Planning vacation or a longer trip with your toddler? Feeling a bit anxious about keeping your toddler from throwing tantrums in such a small space as a car? Travelling with toddlers can be a bit scary at first but with some help, you will get to your destination and everyone will enjoy the time you spent together!
Today we share tips by a group of moms to help you have a more enjoyable, tantrum-free travelling experience with toddlers and jump start your vacation for the whole family.
When driving cross country last year, we planned for a number of side stops, but with the goal of not having to use them all. If the kids were sleeping, we kept driving. Snack time was a big hit in the car, as eating kept my toddler entertained and busy for a good chunk of time. I packed a bin full of toys and activities for my toddler too — magnet boards, play dough, coloring books, legos, busy bags, you get the idea. One of the biggest hits was giving him a map of the United States, with our trip route highlighted. He spent a LONG TIME pretending to read the map, and asked for it multiple times on our trip. Finally, he also was enthralled with his camera and took lots of pictures en route. One word of advice? Even if your child is potty trained, bring a small potty along in the car. We made a number of roadside stops and being able to just stop on the off ramp really helped when a rest stop (or clean bathroom) wasn’t to be found.
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Plan around your toddler’s schedule as much as you can, add in time to stop and let them stretch their legs, and most of all be flexible and patient – you’ll get there!
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For us – the best we could do was to try to drive during nap times and to limit our driving trips to no more than a couple of hours while our son was awake. It also seemed to help if my husband or I would sit in the back with our son. It was much easier to keep him happy that way with reading books together, saying nursery rhymes and playing hide-and-seek around the side of the car seat! Now that he’s a preschooler, he enjoys longer drives with no issues – as we’ve always kept it a positive experience.
Apart from making sure that they are comfortable and entertained, I have seen how important it is to make sure that they don’t travel for more than two hours without getting out. Also let them get out and get some fresh air after a feed. A full tummy and lack of movement can get them queezy. If we really cannot let them out then we try to at least turn off the air conditioning or drive with the windows down.
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We all suffer from car sickness so can’t do reading and writing activities. We vary activities such as listening to CD stories, music and playing word games. ‘I Spy’ with a 3 year old is quite difficult but fun. (That cloud that begins with ‘P’ was a hard one to get!) We also know loads and loads of songs to sing.
I make sure to have plenty of activities packed into a small backpack in the car. I attach colouring sheets to a clipboard and have a few crayons in a small pencil case for them to use. Reading stories aloud and playing audio stories and rhymes also help to pass the time. Making regular stops and having regular snacks is very important for everyone as well.
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I stack a bag with new, inexpensive toys (hello, dollar store!) and snacks. The novelty of things she hasn’t seen before keeps her entertained longer than a well-known toy would. We also (gasp!) use a LeapFrog on the really long trips.
Actually, we tried to travel over the night when possible and the biggest part of a trip our toddler would sleep through. We also keep in a car several CDs with nursery rhymes and other kid-friendly songs we can sing along. My kids love to sing and it’s a great way to keep the spirit high when we are contained in a small space.
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Mihaela runs Best Toys 4 Toddlers blog and loves to come up with new ideas how to use old toys her 2 daughters keep leaving on the floor to slip over. She loves them despite the fact that they call her mommy few hundred times a day, and it makes her nuts.