Happy siblings, brothers and sister with suitcases and toys sitting in their family car getting ready for a road trip

The Road Trip: Planning and Play to Make ‘Getting There’ Fun!

    • Side window or anti-glare shades to promote rest, especially if they are still napping.
    • Ensure that all plotted rest-stops are in-fact fully open (including the restrooms).
    • No-spill snack and drink containers.
    • Neck support pillows, especially if driving overnight.
    • Trash bin accessible for the children to use readily through the trip.
    • Plan stops for bathroom breaks before traditional nap or sleep time.
    • Plan for potential car sickness. Have items for cleanup, sanitation, disposal, and change of clothes ready and accessible. Have anti-motion sickness tools on hand (consult with doctor).

Arriving at the vacation destination is the ultimate goal. Why not make preparing for the road trip and trek a fun opportunity for skill development and bonding time? Use these planning and play ideas to start the journey!

Before the Trek:

The Road Trip

  • Include your children in plotting the trip with the use of paper maps posted on the wall, thumb tacks, and yarn for a great visual that builds excitement and engagement from the beginning. This activity also fosters fine motor skills when placing the tacks (if old enough) and when using the yarn; visual information processing when helping to locate items on the map; and memory when encouraged to recall pit stop locations and destination during the planning phase of the trip.
  • Together with your child(ren), research fun facts regarding the areas being trekked through. With older children you can set up a friendly competition to find the most unusual facts or potential activities featured in the area for longer stops.
  • Prepare a scavenger hunt of sorts to challenge everyone to locate certain objects along the way (include any points of interest from the research you all did). Laminate the checklist for younger children with images that represent the items being ‘hunted.’
  • Plot the trip with stops that allow for a picnic lunch, snack, and/or dinner. Having a ‘picnic’ can make eating their prepared foods (instead of buying fast food) with the fun factor of a picnic concept.
  • Prepare a song-play list with your children that everyone can listen to together. Include everyone’s favorites. This can initiate a flow of conversations about why the song is a favorite and encourages socialization before and during the road trip.
  • Have your younger child(ren) create their own travel box or small bag (shoe box size) where they can store items for the trip. Work with them to pick items they can safely access and have demonstrated they can appropriately play with in a vehicle.

Play Planning for the Trek:

  • Plan to use a combination of items that the children can play with independently, interactively with siblings, and what you can feasibly participate in while in the vehicle.
  • Incorporate quiet time to prevent overload.
  • Present activities/objects/toys one at a time - keep them upfront with you in a bag, out of site. The attention to the toy or activity usually last longer with this strategy. Wait until their interest wanes from the current item/activity. If you buy items especially for the trip, wrap them to add the extra element of surprise which can promote increased attention and interest in the toy/game.
  • Use audio books that combine listening and interaction.
  • Encourage the use of age-appropriate cameras to capture images along the way. There are cameras designed for 3+.

For Younger Children:

  • Board books with durable pages that are easy to turn - books that explore textures and sounds usually hold interest longer.
  • Non-mess drawing ideas include drawing on a mat that only reacts to a ‘water crayon” or markers that only mark on a specific type of paper.
  • Fidget toys, like slinkies and squeeze toys.
  • Magnetic games that are not a choking hazard.
  • Audio story books – start with familiar favorites and later introduce a novel story that you can encourage learning with.
  • Favorite videos that can be segmented to 30-minute intervals.
  • Sing along-move along songs that encourage movement of arms and legs that are safe while in the car seat (for example, “wheels on the bus,” “five little ducks”).
  • Modify “Simon Says” play and encourage movement that stretches their arms/hands, legs/toes, looking up/down/left/right. You can encourage singing a verse, counting, and identifying body parts during road-trip-Simon says.
  • “I Spy” games - I see a red car, can you find it? I see a big truck; can you find it? etc.
  • Blank notebooks or pictures pages to decorate with stickers.
  • Use an attachable car seat table.
  • Bring a favorite blanket, pillow, and/or stuffed animal.

 

    • Side window or anti-glare shades to promote rest, especially if they are still napping.
    • Ensure that all plotted rest-stops are in-fact fully open (including the restrooms).
    • No-spill snack and drink containers.
    • Neck support pillows, especially if driving overnight.
    • Trash bin accessible for the children to use readily through the trip.
    • Plan stops for bathroom breaks before traditional nap or sleep time.
    • Plan for potential car sickness. Have items for cleanup, sanitation, disposal, and change of clothes ready and accessible. Have anti-motion sickness tools on hand (consult with doctor).

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