity will help your child feel more at home away from home.
- Food on an airplane can be unpredictable, and you don’t want a hungry toddler on a long flight. Bring along some favorite healthy snacks in case your kids don’t like the menu.